Sunday, 29 April 2012

Hijacked! The London Marathon 2012

Several years ago I decided I wanted to run a marathon, living in England the obvious choice was the London Marathon being local and all, I entered the ballot and like many was unsuccessful on my first attempt. I applied on two more consecutive occasions and was eventually informed that upon the fifth time of begging I would automatically be given a place. This was not for me so I ceased applying for it.

However upon changing career a new world opened up to me, the world of running for charity was brought to my attention, something I had not previously considered as an option.  I sat and thought about who and what I wanted to run for and have since run and completed the New York Marathon in 2009 for Children with Leukaemia (now Children with Cancer) and the Berlin Marathon in 2011 for Macmillan Cancer Care. Both great causes and amazing cities at the same time.

Suddenly the allure of London did not seem the same.

Following Berlin I had completed two of the 'big 5' marathons. The others include London, Chicago and Boston, so I decided to seek a route into the London Marathon, making it three out of five and it also happened to be Olympic year too. I secured a place with the charity Asthma UK in January 2012 and started the long road of preparing for the 26.2 miles (42km) ahead of me in April.

Then something went wrong.

A couple of weeks after thinking I had secured a place in the marathon via Asthma UK I received an email when on the other side of the planet to say that there had been an issue with my registration. On my return I found that the charity had failed to registered me and as a result I would not be running the marathon this year. I rang any one and everyone I could to try and rectify the situation, including Virgin themselves, even tweeting Richard Branson, the resounding answer I received was "NO".

I was told that I could be Haile Gebrselassie and I could not get a place once the cut off date set by Virgin had passed.

So I resigned myself to the fact that this year I would have to settle for a place on the sidelines cheering on my partner from a designated cheer point as she strode along London Bridge and ceased my training. Once the feeling of disappointment subsided I focused my attentions on supporting my partner in the gruelling training schedule ahead of her, undertaking the odd training run, somewhat satisfied in the knowledge that it would not be my legs that suffered on the Monday morning after the event.

As the weeks went by and race day approached I started to feel a little more disappointed in the fact that I had been let down and was not unable to compete. Then, with ten days to go it hit me, if London was like any of the other marathons I had run previously then I would be able to join in anywhere on the route.

Operation 'Hijack the London Marathon' was conceived.

Initially I planned to find out where my partner would be starting from and arrange to meet her somewhere just after the start and join in, then it occurred to me that if I had a race number I would probably be able to just walk through the gate and into the main start area. We just had to wait to attend the expo, on Saturday April 21st, the day before the marathon. We headed to London for the expo first thing in the morning and secured the running number, grabbed a Starbucks and returned straight back home to the editors cove, where I photoshopped the race number and changed it around. I printed this on A4 paper and had myself and unofficial race number. Nothing was going to stop me now.

An unusually late night followed considering we were running 26.2 miles the next day but for some reason I think nerves had begun to set in; would I get in to the holding area or would I have to join in further along the start somewhere? Or would I get dragged off by police as the boat race saboteur had a few days earlier? We would not know until the morning.

Due South, 0700hrs
At 0600hrs we awoke and started the journey to Greenwich, even at this early hour the underground was packed with runners and their families, the train was filled with a mixture of deep heat and Vaseline that made it smell more like a sporting locker room rather than the capitals main travel hub. When we arrived at our final destination the sun had begun to shine and the temperature began to rise. As we walked through the park there were a number of signs stating 'runners only beyond this point', loved ones said their good luck and good journey goodbyes, sealing it with a kiss and went their separate ways. As we arrived at the entrance gates there were actors (security personnel) barking orders at the humans "no number, no access" and volunteer Virgin race marshals. I had already attached my unofficial number to my running vest before leaving for London and strategically veered towards the volunteer marshals... and waltzed straight though and into the holding pen. I was in, race on.

All that stood in front of me now was the small feat of 26.2 miles and the fact that I had stopped training two months ago.

