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Butterflies

These are just some of the beautiful butterflies and moths in ZSL’s Butterfly Paradise walk through. Forget the horrible cold and windy weather outside and the fact there’s another four sleeps to the weekend and let yourself be transported to a magical and airy world.

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Pretty tea like moth

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Glass wing

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Monday Tiger

Here is a photo of one of ZSL’s beautiful, deadly and endangered Sumatran tigers to chase away your Monday blues and remind you that nature is beautiful and even though they can eat you Tiger’s are pretty damn cute.

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Paris, Syria and scary current events

So, the past two weeks have been scary and intense. The Paris atrocities of November 13th, in which 130 innocent people were killed in seven terrorist attacks on the capital have understandably shaken Europe and the wider world, and you can still feel the aftermath here in the UK. There is no way to excuse these murders; the people killed were regular, innocent people, like you and me. The idea that you could be out with your friends on a Friday night, doing the things you have always done, and someone could just go and murder you because of some religious ideology that you have nothing to do with is beyond words.
Things have definitely changed in the UK in the last two weeks. There are police everywhere, personally every time I get a tube I feel like I am tempting fate and we may be only a week or two away from a full blown war. A lot of things are going on, and these are definitely scary times to live in.  I’m going to focus on the issue of bombing Syria, but this is only one part of a must larger issue and we still have no idea how it is all going to turn out.

The Paris atrocities were just that; they were atrocities. Because those that carried out these murders say they are Muslims, and indeed want to create an Islamic state based on their take on Islamic law, a worrying amount of people seem to have become concerned about Muslims in general. If you go to any comment section on a relevant news story, you will see a number of people suggesting that the Koran is evil, that that we shouldn’t trust Muslims, you will even get people suggesting that we should deport all Muslims to Syria.  I very much doubt we will get to the mass deporting of innocent people stage, but smaller levels of discrimination do appear to be on the rise, and both to keep the UK safe for all its citizens and to combat further radicalisation in our communities, this needs to be addressed. This is not just for political rhetoric and for the sake of being a good, tolerant person, but because terrorists want to invoke an ‘us and them’ mentality with the West as an all encompassing bad guy that must be destroyed. Attacking innocent people and treating them like the enemy isn’t going to help with that, and surely if we are going to try and stop radicalisation of people in this country we need to fight against this perception, not perpetuate it. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other, and England’s history is a particularly bloody and often horrific one. That does not mean the majority of the population have personally done bloody and horrific things, or that they are responsible for these things, but we do need to acknowledge this countries past. In the same way you can’t blame all Muslims for ISIS, you cannot blame all Europeans for their colonial past or for the wars the leaders of these countries decided to drag us into.  This does not mean we shouldn’t fight Daesh or that we should apologise for them, but we need to acknowledge our part in the context of these events before we can plan what to do next. I’m sure the majority of people don’t believe all or most  Muslims are terrorist or Daesh sympathisers, but here are a few points for those that do.

Islam is not a uniquely violent religion.
That is not to say there are not very questionable passages in the Koran. It is true that there are parts that can be interpreted as promoting violence and even murder against non-believers and perceived sinners, and that people have carried out murders based on their take on the Muslim religion. Suicide bombers do follow a type of Islamic faith, although it is not the same beliefs as the majority.
However, it is not alone. The abrahamic religions have a lot of differences, but they also have a lot of similarities and it is simply untrue to suggest one is significantly more violent than the others.  The Old Testament has a lot of passages that sound pretty dodgy to me, including but not limited to: ” Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)” and “If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12)”. In the New Testament Jesus is reported as saying: “”Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34“.
Do these passages mean that all Jews and Christians are inherently violent? Of course not. Have people used these religions to justify violence? Yes. Of course they have. Murder in the name of religion is hardly a new concept. Here are some nasty titbits for you: During the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the 1200’s, large numbers of Cathars were massacred by Christians due to their duelist religion, despite the fact they were mostly peaceful and pious people. Back in the day the Crusades were very real and lengthy religious war in which both Christians and Muslims murdered and enslaved each other in the name of their respective religions. During Tudor times in the UK, people were burnt alive for being the wrong kind of Christian. In numerous countries all over Europe those accused of witchcraft were tortured and murdered.  In more resent times, the Ku Klux Klan of whom many considered themselves Christian, murdered and terrorized black people for decades. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other and justifying it in one way or the other. People have done many bad things in the name of Islam, but you can’t say that because some groups of people start trying to force everyone to share their outlook and commit horrific acts in the name of their Gods, it means everyone who subscribes to a version of that religion wants to do the same. Because that would mean all religious people would be murderers as people have done that in the name of pretty much every religion at one time or another. I’m not saying religion is bad. I’m saying some people use religion to justify a whole array of things, and in that respect Islam is not unique.

