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October 25, 2016


A wonderful piece of writing, Beth. I relish the supercharge that kicks in with 'Well, you know what? That's exactly what I did...' Powerful stuff at a time of need.

Thank you, Dick. I hope it makes a little bit of difference.

Yes, absolutely,I echo everything you've written so well in this post, Beth. These are cruel, tragic times for so many people, young and old, and it's difficult to understand how it's still possible for many powerful leaders of prosperous countries to shut their eyes and ears to their cries, washing their hands of any responsibility. Pilate is alive and well, wearing many disguises, the rabble still shout "crucify!" and the crucified are legion.

Thank you for this post, Beth. I am reminded of an essay I read a few years ago that delves deeply into the language of the Exodus story --about the words Pharaoh uses to describe the children of Israel (they are compared to teeming vermin), and how those kinds of words have been used to justify and spark hatred of the other for millennia and into our own day.

Ah, the luxury of being far away (I mean the NYT, not Teju Cole), the luxury of being able to shrink one's judgment down to an over-simplified 23-word caption. Of all possible misunderstandings "festering" is probably the least of Mauricio Lima's blunders. Viewed dispassionately from, say, a helicopter the Jungle may be said to be festering - a wound which will not heal, with the occupants' plight reduced to a struggle between bacteria and white corpuscles. Reduced to the point where the people below become sub-human and those ever-damned politicians are merely a vague force and charitable instincts an even vaguer force.

The Jungle is both a tragedy and - riskily - a symbol, since symbols tend to simplify. Even a thousand words are insufficient to summarise what is afoot in this enormous upheaval centred on Europe. Millions are involved, some you instinctively sympathise with, some you hate - only to discover after a few seconds' reflection, that those crude reactions could easily be reversed and are in any case an intellectual indulgence.

And if anyone wants another symbol, how about this? Following the transportation of the Jungle's residents and a fire which has destroyed those pitiful shelters (bulldozers are yet to arrive) small dribbles of people are returning to the site and wrapping themselves in blankets at the roadside. Their reason? That here they are as near as they can be to their preferred goal - Britain. Britain! A country which has voted (by a small majority) to engage in a futile act of self-hypnosis, whereby those in charge (temporarily I hope) imagine the country can insulate itself from the woes of the rest of the world. Thank God I have never claimed to be a patriot.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.