The race started well and was largely enjoyable as the weather was good, so the crowds came out, not quite the 29 degrees in Berlin last September, but warm enough for one to build up a sweat. This caused a problem with my running number, being printed on regular A4 paper it got soggy and started to tear. The rush job of putting it together meant that I had not managed to print it on any sort of water proof paper, if you have ever seen or felt a real race number you will know it is not normal paper. It was the best I could do with the time I had.
I tried to place it on me in various places to try and mitigate the damage being done by water from drinks bottles and sweat but to no avail, I also resisted the temptation to tear it off in frustration, this was perhaps the best decision I have made all year.

On the home straight the people from Marathonfoto appeared along the sides of the streets, taking pictures of runners in various poses, those of us that still had the energy to pose that is, proudly displaying their race numbers so that they could collect them a few days after the race. I turned to my partner and said how I could not wait to see the '385 yards to go' sign as by this point my legs were hating me for not having prepared them more. As we approached the sign a race marshal appeared out of nowhere, telling the runners that they had to display their numbers or have a foot tag. I now faced a big problem because obviously I did not have a foot tag and my race number was in bits and pieces in my pouch.

He ran right along side me and told me that without a tag or race number it was "not going to happen" and so he started to point to the side of the track for me. I reassured him I had my number but that it was in my pouch. As I pulled it out he just said "no, they are designed not to do that".

My number was hardly legible and had torn in a number of places.

The finish line was in sight, but this marshal was about to end my race with 300 yards to go, I could not believe it, my partner unsurprisingly had distance herself from me and left me to it. I tried to explain that it was not my fault that the weather had been so warm and that I had been clumsy with my drinks bottles and torn it in the process of moving it around my person etc but he was not buying my story and sprinted towards what was the senior race marshal, and ordered me to follow him, adding more distance to my already tired legs.

As I ran on towards the senior race marshal I could see a lot of finger pointing and gesturing going on, I began to wonder if I had enough gas left in my legs to make a sprint for the finish line but I realised this may result in being rugby tackled on the concrete, something I was keen to avoid, so I continued over towards the side of the track and thought my valiant effort was over. In my head I could hear it now "you ran 26 miles? I thought a marathon was 26.2 miles". Luck it seems was on my side, as I got to the senior marshal he just pointed and told me to head to the lost tag aisle.

I did not see where this was and took it as my chance to sprint off and cross the finish line.

I rejoined my partner who suddenly remember who I was and we finished together, relieved that I was allowed to finish at all. I walked straight through the finish area, collecting my medal and post race bag, and did not look back in case the race marshal had decided to follow me. We had done it.

Gold is the colour, photoshopped number.
A couple of days later and my legs have forgiven me for putting them through hell and more importantly they have forgiven my partner for encouraging me to act in an 'unsane' manner. Why anyone would wilfully put their body through the trauma of a marathon, just to see if they could gate crash it, is beyond most people who I have told the story to so far. The drama that unfolded in the last 300 yards just made it all the more worthwhile for me.

All I can say is this, that sitting here now I am already considering my next marathon. The problem  is pain does not last and when it is gone all you are left with are the memories of your achievements. Having secured a place only to have it taken from me due to an error in administration was hard to take, I was not prepared to miss out on the opportunity, so I took a leaf out of Richard Branson's book and thought outside the box to solve my problem.

London Marathon route, 27 miles, zig zagging inclusive.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Why can't we all just get along?

Luton is set to be the scene of another EDL rally on May 5th, a counter rally has again been organised by the people of Luton who know that the EDL do not truly represent them or the town. Last year on February 5th, local police caused outrage at the 11th hour of negotiation when they refused access to the local people battling against the rise of fascism, the right to hold their rally in the centre of the town, instead pandering to the ego of the EDL and its self proclaimed leader Steven Lennon, handing the centre of Luton to them.

Luton's town centre was on lock down. The cost of the EDL's presence and marches through the town is measured by more than fiat currency.

