Saturday 22 October 2011

Graeme Knowles washes his hands;

or Pontius Pilate rides again!
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.

(a short story)

Homo erectus,
Homo sapiens,
Homo grǽdum

          ... extinction.
   (or a long one)

Homo agapiens.

          You get to pick.

Keep Calm and Occupy London.Graeme Knowles' arguments do not wash.

He is the Dean of
St Paul's in London, England; whose response to the occupiers is to close the cathedral.

St. Paul's, London.Here you can watch him perform (or here); here you can read a transcript of his speech; and here you can read his open letter to the occupiers.

Oh, and here is the necessary and sufficient rebuttal by the occupiers. QED.

Graeme Knowles.Graeme Knowles.Graeme Knowles.Graeme Knowles.I imagine Pontius Pilate as quite a well fed man.

Nothing overly ambiguous in the applicable commandment (as stated by Matthew - 22-39):
"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
Nor in the behaviour as reported (also by Matthew - 27-24):
"When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it."
[This is no longer a question, see below] The management of St. James' in Toronto seem to be doing very much better, so far. So why should I doubt them? Why use 'seem' and 'so far'? I'm sorry. (This whole post is an apology, really.) Such thoughts are inevitable. One knows they are conflicted and one simply cannot be sure how the die will eventually roll.

Occupy Toronto.Just to report: as of Tuesday afternoon Occupy Toronto has re-adopted the People's Mic; since Sunday when I saw the bullhorns out. I met no one I knew who would talk to me and explain so I do not know how it came about.

There is an obvious deficit now in the learning curve. It seems easy but it's not. Like any technique it needs practice to make perfect - to compose your thoughts briefly & concisely and in phrases that are neither too short nor too long.

The stance of St. James' is (seems?) positive: an extension cord to the occupiers' kitchen plugged in somewhere, access to a water tap, and the church (apparently, reportedly) promising not to evict Occupy Toronto from the portion of the park they own.

Continuing rain is creating quagmire in places - I can't see any way around it, nothing to be done to fix it - so at some point in the future a repair & restoration will be needed. Who knows? Maybe it will be the mud that will tip the St. James' managers the other way. [Not likely, see below]

I spoke with the police there - talk about irony: it's easier to engage the police in conversation than the occupiers - and I resisted the impulse to just say, "Don't do again what you did during the G20!" Instead I congratulated them. So - I can exercise correctitude as well as the next eh? ...   Accentuate the positive.

I was told there would be cake.What I wanted was to follow through and understand the facts around St. James' vis-à-vis Occupy Toronto. But some clue tipped them off that I am a wild thing, feral, and uncontrolled; I don't know what it was that tipped them; and so, they told me clearly not to meddle, not to risk queering a sweet relationship. And it knocked me right off my horse. I brought them things I thought they needed, physical things: garbage bags, bowls ... and lots of money, well, more than I can afford.

You can't understand people who won't let you get next to them ... Can you? Can anyone? Or ... there is no understanding left anywhere at all now? Is that it?

And I won't meddle of course - but it becomes very difficult go back again. I am not one of those who "bends with the remover to remove," so I creep in, drop some cash in their basket, and slink away again. I'm sorry.

(Except to ask why these churches are not in the vanguard?)

A few poems by Leonard Cohen: Blue Butterfly, and, Sisters of Mercy.

And a computer joke: Back in the late 60's when I was learning to be a computer programmer - input was all punchcards at that time, there were still mechanical sort&collate machines on the floor at Sun Life, programmed with plug-in cables on a switchboard panel, and a vacuum-tube mainframe (no longer used) beside the latest IBMs - it came to me that here was the solution to all human shortcomings in the way of attention & communication. Nevermind that no one understood your questions or pretended not to, that there were no answers forthcoming in a world that was obviously and seriously off the rails; when you had the attention of the holy CPU there was attention and there was response. It was a comfort.

And I made a joke of it which some of my colleagues would smile at knowingly over beers. There was a mad woman there, even then; a FORTRAN/COBOL-E programmer who spent her days writing words on tiny pieces of paper which she slipped under her blotter when anyone came that way (which was not often). She worked for me for a while; not a problem to write a program to translate her work from COBOL-E to the latest version whatever it was (since she adamantly refused to change). I slipped in one evening late, after she was gone, and on the tiny scraps were lists of words, alphabetically arranged in tiny script, almost, but not quite, too small to be legible.