 The majority of Refugees do not pose a threat to our security

I guess I can kind of understand why some people have come to the conclusion that allowing refugees from the war torn countries of Syria and Iraq is a threat to our safety. Syria is an ISIS stronghold, the people who have committed atrocities have most probably been in touch with people in Syria and may well have gone there, and so therefore people coming here from Syria are all a potential threat. But that doesn’t really seem to be the case. As far as I am aware, whilst some of the terrorists managed to get through borders into France they were born and raised in Europe. As far as I am aware, none of those involved in the murders were refugees.  Why someone would choose to commit these atrocities in their own home country is something I cannot begin to understand, but that appears to be what is happening. No, this does not mean we should start deporting people on the chance that they may be a terrorist, but it is true that we seem to face a bigger threat from people already in Europe than those trying to enter.  It is true that out of all the refugees trying to enter the EU, a very small number may be be from Daesh and prepared to harm the European country they enter. But a far, far larger number are fleeing these same terrorists because they are in danger, and because they live in a war zone that has been in conflict for years, that is being bombed constantly, that is basically being destroyed. Most of them are genuinely desperate people who are trying to come here to protect themselves and their families, because they are likely to die where they are. A lot of them are leaving because they cannot stand what Daesh is doing in that region, because they know better than any of us here how they are treating people and what life is like in Raqqa.  It is not a pleasant and easy route. Many men, women and children die on that trip.  We should not turn our backs on desperate people out of paranoia. There was something in the Metro this morning about how the Conservative government have not met their immigration targets and net immigration is on the rise. Of course it’s on the blood rise! We are facing the worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Should we close our doors to fulfil a few targets? Is that going to sound good to future generations who are going to analyse our handling of this situation and judge us for it? Security does need to be tightened, and our countries need to work together to try and find known terrorists. Border security does need to be increased. But this does not mean we should close the borders and send these people back to the hell like war zone they were so desperate to escape. We need to be safe, but we need to be human as well, and I maintain all the things I said in my previous article.