Market Hill

The damage done by the babbling of Lennon and the misguided followers of the EDL are felt by all who live in the town, in particular the young. Children as young as 8 have been caught up in school yard scraps over whether Christians or Muslims are the stronger. It is terrifying to see children as young as this being mixed up in a storm being driven by the media, and the irresponsible adults around them, when the extent of their concerns should be who won the football at the weekend.

With this in mind we turn our attentions to the May 5th 2012, the date of the next instalment of Luton and the EDL saga.

Once again 'We are Luton', the new umbrella organisation promoting the counter demonstration, are in negotiation with the police as to where the planned march and rally will be held. As it currently stands both the EDL and We are Luton have been told that neither party will be allowed access to the town centre and in particular St George's square. Steven Lennon in the latest edition of the Luton on Sunday has said that their protest is against the council and that they (the EDL) will return "every six weeks" until they are allowed to do so.

Lennon did not go on to explain exactly why the protest was against the council but presumably it is a front to claim the square.

George Street

The police will probably succumb to Lennon's threats and allow the EDL to occupy St George's square, claiming that it is for the ease of policing them, thus in the process totally disregarding the wishes of actual residents from the town that would like to see the back of extremism in all its forms, both locally and nationally.

As a supporter of the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly I would never support a position in banning the EDL from holding a march, or indeed a rally for whatever it is they feel they believe. As I have said before we are all products of our environment and only through positive experience, and critical education, will we ever undo the deep seated root cause of the mistrust and hatred between people that causes extremism.

Pictures by Christine McKeown EDL march in Luton on February 5th 2011

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

21st Century colonialism, it comes in bottles.

Water, I have been here before but in light of recent news I feel the need to revisit it once again.
It makes up 70% of the earth and 70% of your body, it gives us life and is why our beautiful planet is called the blue marble, yet we sell and trade it as a commodity in a £2billion pound bottled water industry and worryingly this has now been stepped up a gear with water being traded between regions in the UK for the first time as a commodity.

The first time I saw a tanker transporting water on the ocean I knew that the world had officially cracked. The madness of transporting drinking water to people, on top of the multi-billion pound bottled water craze was enough for me to confirm it, so for the past few years I have tried to highlight this lie to the people around me with mixed success.

Thankfully being in a minority of one does not make you crazy.

NestlĂ©, Coca Cola and Pepsi pump millions of litres of water a day from the earth, bottle it, ship it and then sell it back to you at 1900 times the cost of tap water. You would have to be pretty heavily indoctrinated to accept this as a useful use of a life essential resource. If you want to know what these companies think of the bottled water hypermarket and us then look no further than Robert S Morrison from Gatorade's parent company Quaker Oats (part of the Pepsi Cola company) who claims that "our biggest enemy is tap water."

Water is seen by the elites as an economic good and not a right. How can this be? Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights covers the right to life and, water being the very essence of life is therefore by default, a right of every human on the planet and not a commodity for a few wealthy people to make money from. In the movie 'Total Recall' the story went that the inhabitants had to pay for their air from a corporation.
Is it much of a stretch for the imagination to see that something very similar is about to happen with our water?
If you were making over £2 billion in the UK market, or $11.5 billion industry in the US in 2007, would you want to let go?

There are places and sources you can get information on these criminals such as the documentaries "Tapped" available through Vimeo or "Blue Gold-Water Wars" available through Top Documentaries or YouTube. I have of course mentioned these documentaries in previous blogs, if you have not watched them yet then I highly recommend them.

I shall leave you with some interesting facts;

783 million people live without access to clean drinking water (11% of the global population)
2.5 billion people live without access to sanitation- about 35% of the global population.
1.4 million children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unclean water and poor sanitation - 4,000 child deaths a day or one child every 20 seconds. This equates to 160 infant school classrooms lost every single day to an entirely preventable public health crisis
(WHO/Water Aid/Unicef)

Colonialism comes in bottles

Monday, 16 April 2012

The truth shall set you free

Steve Hughes
When sitting and watching great comedians of the past such as Bill Hicks and George Carlin, I often wonder where the audience of yesterday have gone? They sat and laughed at their jokes but a lot of what is often said by these men is no laughing matter, there is a point to it and the point usually is this, that the world is not as it seems and we the people have the power to change it as we see fit.

