The Legend of Saint Andrew

Today is Saint Andrew’s Day, a celebration of the patron saint of Scotland. St Andrew himself is said to have been born in Galilee in the early 1st century AD, and it is claimed in the New Testament that he was the brother of Simon Peter.

Saint Andrew is not only revered in Scotland, but also celebrated in many other European nations, such as Georgia – in which he is believed to have been the first preacher of Christianity – Malta, Cyprus, Romania, Spain and also Ukraine.  With such a wide range of people’s who celebrate St Andrew, one might ask where does Scotland’s link with this man come from?

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Obviously given the time period he lived in, many stories involving St Andrew are now largely shrouded in myth. However the link with Scotland is arguably the most interesting of all – I’m obviously going to say that, of course. Multiple legends claim that relics of Saint Andrew were brought to – you guessed it, Saint Andrews, Scotland – from Constantinople, the former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as the Byzantine Empire.

Manuscripts that can be found in the Bibliotheque Nationale and the British Library claim that these relics were brought to the Pictish King Oengus I, who proceeded to build a monastery on the site we now know as Saint Andrews. This was only the beginning of Saint Andrews ties to Scotland however, as Oengus II finally solidified the preachers place as patron saint after good fortune in battle.

Legend states that Oengus led an army of Picts and Scots against the Angles of Northumbria, led by Aethelstan, in East Lothian just outside of Edinburgh. The village of Athelstaneford still remains to this day.

It is claimed that on the eve of battle, King Oengus, outnumbered by the Angle host, prayed to St Andrew, and stated that he would acknowledge him as the patron saint of Scotland if they were to be victorious. The King’s prayers appeared to have been answered when a cloud formation appeared in the shape of the cross upon which Andrew was crucified. We know this today as the Saltire, it has remained as Scotland’s national symbol since the 14th century and takes pride of place in the Union Jack.

Emboldened by his vision, King Oengus II led his army to victory over the Angle invaders, and this set of a chain of events that would ultimately lead to the nation as we know it.

Although King Oengus granted St Andrew the status of patron saint, this was not fully acknowledged until the Declaration of Arbroath, several centuries later.

As mentioned before, the celebration of St Andrew is not only acknowledged in Scotland, as the first preacher of the Christian faith in Georgia, Andrew is renowned in Eastern Europe as one of the many who brought the faith to the Pagan people’s who inhabited the region. This also helped spread the faith north & eastward into modern day Ukraine and Russia.

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His death is particularly iconic, as he shared the same fate as Jesus Christ, crucifixion, albeit in a slightly different fashion. in 60AD Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross, his remains were moved to Constantinople over three hundred years later by Emperor Constantine.

God, Brexit, Hypocrisy

LBC’s James O’Brien hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the hypocrisy surrounding Theresa May’s comments on her faith guiding her in office.

See here: http://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/james-obrien/james-obrien-point-on-religion-in-politics/

A Christian politician can claim that God grants he or she wisdom and offers guidance during political discourse, yet if the word ‘Allah’ were to be mentioned, the political right – and their mouthpieces in the media – would be in uproar.

As an atheist, I find it rather concerning that anyone in public office would seek the guidance of a deity over the guidance of their peers, and more importantly, their electoral base. Now, you may retort with “but a large portion of her electoral base may be Christian, they would agree with her comments” – and you are probably correct, however I would reply with this; A fundamental aspect of modern democracy is the separation of church & state, and although individuals are entitled to their religious beliefs – and the practice thereof –  I do not think it wise to allow religion to interfere with policy matters.

During such a crucial and calamitous time in British politics, I would feel far more at ease with our Prime Minister basing her judgements on logic, reason and the advice given to her by economic and/or diplomatic experts, not a supreme being. After all, who’s to say God didn’t vote Remain? Could her judgement be clouded by placing her trust in God? It may stifle the proceedings and cause for more turbulence.

Of course, if one is engaged with reality, then it’s safe to say that God neither exists nor has an opinion on this, and if by some small chance he does, then he is all-knowing and supreme, and I’m sure he’s got a lot on his plate at the moment to worry about Brexit or British policy matters.

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If Sadiq Khan were to claim Allah guides his duties as Mayor of London, the tone would be far different.