It took me a long time to understand what 'passive-aggressive' means. The phrase didn't make sense to me as it stood, I had never seen the phenomenon (I guess?); but eventually I understand.

What are great perversions? I am thinking of certain lines in Bob Dylan: "Preacher was talkin’, there’s a sermon he gave; he said every man’s conscience is vile and depraved. You cannot depend on it to be your guide when it’s you who must keep it satisfied." Maybe even, "There’s nothing in here moving, an’ anyway I’m not alone."

There is a track that goes from Reading Goal - "Each man kills the thing he loves ... ," through the Rolling Stones and "Just as every cop is a criminal and all the sinners saints ... ," and back to Bob again: "I and I, in creation where one’s nature neither honors nor forgives. I and I. One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives."

So ... Jiminy Cricket's "Always let your conscience be your guide" don't wash neither huh? Uh oh.

Paul's coals (Romans 12-20) are certainly a great perversion ... I have asked politely so often and no one has even understood the question. What's wrong with that? I imagine a huge steel bar, square in cross-section, and twisted, by what unimaginable force, into a knot.

My friends have been unregenerate, reprobates, praeterite. Some are dead now - not very many of 'em anyway:
Having a swallow of single malt with one a few months before he died, when his liver was so enlarged he could no longer drive.

The smile I got from another when I confused his youngest son as he todddled about the room, for a grandson or nephew. His kidneys failed after years of using some copper-based chemical to cure the wood he used more quickly. I remember him curled in his bed like a question mark.

My father, when I ran to a church in a crisis (which had nothing to do with him), saying to me after, "What did you go there for?" (Good question Dad.) And died not too long after that of simple neglect, mine included.
Not a good exercise, counting dead friends.

And these days so desperate for any human connection that I indulge in constant dissembling and pretence. Ready to interpret any nonsense as meaning - had to go see the quack again, infection, walk-in, and so pleased simply not to be pissed on that I groveled like a dog. I think he was too busy to notice.

Girls at a dance party in Abidjan."I can't go wrong 'til I get right," said our Neil; but this is really more like it: Neil Young & Crazy Horse with Hey Hey, My My.

This is me, washing my hands ... too, under the dispassionate gazes of my muses, imaginary friends who sometimes offered simple kindness.

There is humour, there are occasional points of light in the murk. Despair dominates but does not rule. But for me, this blogging nonsense has got to stop gentle reader. I'm sorry.

Go well.

Joyce Vincent.Postscript:

Joyce Carol Vincent, 38 years old, died in her bed-sit in London in 2003 and was only discovered, by a meter man, almost three years later in 2006.

Someone is making a film (and here).

They will not eat TIPNIS!TIPNIS: Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure / Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory:, roughly here, and some pictures.

'Tipnis' might sound like the plural of some Amazonian tribe you have not heard of. There are enough links here to get a better idea than that. Not a waste of time to do so.

They walked 375 miles in 65 days from Trinidad to La Paz. They faced the police - using tear gas and intimidation. They faced the unaccustomed cold - as you go from Trinidad to La Paz you go up considerably in elevation. They received a hero's welcome in La Paz. Evo Morales blinked, but probably has not permanently changed his mind.

In Chaparina near Yucumo, Bolivia, Sept. 20 2011.In Chaparina near Yucumo, Bolivia, Sept. 21 2011.Fernando Vargas.

Some recent news coverage:
       Bolivia Amazon road dispute dents Evo Morales' support, 3rd,
       Bolivia's TIPNIS Conflict Moves to La Paz, 14th,
       Bolivia's Long March Against Evo Morales, 17th,
       Bolivia's Morales offers talks as marchers reach La Paz, 19th,
       Bolivian crowds greet road protesters in La Paz, 19th, and,
       Bolivia’s Morales yields to Amazon Indian protests, 22nd.

And a quick News Search Link in case you want it: sorted by date.

Some NGOs & blogs:
       TIPNIS (there is an 'English' button there on the lower right).
       Defendamos el TIPNIS / We defend TIPNIS, Spanish blog.
       Somos Sur / We are the south, Spanish alternative news site.
       Fundación Tierra.
       TIPNIS en Resistenci, Spanish blog.

There are some pitfalls, some assumptions & false distinctions which may waylay you. Be aware.

Because I am a girl ...While the dipshit left-libs go about spreading the vilest ideological nonsense.

(... a pause for reflection ...)