On a recent outing to London I had the pleasure of watching the enigmatic Steve Hughes. Like Carlin and Hicks before him, his show oozed satire and was under pinned with an important message throughout; that the world is run by blood thirsty war criminals that do not have our best interests at heart, that they want a war with Iran and will do all they can to ensure this happens. Unfortunately the whoops of approval and vigorous applaud were limited to myself and my two companions, in fact when Steve Hughes dared to utter the words "there will be a world war with the up coming intervention in Iran" someone heckled "No, there won't be!".
We felt the need to assure them that it was true, and so in true pantomime fashion my partner responded "Yes, there will!".

It seemed as though Steve Hughes' performance had a sense of resignation about it, to the fact that, for all his efforts to illuminate the lies we are told, the majority of people still do not seem to notice or care about the perilous road our supposed democratically elected leaders are taking us down. Hughes, like Carlin, seems to have reached a point where he believes there is no helping some people. He went on to say;
"Old people say things were better in their day, that's because they are right, I am old now and it was better in my day... I cannot wait for the aliens to come and take me away, for a pie".

The show was a visceral lambasting of the elites and their lust for power.

On the subject of Enya he reminisced about a show where a fan heckled that he in fact "hated Enya", Hughes mused that "George Bush is alive. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair; these are real, life sucking, child killing monsters and this, is Enya. All I'm gonna say is if you are going to hate, hate positively."

With people like Hughes, Carlin and Hicks wrapping up these pearls of wisdom in shiny packages for the public to only take away and discard as they exit the theatres, is it any wonder these people lose faith in our ability to over come the propaganda machine? Britain's Got Talent, The Voice and all these other party pop, mainstream, processed production shows we must be switch off, they serve only to distract us from what is really going on and what is important in life. The price of not doing so is not worth thinking.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Truth, Lies and Newsreels

Is it any wonder groups like the EDL are on the rise
when 'news' articles like this bombard us?
This was page 2 and page 4 respectively of the Daily Mail on April 4th 2012, commonly known as the Daily 'Hate' Mail, and read by a section of the community that regard themselves as 'middle class'.

Unfortunately the majority of people have their outlook on life shaped by such propaganda, why anyone would use even the loosest of change to pick up papers such as The Mail, The Sun or the Daily Star is beyond comprehension, other than it is for what they do not contain rather than what they do. Being devoid of any real news, other than that of cheap gossip, it makes it easier for people to turn a blind eye to truths, and/or, blame someone else for the problems around them, usually an immigrant, rather than war criminals such as Tony Blair and David Cameron or the billionaire bankers taking fat cat pensions at the expense of everyday humans such as ourselves.

How else can you explain Katie Price getting an opinion piece in the new Sun on Sunday?

Newspapers such as these serve to maintain the status-quo and drive hatred and intolerance between us, when in reality we have more in common with each other than these hate mongers would have us believe; and all the while the main protagonists responsible for the majority of the problems in this world continue, to get away with it unchallenged. 

Nobody seems to notice, and more worryingly, nobody seems to care.

Terrorism and immigration, no mention of our government terrorists though...

The articles listed above are from the Daily 'Hate' Mail again, whereby the paper continues to ram home the alleged threat of terror in our midst, topping it off with an image of a terrorist carrying a bomb through passport control. Is this to induce a perpetual state of fear amongst the public?

We live in a world where a 30 year old plus footballer can use a horrendous slur on another footballer on International television and be seen to still be fit to Captain England in some quarters; a police officer can verbally and physically abuse a young black lad in a police van, be recorded and it still be thrown out by the CPS for a lack of evidence but a young university student says something via twitter about a footballer and he receives 56 days in prison. Where is the justice in this?