We should not rush into Syria

I’m not normally a fan of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics (although I’m warming to the man himself), but I agree with his response on Syria. Paris was a terrible atrocity, but rushing into a war without a clear plan or sense of direction mainly out of revenge and the need to show our allies we are ‘doing something’ is not a good move, especially if the only action the government is willing to take is mostly symbolic. Dropping a few more bombs on a already heavily bombed area doesn’t seem like it is going to change much, especially as as far as I am aware there hasn’t been much success from the bombing already being carried out. You will probably kill a few terrorists, and maybe even some prominent ones. But there are others who can take their place, and in the mean time who knows how many civilians will be killed in the process especially as there is evidence that suggests members of Daesh will enter populated areas and use the civilians in that area as a sort of ‘human shield’, which means that even our apparently superior bombs are going to have a hard time distinguishing between terrorist and civilian. The fact is that you will kill innocent people. No matter how sophisticated the bombs that will be used, you are going to hit innocent people. That is a fact of war and sometimes it is unavoidable, but the benefits have to outweigh the costs for it to be worth it and I am not convinced that they do in this case.
Yes, we are already bombing Iraq. Is there evidence that that is helping? In the Metro today it detailed how ISIS is using tunnels in Iraq to avoid the bombs. Regular civilians are unlikely to have this luxury. I would suggest people read the testimonies of refugees from Raqqa and their opinion on the bombing, because they are the ones who are going to be most affected. And whilst they want Daesh to be stopped, most of them seem to think that bombing alone is not going to change much more than kill even more people than are already dying in that region. Incidentally, they are also questioning why all the decisions regarding Syria are being made without consulting the people who have fled this region and therefore are likely to know the most about it which is a fair point and something the prime minister should thing about. There is another point as well; The Syrian civil war wasn’t started because of Daesh, rather Daesh emerged out of an already existing conflict in that region. Assad murdered the Syrian people before the Islamic state did. And Britain was well aware of that, in fact we voted against fighting Assad in 2013. And the Islamic State has been around for a while now, and all the time they have been killing and controlling people. We’ve found the mass graves, we’ve heard the testimonies, we know this is happening. So it may well seem to the majority of people in Syria that we will turn a  blind eye to the slaughter of local people in that region, and are now only joining in to seek revenge for Paris. And whilst no one can deny the events of November 13th were horrific, if we now say that we want to eradicate Daesh and in the process potentially keep Assad stay in power as the ‘lesser of two evils’, I can only see that turning more people in that region against the West, especially if they see they start to see us as the reason for the destruction of their city and the death of their families. I imagine free press, whilst it does exist, is hard to find and risky to access in this region and you would have to be very careful about what you say, therefore if people are desperate and they see destruction all around, a group that offers you a way out even if it is through your own death may start to seem attractive.
Yes, something does need to be done. But not just about Daesh. They are not the only terrorists in that region. If war is going to happen, there needs to be a guarantee that the West isn’t simply going to hand power back to Assad in the end and turn things back to how they started. Because that is not going to end the conflict, that is going to make it worse, and sooner or later we may find ourselves right back in the position we are in now. There are obviously no easy answers, and there is a conflict of not wanting to interfere in other peoples countries but also wanting to help make them better for the people who live there that isn’t easy to resolve, but this is why I think we shouldn’t rush into broadening this conflict without thinking about the end plan and the future.
None of us want to send ground troops to the Middle East, and at this time I don’t want to advocate it either, but without sending ground troops  and solely relying on air strikes, it doesn’t sound like our respective governments are willing to properly commit to this war. Without committing properly and taking action that can be seen as not enough or even just symbolic, I don’t feel that it is worth it at this stage. They say there are 70,000 ground troops in Syria who can fight on the ground whilst the allies fight in the skies, but is that true? Who are these troops, and what do they want? The situation in Syria is very complicated, and many of these ground troops are jihadists themselves or fighting their own war against or for President Assad, which means that if we were to back those fighting Assad we may end up at war with Russia which would basically mean World War III. The PKK and some rebel groups do appear to be doing good things in that region, but they are also opposed by a lot of people in Syria. There are many mini wars going on within that context, and we can’t really rely on all of them to forget their differences and fight together. Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that it has to be a political settlement may not be enough and may seem naive, but at least he is thinking about how to end the conflict and create some sort of stability in that country. And his other point about cutting them off at the source, by stopping their money supply and stopping people buying their oil and selling them weapons is a good one, and it is something no one seems to be thinking enough about, perhaps because if we did it would incriminate some of the US and the UK’s very questionable allies. I don’t think he is just sticking to his ideologies without thinking about the situation. He seems to be the only one who really is thinking about the situation in the long term, and for what he believes to be the benefit of everyone, not just the people in Europe. Say what you want about him, but he has clearly thought about and maintained his position because he believes it is the correct one, and I think he may be right.
The UK is in danger. An attack is quite likely. I do believe that bombing Syria is going to make that attack even more likely, not necessarily from people in Syria but from those already in the UK, perhaps people who have never even been to Syria themselves. I question the idea that bombing Syria is going to make your average person in the UK safer, because the people who are going to attack them aren’t going to be in Syria. They are going to be here. And that is why we should try to combat radicalisation not just by fighting it, but also by disproving it. Our country has a long history of self interested blood shed, please let’s think about this carefully before we do any more.

Articles

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6120373/Top-10-worst-Bible-passages.html

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/syria-airstrikes-legal-david-cameron-civil-war-flawed

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/raqqa-exiles-bashar-al-assad-isis-bombing?CMP=fb_gu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_violence

http://www.rationalchristianity.net/genocide.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34940728

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34927939

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34939109

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34931421

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34940427

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34941658

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/26/shadow-cabinet-seriously-split-over-syria-with-corbyn-in-minority

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34944499

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Why would Police officers need a degree?

