Mike Vickers' Blog

September 8, 2016

Putting the Camera aside in the Mediterranean

Filed under: Europe, In Our Time, Politics, Travel, War — derryvickers @ 8:46 am

How’s this for a business model? The smugglers of Libya cram as many people as possible aboard ramshackle dinghies and send them off across the Mediterranean. There’s virtually no chance that the boats will make the 300-mile journey to Europe; they will either sink, drowning all on board, or be intercepted by a rescue ship or naval vessel on patrol. But the outcome makes little difference to the smugglers, who are part of a more than $5 billion industry; either way, they get paid, and new passengers keep coming.

This is the very definition of a death-defying journey, which TIME correspondent Aryn Baker and photographer Lynsey Addario set out to tell for this issue and an ongoing multimedia project. Now that the refugee route from Turkey to Greece has all but closed down, more and more migrants are braving the far more dangerous Libya-to-Italy corridor. Aryn and Lynsey embedded with a rescue team from the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières on the MV Aquarius. It took their 77-metre., steel-clad, multi-engine surveying vessel 36 hours to reach Sicily from Libya. “The thought that these tiny, 40-horsepower-engine [migrant] boats, loaded with one tank of fuel, could make it anywhere would be laughable but for the number of lives at stake,” Aryn says, and indeed the death toll on the route has risen sharply this year, to 2,726 people.

These refugees came not just from the nightmare war zones of Syria and Sudan but from all across Africa. As dangerous as the sea journey is, Lynsey observes, “This is the least harrowing of their months- and years-long journey to date. They have been tortured, bound, gang-raped, trafficked, humiliated, starved and thrust into the open seas, and we come upon them often as the first ally since they left home.” At one point after intercepting a sinking trawler, there were 551 people aboard the Aquarius; Aryn handed out emergency rations, while Lynsey deployed her rudimentary Arabic to help calm frightened passengers.

“After almost two decades of covering people at their most vulnerable, I am often asked when is the appropriate time to put my cameras down and intervene in any given situation,” Lynsey says. Normally, her response is that she is not a doctor, and her mission is to tell the story to the larger world. But as the rescuers scrambled to pull some 400 people from one sinking boat, babies, toddlers and children were thrust from the crowd, one after another, passed along a chain of rescue workers. “When I pulled my camera away from my face, I realized everyone’s hands were full but mine,” Lynsey says, “and there was a startled boy at my feet–no more than 3 years old. The boat was jostling to the left and right, the sea splashing around us, and I thought of my son. I instinctively picked up the boy, letting my cameras dangle at my side, and undoubtedly missed some of the most important images of the day. But the situation was tense and precarious, and I knew what I needed to do then and there.”

This was Lynsey’s fourth journey on a search-and-rescue boat. She knows already it won’t be her last.

Nancy Gibbs, EDITOR: TIME Magazine September 12, 2016

PS If this doesn’t bring tears to your eyes

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July 19, 2016

Back from walking on the Western Isles but it’s nothing like this

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, In Our Time, Politics, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:12 pm

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/sep/10/we-walk-together-a-syrian-familys-journey-to-the-heart-of-europe-video?CMP=ema-3374

Surely these are the people who would rejuvenate this country?

June 3, 2015

On the Other Side of Sorrow

Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 3:38 pm

I have just finished On the Other Side of Sorrow by Jim Hunter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hunter_(historian)

It’s a lovely book about Nature and the People in the Scottish Highlands. I was for a time on Skye and it brings back many memories.

Much on the people and the clearances. Interesting to read the last chapter – to me this chapter sounds the right chord. I see first edition was published in 1995 and the latest last year and I wonder how much Jim Hunter has been changed the text of the latest edition?

I am a fan of Frazer Darling and I find plenty of his quotes in the book. One small criticism is that I didn’t find any quotes from Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain.

As I see it the Land Reform Bill is a necessary condition for repopulation of the Highlands but it is not a sufficient one: people have moved on since the Clearances and people will expect more to move back or just move to a more constructive life – broadband coverage is essential and better roads would help and it’s a pity that the Wick line wasn’t straightened at Dornoch Firth when they build the new road.