For 18 months I have been actively collecting and comparing news articles from the various newspapers and watched as many news broadcasts as I can, and what have I found? That the truth of it all is this; "Propaganda is for democracy, what the bludgeon is for dictatorships" Noam Chomsky.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Kony Part II, Uncover the Con

Since the Kony 2012 video by charity Invisible Children went viral on March 5th 2012 there has been a plethora of articles and videos both commending and questioning the aims and objectives of the 'Stop Kony' campaign. On the face of it, it appeared to be a cause worthy of peoples attention and our governments actions, but with a closer look people started to question the validity of the campaign, and with good reason.

Sceptics have said that the discovery of Ugandan oil almost six years ago is the key reason for the sudden interest from America and the rest of the western world in the woes of Uganda and its children. I for one have been of the opinion that the Kony campaign is a front for western interests in resources, Uganda had been the scene of a variety of atrocities in the 1970's and 1980's, yet there were no Knights prepared to ride in and liberate these people back then. I see no reason to change that opinion now as the race to mobilise troops (U.S troops) to Uganda intensifies when there is plenty of evidence and articles out there to prove that fact. An article written back in October 2011 points the finger directly at the real reasons why the imperial war machine is preparing to intervene, and the Stop Kony campaign is intrinsically linked to this movement.

This intervention is being driven by the hijacking of consciousness and false manufacturing of consent aimed at the young, by the follow up video from Invisible Children, "Kony 2012 part II- Beyond Famous."

Kony, Bin Laden & Hitler. The worst?
The new video is a counter to the allegations from millions of people highlighting the over simplistic view of the LRA and Uganda. 'Beyond Famous' focuses on the actions of the Ugandans, rather than the narrative of Jason Russell, who since the last video has been diagnosed with psychosis and committed to hospital suffering stress. Invisible Children claim the original Kony 2012 video resulted in the Ugandan military having mobilised 5000 troops in an effort to hunt down and capture Joseph Kony. That the military is on the move through South Sudan, D.R Congo and the Central Republic of Africa is true, whether this is as a direct result of the Kony 2012 video going viral is debatable. The over riding theme throughout Beyond Famous is that diplomacy has not worked and that military intervention is the only way forward. How military action against a man that allegedly uses children as body guards is justified remains to be seen.

Beyond Famous is a video full of propaganda and symbolism, pushing for a war like intervention with a back drop of capitalism and inverted pyramids of power. The power of the media and social media is underestimated by the masses. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said "it is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language." 

If you want to watch a video that challenges the socially accepted view of Joseph Kony then check the video below.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

100 Not Out, There are No Problems but Human Problems.

"The world is a dangerous place to live in not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it" Albert Einstein. 
This is the quote that starts the mission statement of the EDL web page. For those of you unfamiliar with the EDL they are the self proclaimed English Defence League, established in 2009 following the verbal abuse of soldiers returning to the UK from Afghanistan during a parade in Luton. Some ugly scenes occurred and the rest as they say is history.

Describing themselves as a human rights organisation, they use the term at least 5 times throughout their mission statement, but at no point do they refer to what articles they claim they are defending exactly. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ratified on December 10th 1948, they are a right for every man woman and child on the planet, yet the very fact that they have to exist at all is damning indictment of the so called civilisation we live in. I imagine very few people have actually read through the declarations, so to see the EDL page refer to their enforcement and support of human rights was surprising to say the least. The mission statement refers to supporting the right to free speech (when talking about the right to speak against so called radical Islam) the right for Muslim's to practice their religion in a more tolerant way than the 'original 7th century form' (with regard to supposed sharia-law being invoked in Britain) yet there are no direct references to the articles they claim to be in support of; which leads me to think that they have either heard of human rights and not actually read or understood them, or they just do not know them.

