Wednesday, 8 December 2010


I believe that the Hegelian view of thesis, antitheses and synthesis is a good way to look at the accumulation of good and bad forces in our individual lives, and in nations. and over the earth planet in general. However it would be a mistake to view the synthesis as some kind of end goal which can be achieved, and then held for eternity. The earth planet has its time and place within eternity but it will have an end whatever humans do during their occupation, What humans do can only govern the extent to which the species continues to be able to live on the planet until either it devises the means to travel to new worlds that have the environment to sustain the species beyond its ability to survive the inevitable human life threatening changes to the physical life earth, the changed interaction with other physical forces in space, or destruction from other specie.

I reminded myself of this when over recent months the United States commenced the process of balancing the harm the white skinned beings inflicted on the indigenous population the those brought against their will from Africa and then towards migrants who were not white. The crucial step in the process of moving towards a balance without the non white inflicting on whites the pain and the suffering inflicted on them, has been the election of a non white individual as head of state and head of the government system. This offers the prospect of evolutionary progress within a system of representative government and the rule of law. However it is also a dangerous time because whenever someone comes forward, speaking with a clarity and authority that the population can trust, there are the evil ones and or those of mental sickness who feel threatened and seek to destroy sometimes successfully.

Within my lifetime I experienced the assassination of Gandhi who might have been able to help build a sub continent where the wounds of partition might have healed. There was the assassination of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Pope John Paul is known to have survived three major assassination attempts. The first near death is known to have been organised by the Russians in relation for his support of Solidarity in Poland, the second deranged Spanish Catholic priest and the third by Al Qaeda. John Lennon was killed because of his views and international prominence rather than membership of the Beatles,

When I set out to the cinema at Bolden on Monday I had not intended to see Milk, but Frost-Nixon, but realising that the showing of Milk was coming to an end and without knowing anything about the film except it concerned the life of someone assassinated because he put beliefs into practice, I chose this in preference to the other, or Revolutionary Road which I earmarked for next week.

The subject of the film affected by thinking since, in a day full of unexpected stimulation. The day started early with an episode of Lark Rise to Candleford, then a biography of Jean Seymour and then the start of a Nell Dunn radio play about the impact of cancer in a hospital treatment setting. It ended with sleeping through the next episode of 24 and the catch-up of the new series of Lost.

I must reduce my exposure to stimulating experiences if I am to meet my activity targets for this week and the month ahead. Then I will spend less time on thinking and writing about the experience in relation to the present and my past.

The day commenced well as I felt able to get on the tall steps, onto my table desk to re-fix the curtaining which I am forever slipping off the rail at one side, rather than crawl under the desk to sweep back and tie properly each day.

I also visited B and Q for a replacement Halogen bulb, hoping this was why the lamp ceased to work. The decision to get the lamp transformed by working experience as I can now easily see the individual keys better which has increased the speed and accuracy of my two finger typing. I opted for a 35w bulb instead of the original 50 and may even reduce to available 20w’s when the two bought expire. At £3 each I hope for longer use than a few weeks.

There was also a good supermarket shop restricted to everything on list except the offer of a mixed grill for £1.50 comprising a medium size slice of gammon, three medium to small sausages a couple of button tomatoes, three small button mushrooms and small cubes of hash browns. It was overall a satisfying portion within the new lose some weight plus increased activity programmed lose some weight portion and I used a good portion of the cold chicken which was to have gone into the stir fry for a salad later in the evening.

I continue to have difficulties getting my sleep and awake pattern in a balance I can be happy with and decided to give way to the natural order and see what develops. I wish I could adopt such an approach to the aging process. I watched Sunday’s episode of Lark Rise to Candleford where one of the oldest inhabitants attempts to regain his youth by Inviting himself out with a couple of young men and a local lass as they try to find some fun in their lives in rural Victorian England. At one point he asks how did I come by these old clothes? He is counselled later by his wife who pleads that he accepts the present, ceasing to worry about the future or mull over the past. I wish I could be like that, I have always wished that it was so, being able to live only in the present, since reaching adolescence. My sympathy remains with the wife who cried out, where did the past twenty years go? She needed a break from the demands of her baby child, the older children in the family, and her husband, and the stifling day to chores of such a life, the kind of protest which inflicts all married’s with families and is the main subject of Revolutionary Road,

Earlier in the day, no sooner had I finished putting pen to paper about The other Boleyn Girl commenting that Jane Seymour had replaced Ann and Mary Boleyn in the bed of Henry VIII that I notices a biography programme about the life of one Jane Seymour. This was about the actress who had adopted the name on advice that it would cause people like me to remember her name because of the association with the historical figure. Her real name being Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg with her father a Jewish obstetrician of Polish German origin and his wife, the Dutch Mieke Frankenberg who had spent three years in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia during World War II. It was this combination of parental experience which led to Joyce and her sisters had what everyone agrees was an amazingly rich and happy childhood, treated as an individual but always surrounded with other children and friends, especially those made by her mother during their shared experience in wartime imprisonment. Tenko is the important TV series which chronicles the experience of such camps.