I am reeling today on the death of Charles Kennedy – not that I knew him – but he exemplified my ideal of liberalism.

There are of course many obituaries in today’s papers but the one that appeals most is in today’s Scotsman by Tavish Scott:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/tavish-scott-kennedy-a-man-never-underestimated-1-3790769

No doubt over the coming days he will come out On the Other Side of Sorrow.

PS Just caught up with

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/jun/02/steve-bell-on-charles-kennedy-cartoon

November 20, 2014

Aesop and the position of the West in the World today

Filed under: Education, In Our Time, Philosophy, Poetry — derryvickers @ 10:23 am

To those who are addicted to In Our Time hosted by Melvyn Bragg; today he and his guests were talking about Aesop and his fables.  Simon Goldhill near the close of the programme made the very relevant comment that we in the West are still profoundly influenced by Greek culture.  We are introduced to this culture through Aesop and his fables right from the start of our lives and as we get older so Socrates, Plato and Aristotle break through.  There’s an interesting book by Ferdinand Mount ‘Full Circle’ where he sets out How the Classical World came back to us – perhaps it never went away.

But we need to remember that we in the West are so indoctrinated by the Classical World when working with people from other cultures that they have equally valid cultures too.

September 21, 2014

We live in stirring times; tea-stirring times ?

Filed under: In Our Time, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 10:01 am

‘We live in stirring times; tea-stirring times’ quoted Mr Norris in Mr Norris Changes Trains

Christopher Isherwood repented his stories later – he stated:

‘What repels me now about Mr Norris is its heartlessness. It is a heartless fairy-story about a real city in which human beings were suffering the miseries of political violence and near-starvation. The “wickedness” of Berlin’s night-life was of the most pitiful kind; the kisses and embraces, as always, had price-tags attached to them, but here the prices were drastically reduced in the cut-throat competition of an over-crowded market’.

OK – Scotland is not like Berlin in the inter-war years but there what has emerged during the build up to the Referendum is a grass roots feeling that it is time for real change and a break from the Westminster (and for that matter Edinburgh) centric, out of touch with us the people.

I was wrong – I guessed that when people actually came to put their X, they would decide to take a punt and vote Yes. In the event they did just the opposite, worrying about the risk, and voted No.  5% either way was enough to swing it.

It would have been much better if the vote had been much closer – like Quebec.

We are left with all three parties having made great promises of greater devolution which they would after the vote be hard pushed to keep to anyway if the vote had been much closer, but now the vote was not decisive for No the feel they can be a lot more relaxed. They are now squabbling about what they need to honour.  So do we live in tea-stirring times?

Let’s hope that all the articles and statements are correct that we are moving to a much more ‘federal’ Britain, but that is going to be very difficult unless or until the English regions stand up and say ‘why about us, why can’t we be devolved’. The trouble is that we are all, including Scotland, dominated by London and this continues to get worse.

Now that the Referendum is over, do we just collapse back to tea-stirring times or as Isherwood repents after WW2 that we have all misjudged the mood of ‘Joe Public’, not only in Scotland, but throughout the UK that we have all had enough of the main political parties promising great change and just falling back to political in-fighting.

Gordon Brown has a lot to answer for and to follow up. It remains unclear how much his intervention in the last days before the Referendum affected the outcome, but it is clear it did in some way and he deserves his ‘pound of flesh’ from the main Westminster parties.  Will he get it?  May be Clacton will point the way for England.

 

December 10, 2013

Mandela

Filed under: Communications, In Our Time, Journalism, USA, World Class — derryvickers @ 10:18 pm

From the high flying oratory of Obama that brings tears to my eyes

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/barack-obama-nelson-mandela-memorial-service

To the arch cynicism of Simon Jenkins and I can’t repress a chuckle

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/10/mandela-coverage-banality-of-goodness

And finally to the cold reality of Okwonga

http://www.okwonga.com/?p=869

What a day!