For the record the right to freedom of speech and opinion is covered by Article 19 and states;
 "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." 
Whilst the freedom to practice religion is covered by Article 18 which states; 
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

That the people that created the EDL claim to be in support of these principles is a betrayal of the people that live and die by them on a daily basis as our own governments violate them everyday and, by the EDL's very own actions, they violate some of the most basic principles. 
The very first article states; 
Article 1 of the UD
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

As you browse through the website is clear to see that the EDL do not follow even the first article let alone support or defend any of the others they claim.

It would be easy now to sit here and go into a torrent of abuse at the EDL, its self appointed leader Steven Lennon, and his misguided followers as many others may have but the simple matter is this; like you or I they are just another group of humans, albeit damaged in some way like many of us are, and like the rest of us are products of their environment. No one is born 'racist' as society describes it, no one is born with hatred or intolerance. These are learned behaviours from their experiences and can be changed. Despite what you may have been told there is no evil or racist gene. 
As someone who in their younger years suffered violence from people both sides of the battle ground now drawn up by the EDL, I know how easy it is to be consumed with anger, mistrust and the feeling of isolation. Those experiences shape who you are, you must learn from them and I can say that I did, at a time where I could have chosen a different path to the one I am on now. It is because of these specific experiences I refuse to be drawn in to the mudslinging contest and aggressive nature of claim and counter claim of the EDL and their various opposition.

Hating the EDL will not make them go away, nor will it solve the issue of their existence or any extremist groups like them.

Where the efforts should be made is in highlighting our similarities, the facts that we have more in common with each other than the billionaire war criminals perpetually trying to drive a wedge between us. As long as we continue to be at each others throats the real threat to our liberties go unnoticed and unchallenged. We are all subject to the subtle and not so subtle efforts of the mainstream media to terrorise us in to hating each other and remain fearful. Much of this fear and mistrust is born of ignorance, and that is not to say this is intentional or otherwise, as explained earlier we are all products of our environment. If Steven Lennon had been adopted at birth and raised by a Muslim family he may well have ended up on the side of the very people he claims to have issue with. I mentioned earlier that there is no 'racist' gene, all our genes are responsible for are things such as our eye colour, features etc and as Jacque Fresco once said "It may give you a better brain than some, with better neural pathways etc, but if you are raised in a fascist state it will just mean you become a fascist quicker." 

As with all groups, there are varying degrees of sympathy towards the EDL. Newspapers such as The Daily Mail promote views in line with some of their rhetoric, which people who consider themselves to be 'middle class' take on board without question. This is again the reason why labelling them 'racist' or 'Nazi thugs' will not solve the problems created by the media, whose sole purpose it seems is to keep a perpetual state of fear and misunderstanding, with buzz words such as grooming, extremism and terror never too far from an article. It must also be considered that alongside the perpetual bombardment from the media, some of these sympathetic people or misguided followers of the EDL, may have had negative experiences with small sections from within communities. This will only serve to reinforce those messages and is why I say we must try to engage in positive experiences with those people. By being hateful towards them all we do is serve to reinforce the propaganda and lies that they are bombarded with over and over again on the social conditioning box.

To combat this we must start by educating the young who may be in an environment where certain rhetoric is all they hear, for instance the now infamous woman on the tram, Emma West, is an example of such and environment. We need to start reprogramming our language and remove the notion that people of different colour skin are of different races, reinforcing the message that we are one human species and family. We also need to address the lies in the media that constantly blame immigration for the downturn of the economy, rather than the bankers and the billions of pounds that the tax payer bailed them out with, and highlight the fact that technology is playing an increasing part of unemployment. We need to start pointing the finger in the right direction and I do not mean the far right, I mean at the government and their paymasters. 
There are people out there challenging the status quo, Morgan Freeman, Jacque Fresco and Ken O'Keefe to name a well known few, will you add your name to this list?

We must start to take responsibility for the world we have helped to create and help to shape it for the better by creating positive experiences for the people we interact with and not leave it someone else. My friend recently said to me that we often talk about creating a better world for our children, but never creating better children for our world. This is our challenge and we must face it.