A-and (saving the best for last) some good news:

US Senator for Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, speaking to Barack Obama on climate change (25 minutes) - found here, and,

Andasol-3 solar thermal plant up and running in Spain, 50 Mw - found here, and,

Noam Chomsky, old and frail, speaking at Occupy Boston on October 22nd.


1. Open Letter from the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Graeme Knowles, 21 October 2011.
2. Statement from the Dean of St Paul's, Graeme Knowles, 21 October 2011.
3. Statement from OccupyLSX, 21 October 2011.
4. An Official Statement from The Cathedral Church of St. James, Douglas Stoute, 23 October 2011.

Open Letter from the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Graeme Knowles, 21 October 2011.

It seems a very long time since you arrived here last weekend. I am very grateful indeed to you for the peaceful nature of your protest. You know that many people around the world, including many Christians, identify with the injustices and inequalities which you believe our financial systems perpetuate and support. Your peaceful protests have been significant in voicing the problem.

With a heavy heart I have to tell you that St Paul’s Cathedral has to be closed today until further notice, because of the legal requirements placed upon us by fire, health and safety issues. I know you will appreciate that in taking on the burden of responsibility for the care and well being of people entering our building, we must also be able to ensure everyone’s safety and, according to those who are expert in this regard, we cannot do so at the moment. I wanted to inform you of this necessary decision before I announced it to the Press.

I am therefore appealing to you directly to recognise that a great deal had been achieved by your presence here outside St Paul’s but that, in order that we might re-open the Cathedral as speedily as possible, we ask you to withdraw peacefully. We are concerned about public safety in terms of evacuation and fire hazards and the consequent knock-on effects which this has with regards to visitors.

St Paul’s, through its Institute and place in the City, will continue to encourage debate on many of the issues you are concerned about. In the meantime, by withdrawing peacefully, you will enable us to re-open the Cathedral for people to use for prayer, worship and reflection as soon as we possibly can.

With my thanks, Graeme Knowles.

Statement from the Dean of St Paul's, Graeme Knowles, 21 October 2011.

It seems a very long time since the protesters arrived around the Cathedral last weekend and I want to stress at the outset that we have listened to them and indeed developed a conversation with them.

We are delighted that the London protests have been peaceful and indeed there has been a good atmosphere generally between Cathedral staff and those dwelling in the tents around St Paul’s.

There is something profound about protest being made and heard in front of this most holy place: a gathering together of those concerned about poverty and inequality facing the great Dome of this Cathedral Church.

You actually have to be here to witness it for yourself because the extent of feeling and protest is not easily translated via media in that sense.

But it is about the practical and safety issues which this peaceful protest has raised which I need to address with you today.

It should be obvious to anyone approaching the Cathedral that the size of the camp and the consequent compliance issues which it inevitably raises, has increasingly put us in a difficult position.

Last night, I met with members of the Chapter to discuss some of these key issues. As the week has gone on, and in a statement we issued earlier this week, we intimated how difficult the situation was becoming.

As a result of that meeting, and reports received today from our independent Health, Safety and Fire officers, I have written an open letter to the protestors this afternoon advising them that we have no lawful alternative but to close St Paul’s Cathedral until further notice. I have here copies of the letter clearly outlining the reasons we have had to take this dramatic course of action which I will ask my colleagues to distribute.

The Health, Safety and Fire officers have pointed out that access to and from the Cathedral is seriously limited. With so many stoves and fires and lots of different types of fuel around, there is a clear fire hazard. Then there is the public health aspect which speaks for itself. The dangers relate not just to Cathedral staff and visitors but are a potential hazard to those encamped themselves.

The decision to close St Paul’s Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times and I have asked the Registrar to implement emergency procedures whereby the building remains closed but fit for purpose until such a time that we can open safely. Our 200 staff and 100 volunteers are also being informed of this decision this afternoon.

I want to say two simple things at this point.

1)We have done this with a very heavy heart, but it is simply not possible to fulfil our day to day obligations to worshippers, visitors and pilgrims in current circumstances.

2)That all of the Chapter are at one on this and recognise the complexities of the issues facing us at this time.

As you can see in the open letter, I am asking the protestors to recognise the huge issues facing us at this time and asking them to leave the vicinity of the building so that the Cathedral can re-open as soon as possible. So many people who visit this great Cathedral come here, of course, because they love the Gospel of justice, peace and reconciliation (which some of the protestors are embracing for a whole host of reasons) , but also because they want to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of a place of prayer and pilgrimage.