I’ve just read an article on the BBC website which claims that the College of Policing has said all new police officers may be required to have a university degree in the future.

Why?

As far as I am aware, the police are sometimes trained at the College of Policing or an alternative and are sometimes required to undertake a diploma in policing, where I imagine they would learn the skills they would need for a job. Others may start off as voluntary officers or be recruited after school/college. Whilst specialists and detectives may benefit from a criminology degree, I see no reason why regular police officers would need one. How is studying an unrelated subject for three years going to make you a better police officer? It seems that the police force is one of the few sectors that does not currently require a degree, and that to me is a very good thing. Rather than having to waste their money, get into debt and only be able to apply for the police at 21 at the youngest, police recruits get specialist training designed for their chosen career, presumably don’t have to get a student loan, would get trained by specialists and would be trained for two years rather than the standard three. If the police have to take a degree, presumably they may still have to undertake specialist training afterwards, which means they would have to wait five years rather than two to start their career. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Why do we have this obsession with degrees? How will a degree help with a job such as this when specialist training is already offered, a job where presumably you would learn best in the field and on courses specializing in what you would actually do on the job?

In order to make the degree at least somewhat worthwhile, we need to expand other vocational options so people who don’t want to take a degree don’t have to without their employment options diminishing. This involves offering more specialist training without a degree being necessary, not less. Stop forcing people to waste their money, and stop acting like a degree is the only thing that makes a profession ‘legitimate’. If you don’t realistically need a degree for a job, why make people get one just because everyone else seems to have one? Why is that a good thing? People who chose to take an academic degree are now at a disadvantage, because the degree is becoming more and more normal and therefore graduates are required to have a range of other skills and work experience that are quite often hard to get at university, and non graduates are now apparently assumed to be ‘lesser’ in the world of work simply because they didn’t choose to go to university.  But how does going to lectures on a general interest subject help in a specialist job; as this article doesn’t say the degree would have to be specific, I am assuming this is what it means. A degree in psychology or criminology may be beneficial, but I don’t see how it would be more helpful than spending those three years gaining experience and/or qualifications directly through the police. I am not saying university is not a good thing, or that the degree of life experience and independence it offers young people should not be acknowledged. But it should not be mandatory for a sector that doesn’t seem to need it and has presumably functioned reasonably well without it until now, and if someone was able to train for a job and actually be working in that sector by the time they would have otherwise left university, surely they would still get those opportunities. A lot of the comments on the BBC article claim that the police would need a degree to make them ‘more intelligent’ than criminals. A degree does not necessarily make you more intelligent, and not having a degree does not necessarily make you less intelligent. Intelligence is also relative, and  is not always carried across. For example, if you did a degree in English literature than you would learn to analyse texts, to write essays and develop your knowledge of literature. Those are not bad skills to have. But when faced with a criminal, I don’t really see how it would put you in a better position than someone who did not have the knowledge of that particular subject. For certain careers, like journalism for example, a degree like English or history is very beneficial because it equips you with skills you can then apply to journalism, such as analysis, a clear writing style and the ability to see things from different points of view. But whilst it wouldn’t hurt if you wanted to be in the police, I don’t really see how it would put you in a better position than someone who had actually gained experience with the police during this time. University is not the only way to learn new skills and develop your intelligence. Since the rise of the internet, a lot of knowledge is already at your finger tips if you desire to look for it. University should be a choice. It should not be mandatory.

Article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34805856

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In defense of the Poppy Appeal

The Poppy Appeal has been a bit quieter in London this year. Last year I remember seeing at least one poppy seller in every tube station and in most shops; we even had a little poppy donation box in our office. This year they seem a lot fewer and far between, and due to the fact I only ever seem to see them when I have absolutely no change and/or am running for a train, I only just got mine today. This is only the second year I’ve bought a poppy; I used to be very against any kind of ‘glorification’ of war and treated things like the Poppy Appeal and Help for Hero’s with suspicion and disdain, so I can see where a lot of the negative response comes from, although I no longer agree with it.