The main grievance I have in this situation is the hypocrisy and the selective praise. If an elected official, who happened to be Muslim, commented on their faith guiding their work, we’d be met with alt-right headlines highlighting the ‘Islamification’ of British politics. Britain First would march down another street in Luton, radio talk shows would be overwhelmed with xenophobic, bigoted callers, and more than likely a Donald Trump Tweet would be conjured up from somewhere.

Let us talk about God, let us praise him, let us maintain a society and a system that allows people to worship freely. However please, lets keep God, religion and all forms of blind faith away from the halls of power, away from our policies and out of our judicial system. In these situations, lets stick to reason, logic, and not crawl back into the Dark Ages.

Fidel Castro: A One Man Superpower

Fidel Castro’s death at on 25th of November has been met with mixed emotions from both sides of the political spectrum. Social media has been rife with condemnation of a man acknowledged as a dictator, a murderer and a revolutionary, but also with comments regarding his cavalier attitudes toward American imperialism & aggression. Some are hailing him, others are deriding him.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke reverently of him, whilst acknowledging his ‘flaws’ – Which include murder and torture. It is clear that the left today still hold Castro in high regard – Much to my amazement, as he epitomises all that the left does not stand for; Totalitarianism, violence and control of speech, thought & expressionism.

Without going too deeply into my own political or personal beliefs on this matter, it would be wise to cast our gaze upon both sides of the debate – and believe me, there are many talking points.

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Castro has long been hailed as the poster boy of socialism.The man that rose to prominence during the height of the Cold War for his defiance against American capitalism, his near complete destruction of the mafia elements at work in Cuba, his alliances with the Soviet Union, his promotion of revolutionary tactics in Latin America and finally his outspoken stance on African Apartheid regimes.

There is no denying that he leaves an enormous legacy in 20th century politics. The United States’ efforts to undermine and control Central & South American still continue to this day, with Venezuela being a prime example. During the height of the Cold War, in such a tumultuous political atmosphere, Castro threw an almighty spanner into the works, and as such, was hailed for his efforts to oppose such blatant warmongering and interference. This is a position on which I agree with him.

Whilst western nations such as the United States and, my home country, the United Kingdom stood by idly as the apartheid regimes of Southern Africa ripped themselves to pieces, Castro made his voice heard loud and clear. There is no denying his support for these oppressed people’s made a lasting impact. But whilst he supposedly championed for the rights of others globally, he was imprisoning, torturing and murdering political opponents and civil rights activists.

Hundreds were arrested, tortured and killed during Castro’s early years – An issue he later claimed to regret. Hundreds fled and to this day, crackdowns on protests and dissidents still continues.

In fact, during 2015 Human Rights Day, over 100 ‘dissidents’ were arrested after clashes with police erupted on the streets of Havana. A clear sign that the regime still maintains a firm grip upon the people and the spreading of information.

More Here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/10/cuba-dissidents-arrested-protests-international-human-rights-day?CMP=share_btn_fb

Amnesty International has a dedicated page for Cuba, in which it claims:

“Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.”

Further information can be found on the Amnesty International website:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/americas/cuba/report-cuba/

Thousands left Cuba in during Castro’s time as Cuban premier. That one would risk life and limb to leave a supposed socialist utopia, free from american capitalist meddling, shows that all was not well – Many of those who escaped, and their families were celebrating on the streets of Florida upon hearing the news.

More Here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/26/us/miami-cubans-fidel-castro.html?_r=0

One could argue that the 50-year long embargo – imposed upon Cuba by the west – led to the extreme measures taken by the Castro regime, along with the numerous attempts on his life. This was a nation under siege, and Castro reacted in the only way possible, through force, both internally, and by encouraging the same dissidence throughout Latin America.

It is unwise to castigate Castro for his reaction to internal opposition as morally corrupt or extreme, when compared to the actions of supposed western ‘democratic’ nations of the time, which were water cannoning black protesters, imprisoning homosexuals and implementing crippling economic sanctions upon large portions of their own populace.

Cuba’s great victories, despite its struggles, come in the form of social care. Cuba’s healthcare system is exemplary when considering the pressure it has been put under by lack of funding and supplies. In fact, Cuban life expectancy is comparable to other western nations, despite such obvious hindrances to its infrastructure.