Jane became the golden girl of film and TV in Britain and the USA commencing with a TV advert as a child. She was given a role in the film Oh What a Lovely War and through than met and married the son of Richard Attenborough. He first major role was that of a Jewish woman seeking shelter from the Nazis with a Danish Christian family and in the early 70’s she had a major role in the very successful Onedin Line as Emma Callon. There were appearances in BattleStar Gallactica, Her role in Somewhere in Times established a friendship with Christopher Reeve. In 1988 she played the female lead in what is regarded as an accurate and graphic depiction of the Holocaust, the twelve part TV series War and Remembrance. She was also successful as Dr Quinn Medicine Woman which lasted from 1993 to 2001 and which developed a world wide following and a Golden Globe award. She is credited with over 20 cinema films and thirty five TV films and series. including an Emmy for her role as the wife of Onassis, The Richest Man in the World.

However what has made Jane an enduring icon has been the fullness and richness of her life. She has been married four times remaining friends with former partners and in one instance creating a book series for young children with her second and current husbands. She has two children by her third marriage and their daughter and his daughter have worked together in their cosmetic business. She has twins from the fourth marriage named after friends Johnny Cash and Christopher Reeve. She has written two books about her life as well as the Children’s Books and one on her pregnancy and birth of twins. She is a successful artist whose work is bought by collectors. She has also undertaken considerable activities on behalf of charitable interests awarded the OBE in 1999 and becoming a citizen of the United States in 2005. She explains her driven nature to work and engage in activity from a near death experience following an allegoric reaction to antibiotics while filming in Spain, realising that when you doe you take nothing with you except the memory of what you have done. This was a much more profound statement than perhaps she realised.

This certainly was true for Harvey Milk whose film I saw on Monday afternoon and then undertook some research on his life. Perhaps because of my general outlook and experience and while I have understood the reaction of some, including their bigotry, I have never regarded people whose sexual orientation was of the same gender or who enjoyed sexual relationships with both genders as less than or than other human beings. I had social contact with lesbian women rather than men during my two years with the nuclear disarmament movement, and then during my years in child care, and also one personal relationship during the same years which included a visit to a gay club. There was limited contact with male homosexuals in prison and since, but all these were individuals who chose to live and work in such a way that their orientation was not an issue, known to friends and work colleagues, but not known to be active in a public way for civil rights or whose life style drew the attention of strangers or the media.

My only issue is the use of the word Gay as I prefer the statement that people have different sexual orientations and which in most circumstances is not the business or should be of interest to anyone else, However I accept that gay is shorthand for covering everyone who does not restrict themselves to heterosexual relationship within a legally defined partnership, and which as Dr Kinsey discovered refers to only a minority of the adult population.

There is no evidence that people of one particular sexual orientation are involved in criminal or anti social activity except for those who put into practice their sexual interest in those below the contemporary legal age of consent. This age varies between times and cultures and it is only within the last one hundred years that some societies have realised the life long harm which premature consenting experience can cause, especially in terms of premature parenthood.

Anyone who commits unwanted sexual violence merits social punishment prescribed on the same basis as anyone who commits unwanted violence, although I would add that my experience is that sexual violence can be more damaging, more difficult to recover from and therefore the punishment should that much more severe, although as with other crimes the emphasis of punishment should be to attempt to ensure that further offences are not committed. I am not in favour of the death penalty because of my view that it is part of general disregard for human life which human develop in their collective dealings but I do regard that greater priority should be given to ensuring everyone is protected from the violence and life threatening activities of others and given appropriate support if they become victims.

Harvey Milk was the younger son of Lithuanian parents, whose grandfather owned a department store in New York and who helped organise the first synagogue in his area. As a young man he developed a passion for Opera, was loquacious and became a qualified teacher at what is now the state university in New York at Albany. He joined the United States Navy during the Korean War serving aboard a submarine rescue ship as a diving officer. He was discharged in 1955 as a junior grade Lieutenant and began teaching at a High school.

In 1956 he commenced a homosexual relationship which lasted six years and according to the film ended with the suicide of his lover. At one point it is recorded that he considered marriage with a lesbian friend to front their real lives. However in 1962 Harvey became briefly involved with a younger man who was an activists for civil rights. He had moved out of teaching and into finance where he was successful and promoted and this led to a new relationship with an activist against the proliferation of big government and who was involved with the Barry Goldwater 1964 Presidential Campaign. An important aspect of his experience during the early sixties was the extent to which friends and acquaintances were unable to cope with relationships, attempting suicide, sometimes ending their own lives. None of this is covered in the film Milk although may have been in the earlier documentary film made of his life and which won awards..