I’ve seen a lot of articles, status’s and shares about how bad war is, about how the appeal is being hijacked to create support for unpopular and illegal wars, about how war under any circumstances should be completely avoided. That peace is perfectly possible if people would just stop fighting each other, and that it can start with us on our little Island. And in some respects, I agree with them. War is not pleasant, and the wars we have had so far this millennium have been ridiculous. The war in Iraq was a complete waste of life, money and time. We went into a bad situation, killed a bunch of people and made everything 10x worse for the people who lived there. The war was hasty, it was based on lies and it was utterly hypocritical. America built Saddam Hussein up in the 80’s, supplied him with weapons, and then tried to destroy him all the while dealing with and often funding other tyrannical dictators. Hussein was not a good man, but neither are a lot of the dictators we choose to fund rather than bomb. The Iraq war was terrible, and I see no reason why it is ‘unpatriotic’ not to support every single war the government decides to put us through. You should not support a war without knowing the facts in the same way you should not automatically reject conflict based on over-arching principles that do not take circumstances into account.

It is really important to remember that the army was not responsible for the war in Iraq. The army does not decide of their own accord to invade a country; the government sends them. Soldiers sign up for the army, not for the individual war, and they cannot be blamed for the governments decision. And yes, it is perfectly true that some soldiers are not nice people, that some of them do mistreat prisoners and even civilians. That some do commit cold, brutal murder.  But the army, like any other group of people, is not homogeneous and is going to have good, bad and okay people in it,  just like any other sector. Some people who join the army would be annoyingly patriotic who really believe in fighting for their country, others may have joined for a variety of reasons. The army itself is a pretty good employer; you can do apprenticeships, you get to travel, you would have chance of promotion based on merit and the army appreciates skills that would not be necessary for many office based jobs, such as physical fitness. It is also a route to gain respect and social status for people with limited options, and the army will actually pay for your education and offer you enrichment courses. You also get to be outside a lot, learn a lot of new skills and be challenged in a way you wouldn’t get from many other jobs. A small number of people probably do join the army because they have violent tendencies, but there are many, many other reasons to join.
Even if I believed world peace was possible, I still think the army should remain intact as to lose it would be to lose a major employer, and even in the event of world peace they should remain to deal with things like disaster relief and potential zombie apocalypses. The Poppy Appeal is not just about soldiers, although it does a lot to help those who have been effected by war. It is also there for their partners, their kids and their loved ones. Ex soldiers are often in a very bad position because it may take a while to become re-adjusted to civilian life even without emotional/physical war scars, and I believe they have just as much right to help as any other vulnerable group.  They should not be seen as super human, but they should not be seen as sub-human either. They deserve help if they need it, and that is what the Poppy Appeal does.

I don’t think world peace is possible, at least not at the moment. And whilst some wars are hasty, badly planned and based on invalid reasons, some wars are necessary. That is not to say these wars are not horrible, that people won’t suffer, but that some can, in hindsight, be seen as necessary in the long run and end with a better, or the potential for a better, situation then they started with. The obvious example of this is WWII, and that’s not to say there are not arguments against it. You would be perfectly valid to suggest, for example, that the war pushed the ‘final solution’ forward and that the Nazi’s sped up their death camp plans prematurely in response to the war and the fear that they wouldn’t be able to ‘finish their work’. This can’t be 100% proved, but is likely to be at least partially true. However, the fact is that the Nazi’s were already killing the ‘unfit’, i.e the mentally and physically ill, prior to WWII, and they would have continued this regardless of the war. After failing to find a country that was willing to take all those they found racially abhorrent, it is very likely they would have developed the ‘final solution’ in any case. There is also the fact that eugenics, which includes the belief that those deemed ‘unfit’ based on mental, physical, social or racial basis should not be allowed to breed and therefore further their genes, was not exclusive to Nazi Germany. In fact, it was largely created by Englishman Francis Galton in the early 20th century, and whilst England never tried ‘positive eugenics’ (actively trying to control human breeding), America did. America sterilized thousands of people deemed ‘unfit’ in the 1930s, and whilst there is not much evidence of widespread murder due to eugenics in interwar America, we do know the prominent American eugenicists were in correspondence and agreement with prominent Nazi eugenicists, and we don’t know what would have happened if this had continue for a few more years, let alone another decade. And this American interest in eugenics declined abruptly with WWII and especially with the discovery of the concentration camps. It also obviously put a stop to the Nazi regime.