And all thanks to one man: Mandela

August 31, 2013

British Parliament, Syria and Poetry

Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Poetry, Politics — derryvickers @ 9:11 am

Alf Young in today’s Scotsman quotes from Seamus Heaney on the debate on Thursday night in which Cameron was defeated in his attempt to seek permission for Britain to join the US to send a warning shot to Assad in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people.

‘Anything can happen, the tallest towers

Be overturned, those in high places daunted,

Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune

Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,

Setting it down bleeding on the next.

Ground gives. The heaven’s weight

Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle-lid.

Capstones shift, nothing resettles right.

Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.’

See the full article @

http://www.scotsman.com/news/alf-young-impact-of-decision-over-syria-1-3068758

Seamus Heaney died this week

If one looks at Syria itself a quote from Yeats seems more appropriate

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.’

All three persona, Alf Young, Seamus Heaney and William Butler Yeats it would appear come from Ireland.

December 22, 2012

A Message for Christmas

Filed under: In Our Time, World Class — derryvickers @ 7:11 pm

Where it all began.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/25/israeli-and-palestinian-peace-campaigners-joint-pain

I have supported the Palestinians – why do the Israelis who suffered so much in  the Holocaust now persecute the Palestinians.  Is it because they want their own homeland where they hope to be safe from further persecution?

But the message here between one Israeli and one Palestinian who have both suffered at the hands of the Palestinians and the Israelis is –
we are working together to overcome the pain and suffering and ‘If you can’t be part of the solution, I would ask you to leave us alone. I really mean that’

And to me this article with its wee hope is a mind changer.

December 19, 2012

Alan Turing

Filed under: In Our Time, Philosophy — derryvickers @ 9:45 pm

Alan Turing was perhaps the UK’s most influential mathematician of the 20th century in both theory and practice – see

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/dec/19/alan-turing-pardon-shift-legal-position

It’s not a pardon that should be given; its that the slate should be wiped clean.

It is ironic that Turing is to be featured on a postage stamp next year.

As the article in the Guardian points out he would not even have featured in the Press in today’s world.

I shall look out for the next epartition and sign it as I hope any readers of this blog will also.

August 31, 2012

Nationhood

Filed under: History in the making, In Our Time, Politics, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 10:01 pm

Nationhood – A discussion at the Hub on 30 August 12 – chaired by Sheena McDonald

Inevitably moved to Scottish Independence.  I collected words, sound bites!

Participants – all attached to Edinburgh University:

Susan Manning – Cultural; Edinburgh via England but born in Scotland

Alvin Jackson – History; one time lecturer at University College Dublin

Christine Bell – Constitutional Law; from Human Rights Belfast – clearly Northern Irish

Susan Manning: Scotland a land of immigrants; Marx – workers stateless Virginia Wolf – women stateless.  Language, Proximity, Union of people.  Internet creating the virtual place

Alvin Jackson:  Ireland became independent – wanted to get rid of the English connection asap.  But then Ireland fought for independence – not Scotland, at least since the 45 – SNP committed to non-violence.  Nationhood ↔ Independence. Shared Institutions.  Ireland had no permanent Royal Residence.

Christine Bell: globalised world. Realm cf internationalism.   Self-government in smaller units.  Common interests, ties, culture.  Who has the right to pick the question; who owns the debate?  Mutual constitutional settlement.

The open discussion

Form follows substance.  Who has succeeded? South Africa,
Northern Ireland > Constructive Ambiguity

Who will speak on behalf of the disenfranchised; state fails the citizens.  The State – a modern word – earlier country, nation, national identity, community

Independence will take time – not a button press, the decision is just the start

Self-defence a tricky issue, the US right to bear arms – totally changed since the constitution establishes

Civil nationalism v ethnic nationalism.  Nation / nationality / citizenship / individual v collective.

Application for British citizenship > the lowest common denominator

In the Rugby match who do you support – easy for me Scotland unless its Scotland v England then its England but not a walk over – women don’t have a rugby team!

OK it’s a mess, but then so is the Independence debate – currently bogged down in trivia – even Trident
Two key sound bites:  Form follows substance – not vice versa.  Constructive Ambiguity

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