Some will rightly say that the Church should be alongside those seeking equality and financial probity. We are. The debate about a more just society is at the heart of much of our work at St Paul’s and indeed we hope to contribute to the wider debate in the very near future through a Report from the St Paul’s Institute.

But today is about our ability, practically, to carry on our mission with free and open access to this public space and treasured place and I hope that the protestors will understand the issues we are facing, recognise that their voice has been legitimately heard, and withdraw peacefully.

Thank you.

Statement from OccupyLSX, 21 October 2011.

We are disappointed to learn that that the management of St Paul’s have decided to close the Cathedral this afternoon, in their open letter regarding our peaceful occupation that aims to highlight and challenge the social and economic injustice in the UK and beyond.

Since the beginning of the occupation six days ago, OccupyLSX have tried hard to accommodate the Cathedral’s concerns in any way we can. Over the past 48 hours, we have completely re-organised the camp in response to feedback from the Fire Brigade and we have also accepted the presence of two large barriers to preserve access to the side door of the Cathedral.

Both of these measures were accepted by the General Assembly in order that the Cathedral’s normal operations should not be unduly impacted by our presence. This afternoon we have been told, in a telephone call, by the fire brigade, that they have not issued any new requirements above and beyond those already communicated directly to the camp. Therefore, there are no outstanding fire safety issues.

What outstanding issues there are appear to be concerned with, firstly, health and safety and, secondly, the Cathedral’s commercial concerns. We seek clarification from the Cathedral as to the precise nature of those health and safety concerns, so that we might address them directly. In the short space of time that we have been here, we have successfully liaised with the City authorities and outside bodies to coordinate recycling and sanitation.

As to the Cathedral’s commercial concerns, access to the restaurant has never been blocked by the encampment. The closure of the restaurant, by the Cathedral, has mystified us, especially as it came at the same time as we encouraged our people to use and support the restaurant. We would much prefer to eat there than in some of the nearby chains.

We believe the Cathedral is also concerned about their visitor numbers. We have endeavoured to ensure that our schedule does not conflict with the Cathedral’s, so that their normal operations are not impaired. Clearly, we have become another tourist attraction on the Cathedral’s doorstep – but, since we are not a commercial concern, we are struggling to understand how we have had any financial impact on the Cathedral’s revenues.

We also understand that some individuals were in the process of arranging for a contribution to be made to St Paul’s in recognition of their hospitality. It is a shame the Cathedral authorities have decided to take this action before those preparations came to fruition, as we expected them to in the next 12 hours.

Over the course of this week, we have done a huge amount to draw attention to the crisis of economic and political legitimacy experienced in the UK and mirrored in protests staged across the world. That awareness-raising exercise – and our attempts to provide a truly participatory and accountable forum in which to investigate ways forward – will continue.

Update – 4pm

We have been advised by Health and Safety Manager Rachel Sambal that the City of London’s Health and Safety Team have had no contact with St Paul’s Cathedral regarding health and safety issues at the site.

An Official Statement from The Cathedral Church of St. James, Douglas Stoute, 23 October 2011.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

For decades St. James Cathedral and the City of Toronto have worked together to provide the public space of St. James Park. It is a beautiful and appreciated urban oasis that blends seamlessly with the magnificence of the neo-gothic Cathedral which we cherish as evidence of God’s presence in the city.

One week ago, Occupy Toronto protesters chose the Park as their meeting place. Their movement is part of a worldwide response to increasing economic disparity. Protests are taking place all over the globe.

The Cathedral did not invite the protesters into the Park. The Cathedral is not involved in the protest. We have, however, treated the protestsers in the way that our faith and sense of humanity directs: with respect and dignity. For over 200 years, St. James Cathedral has been a place where divergent opinions have come to be expressed in a safe and respectful environment.

We have asked that the protesters respect the members of the community who live and work in the area. The overwhelming response from the members of the community to the Cathedral’s position on this issue has been positive. They share, as do we, the protesters’ message of justice and equality.

We fully appreciate the frustration of some of the neighbours to the disruption. The anger at the Church, however, is misplaced. We have no power to evict the protesters. We cannot speak for the City but even if we did have that power, we would be very reluctant to invoke it. We believe that we are blessed to live in a society where peaceful conversation can take place publicly and where citizens are free to voice their concerns without fear of violence or reprisals.

The Very Reverend Douglas A. Stoute
Dean of Toronto and Rector of St. James Cathedral


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