The cause of WWII was not eugenics, and millions of people were obviously not saved as a result of the war. However, the end of the war also put an end to the eugenics movement in several prominent countries as well as obviously stopping a tyrannical and murderous dictator in Germany. I do believe that if WWII had not happened at the time that it did, it would either have happened at a later date after which even more people may have been killed in Nazi Germany and also potentially in America, or the alternative is that eugenics may have become widely accepted, and the implications of that is chilling. At the very least, many people would have been sterilized and murdered. At the worst, as a result of limiting the human gene pool in the countries that may have implemented a widespread eugenics program, it would have considerably limited the human gene pool in these regions which can give rise to more health issues, which would have fueled more eugenic measures until it is possible we would have changed and inbred the human population in those regions so much you may have ended up with a similar issue that we now have with pedigree dogs, although admittedly that would probably take a hundred years or so to become visibly noticeable.
The point of this little tirade/history lesson is to explain that even though WWII was as horrific as any war, and even though it obviously did not save the 11 million victims of the holocaust, nor  the countless others that died in the conflict, I believe it was both inevitable and necessary for the future of Europe, that it would have either happened at a later date, or that in the long run even more people would have suffered. WWII was horrible, but I believe it was necessary.

In regards to disbanding the army, as some people seem to think is a good idea; it is not. And the most convincing argument against that, in my view, is to stop conscription. If you did disband the army, and then at a later date you suddenly needed to use one, without a functioning and trained army you would probably have to use conscription. And conscription is horrible. Conscription is sending untrained and often unwilling people to their deaths, because they don’t have time to be trained sufficiently and they are often ill equipt and and not physically capable of things the trained army are able to do. After reading ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, it has turned me against the idea in any circumstance. And whilst obviously the book is almost 100 years old and refers to a very different time and situation, I maintain that sending people to war against their will is a very immoral thing to do. Even in times of peace, the army can offer employment opportunities and disaster relief, and if a war does come along, it offers trained and willing fighters who have a better chance of survival.

Basically, my point is that whilst some wars were completely unnecessary, you cannot then say that this applies to every single war and conflict. You cannot say that,  without question, war should never happen without thinking about the individual war and its lasting implications. This should apply to past and future wars, and you should base your views of these wars on the circumstances itself, not on the philosophy that everyone should be nice and peaceful. Because that is not our reality, and I can’t see it being a reality in our time.
You should not judge the army based on the actions of a few publicized cases, just as you should not do that to any other group. And whilst you are totally within your right to protest and disagree with any individual war, use your voice to protest to the government, and if the government sends our country into a bad war, blame them. The army does not have a say in where they go, the individual soldier does not have much of a say in where they are sent,  and as I do not believe the army or joining the army in  itself is a bad thing; in fact I believe it is essential both in terms of employment and possible scenarios, I don’t feel it is right to blame them as a whole for this or another countries actions.
You are totally within your right not to wear a poppy, and you are within your right to disagree with the Iraq war, the Vietnam war and all the other pointless and stupid wars that have happened over the years. And you are within your right not to think soldiers are hero’s. Fighting in a war doesn’t make you a hero, but it also doesn’t necessarily make you a monster. You cannot say that all war is unnecessary on principle without thinking of all the scenarios in which that would apply. The fact is that however much we wish it, not everyone is nice and peaceful, and conflict does continue to exist. And yes, we could be the first country to disband the army and give peace a chance. But do you really want to risk that? The world can be a very horrible place, and you need to have the means to defend yourself even whilst being careful of how you use it. We should not sign up for hasty wars, or wars that are based on dubious information. The government under Tony Blair should have to answer and be accountable for the war in Iraq, and the whole ‘war against terror’ seems to have created a lot more terror than it was meant to fight. We should be a lot more careful about going into war, we should not just follow America blindly and war should be one of the final options, not the first one. The last few wars we have entered into have been appalling, and we have every right to protest them. But this does not mean every war in in the past or in the future can or should be avoided.  We  need to assess a war by what it aims to achieve, and what it will be fighting, and whether on the basis it can be seen as ‘worth it’. And a lot of wars will not pass that test, but some of them will.