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Cuban medical excellency is to such an extent, that the National Health Service sent a delegation of over 100 medical experts to observe the work of Cuba’s healthcare service, which focuses heavily on local, community-based engagement on a budget paling in comparison to our own.

In the early years of the revolution, the Literacy Campaign sought to bring Cubans up to 20th century education levels. Today, Cuban youth and adult literacy levels stand at 100% – a truly remarkable achievement. Additionally, when compared to other Latin American nations with more favourable ties to the United States, it speaks volumes. Mexico’s youth literacy rate sits at 98.5%, and adult literacy sits at 93.5%.

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Since 2008, Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul, has manned the helm of the Cuban government, and with this, we have seen better inroads toward a more internationally welcomed Cuba. The death of Fidel has led to calls for the trade embargo against the nation to be lifted, with Francoise Hollande the most recent outspoken individual.

This could lead to a greater period of prosperity for Cuba and its people, however the question must be asked; Can the regime deal with an increasingly open, transparent and outspoken world? Social media has proven to us in the early stages of the 21st century, that secretive, controlling regimes often buckle under the pressure of free-flowing information and news. Furthermore, with Donald Trump the incumbent POTUS, there could be further strains with Latin America in the near future.

Ultimately, Fidel Castro will be remembered as both a hero and a villain to many. His championing of the anti-imperialist cause will remain in the hearts of many around the world, but for those that were affected by, or fled the regime, he will likely be remembered as a murderer and tyrannical dictator. Thousands died globally due to the tit for tat meddling of both the United States and Cuban governments, and let us not forget that Fidel Castro’s insatiable need to oppose the US brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Fidel Castro was a giant of 20th century history and politics, and his legacy is one that will be remembered for many good and bad reasons. His once great rival, John F Kennedy, speaking of Castro, said:

“They promised individual liberty and free elections. They promised an end to harsh police-state tactics. They promised a better life for a people long oppressed by both economic and political tyranny. But in the two years since that revolution swept Fidel Castro into power, those promises have all been broken.”

These comments stand the test of time, as often men and causes that seek to liberate the people tend to become no different from those from whom they stole the mantel.

The Destruction of Coventry

 

With Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday having just passed, it would seem fitting to cast an eye toward the futility of conflict, and the impact it has had upon so many innocents.

Today marks the anniversary of an incident in 1940, in which the German Luftwaffe devastated the city of Coventry, with two thirds being completely levelled. Nearly 600 people were killed, with over a thousand injured. In fact, it is said many of the bodies were so badly burned in the resulting inferno, that many could not be adequately identified by the authorities.

This event, given the tenacity of air-raids by both sides during the Second World War, seems rather tame, but it is the reasoning behind it – along with the utter devastation upon such a small area – that makes for shocking incident. Coventry was well known for manufacturing, and after World War One, armaments production was increased in the city – among many more across the UK.

Coventry’s legitimacy as a target however, was increased in the days running up to November 14th, after the allied bombing of Munich. Hitler, insulted and enraged by the fact that the RAF would bomb the birthplace of the National Socialist movement, ordered that the favour be returned.

The evening of the 14th saw the Luftwaffe drop hundreds of high explosive munitions, along with incendiary devices, onto the city’s military industrial and civilian areas. Many parts of Coventry that held little strategic importance were destroyed, it is hard to believe that after the onslaught, much of the city centre was even left standing at all.

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In school, i recall being taught about the allied bombing of Dresden. The fire storm that engulfed the city, the thousands that perished. To this day the barbarism still strikes me, after all, weren’t we the good guys?

One can retort by claiming it was necessary, as it was critical to breaking down the military capability of Germany, and the same can be said about Luftwaffe raids upon Britain. Hitler sought to bring the nation to its knees, buckle our infrastructure and kill our resolve – along with a lot of people on the way.

Cliched it may be to say, but throughout the Second World War, and in the numerous conflicts since,  civilians always carry the highest burden. Living in Coventry on that night, cowering in Anderson shelters, it would be to envisage the lives we live today, the luxuries we have within our grasp and the security we enjoy – Despite the fact many would claim otherwise

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What does ring clear throughout many conflicts – and among all sides of said conflicts – is the resilience of the human heart to endure, carry on, and find a small measure of peace and happiness in what is left of their world. The people of Coventry certainly displayed that in the days after the destruction, along with millions of others in the UK, France, Germany and across Europe.