So my point is as follows: Blame the government for their decisions, don’t make sweeping statements and whilst you are by no means obliged to wear a poppy, don’t feel like you shouldn’t wear one either. Most soldiers are neither hero’s nor villains, they are people and they should be treated as such.

If anyone is interested in the history of eugenics in America, check out The war against the weak by Edwin Black.

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #16 Penne All’ Arrabbiata

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Penne  All’ Arrabiata is a a fantastic recipe. It’s cheap, tasty and incredibly easy to make, and it doesn’t even require that many ingredients! As Arrabbiata literally translates as “angry” in Italian you can imagine that this sauce is meant to be quite spicy, but if you prefer a milder taste I am sure adding less chilli would work just fine. There are loads of different variations of this recipe, some use onions and some require sugar and even red wine, but if your just looking for something warm and easy after a hard day at work/uni/procrastinating, this is the one for you.

What you need: A tin of chopped tomatoes (or passata, but I find it doesn’t have as nice a taste), about 6 cloves of garlic (crushed or minced, I prefer crushed), two chopped chillis, a few handfuls of fresh basil leaves (chopped), extra virgin olive oil, penne pasta

Spices: A few sprinkles of oregano, salt, pepper, a sprinkle of chilli flakes

1: Heat olive oil in sauce pan and when slightly warm add the chopped chilli and garlic. Stir on a medium heat for a few minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

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2: Add the basil leaves and chilli flakes and stir for a few more minutes to infuse the oil with lots of lovely flavours

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3: Add the tomato, oregano, salt and pepper and stir on a low heat. Make sure it doesn’t boil as that will impair the taste. Let it simmer for about ten minutes (until the penne is cooked) and stir frequently

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4: Cook penne pasta as per cooking instructions

5: Serve with cheese and enjoy! I just use cheddar because I’m lazy, but you can buy vegetarian hard cheese in the traditional parmesan style if you prefer.

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Lazy Vegetarian Meal Ideas #15 Tofu and Aubergine adventure!

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This meal idea is similar to #9’s black tofu, but is also different enough to deserve its own post. For anyone wary to try this because when you think of tofu it conjures up horrible memories of wet, slimy and icky textures, never fear. I’m not the biggest fan of tofu either, but with a bit of preparation and excessive frying tofu can turn into a really tasty dish! It absorbs flavour really easily but doesn’t have much of its own, so when frying it make sure you always have some spices/salt that it can soak up. Tofu is a challenge, but if its cooked right its worth it.
This is the first time I have cooked this exact meal, but I was really happy with how it turned out. The pictures don’t really do it justice, but trust me, give this tofu adventure a chance.

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What you need: Tofu (I use cauldron’s original tofu), One purple aubergine (cut into small chunks), One chilli (green or red), Olive oil, One white onion, A few crushed garlic cloves.

Spices: Chinese five spice, Soy sauce, Vegetarian Stir fry sauce, A bit of Balsamic Vinegar, Salt, Pepper, A pinch of chilli flakes and chilli powder.

Note: To ensure your tofu doesn’t turn into a wet sloppy mess, take the whole block out of the packet and wrap thoroughly in kitchen towel, at least three/four sheets. Then put a medium sized sauce pan on top of the tofu and leave for around 20-30 minutes until the tofu has sufficiently dried.  It may sound weird, but it really does work!

1: Whilst the tofu is wrapped up and draining, cut the aubergine into chunks and soak in cold, salted water for about 20 minutes.

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2: Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. When oil is warm, add the crushed garlic and chopped chilli and fry for a minute or two. Then add chopped onion and a few sprinkles of Chinese five spice and fry until the onions are translucent (be careful not to burn)

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3: Separate the onions/oil into two sauce pans and add the aubergines to one and tofu to the other, then add soy sauce, stir fry sauce, salt, pepper, more olive oil and more Chinese five spice to both pots and fry on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add a few extra dashes of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar to the tofu to give it a nice brown colour.

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4: When both are fried sufficiently, add the aubergine into the tofu pot and cook on a medium/low heat for a further 10/12 minutes. Feel free to add some more spices, a few pinches of chilli flakes/powder and more balsamic vinegar.

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5: Serve with rice and enjoy!

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