Nor does the film explain the explosion of activity and how Milk came into a movement’s leadership role. I am indebted as usual to the Wikipedia encyclopaedia for explaining how San Francisco came to have more people of different sexual orientation than other cities as men expelled from the military had decided to stay in the port city after World War II rather than return to their families and societies. Harvey and his partner were attracted to the city as a consequence, arriving in 1969 with Jack McKinley who was appearing in a touring production of the Hippy free love and drugs musical Hair. When his partner was offered a part in the New York production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the relationship ended and Harvey stayed in San Francisco getting a job with an investment firm but was sacked because he grew his hair long as a protest against the USA increasing involvement in South East Asia. His involvement with Hippy people in the area where he lived in San Francisco changed him from a conservative into a radical. But instead of thus happening in his teens or and early twenties, he was in his early forties.

After being sacked he moved from California to Texas and New York where someone is said to have commented that he a sad eyed aging hippy look with his long hair while another said he was the happiest he had known him to be living a life openly rather than in secret.

He developed a new relationship with someone twenty years his junior living on money they had saved and down to their $1000, Harvey opened a camera store in the hippy neighbourhood of Castro Street in San Francisco.

Again I am indebted to Wikipedia for explaining that in the later 1960 and early 1970’s the Mayor had led the police in prosecution of homosexuals using entrapment against those using specialist bars. The men turned to using public parks after dark and this led to a further campaign with 2800 arrests in 1971 compared with 63 in New York. Once criminalised the individual was registered as a sex offender at the time even having a relationship in privately rented accommodation was grounds for immediate eviction. The strength of feeling against those with different sexual orientation was such that has someone suggested Nazi style extermination camp, it would have been voted for in some communities. It is one of the extraordinary and contradictory aspects of the USA that in a country whose philosophy and founding constitution is about individualism and civil rights, it remains a nation of tribes and tribal living, hence the popularity of films such as West Side Story, Hair and High School Musical.

The working through of thesis and antithesis commenced in the late sixties when first two organisations were formed to combat the increased persecution. This in turn led to California politicians becoming involved with the growing clout and organisations of homosexuals in the city but measures to make legal consenting relationships in 1969 failed as did an attempt to stand against the conservative Mayor. More successful was the election of a sympathetic policeman as Sheriff in 1971 thus reversing the conservative an unsympathetic approach of the police department but not the attitudes of serving officers who were said t be strongly Irish Catholics. The development of a civil right movement resulted in an activist invited to address the 1972 Democratic Party convention.

Harvey did not participate in this movement but appears to have unilaterally decided that he wanted to run as a City Supervisor after a run in with a city official regarding his camera shop. San Francisco has a city administration where the Mayor is the also the chief Executive and he is assisted by council of only 11 Supervisor each for a four year term in with half coming up for re-election every two years to ensure some continuity. There is a maximum of two terms. The city has a population of under 1 million but is part of an extending urban population into the millions similar to greater London.

The existing civil rights organisations were hostile to the audacity of the newcomer and refused to endorse his application but he did gain support from those who felt the organisation was not bold enough. His first efforts were not successful as he tried to progress without money, endorsements and staff. Had the election been district based he would have been elected at his first attempt coming 10th out of 32 candidates.

San Francisco is different from other USA cities in that the Afro American is not the major minority with at present 39% born outside the USA and only 35% born in the state of California. 33% of the population are Asian American with 20% Chinese. Hispanics 14% and Afro Americans 13%. When Harvey joined forces with the Teamsters Union he organised a boycott through the gay bars which with support from Arab and Chinese grocers achieved a successful campaign against a beer distributor. He began to call himself the Mayor of his area and he had found a calling where he could be himself.

As a consequence he decided to change his image, cutting his hair, abandoning recreational drugs and altering his lifestyle. The film commences after he had lost in 1975 and prepared for 1977 He became friends with the new Mayor George Moscone, a Liberal. He appointed the new Police Chief who announced that homosexuals were not bared from joining this department. He appointed Milk a city Commissioner to the Board of Permit in 1976 making him the first openly Gay Commissioner in the USA. The appointment only lasted five weeks as he was fired after announcing his intention to run for the Sate Assembly.

The Wikipedia describes Harvey as an opportunist, manic and volatile an aspect which Sean Penn’s performance brings out in the film. When a friend of his lover effectively saved President Ford from an assassination attempt the national spotlight turned on the man and Milk revealed the man’s sexual orientation to the media against the wishes of the individual. He became adept at using the media who responded by referring to him as the leader of the rights movement in the city. He narrowly lost his attempt to reach the state assembly.

It was at this point that a counter movement developed, in Florida led by fundamentalist Christians who adopted the Bible as a literal truth despite the evidence showing that it was a selective document chosen for political and social purposes in an historical context several centuries after the death of man worshipped. A campaign for fundamentalist bible teaching in schools which proclaimed same sex relationships as sinful was very successful.. The vote despite opposition organised by Gays was overwhelming and shocked those in San Francisco as well as emboldened opponents elsewhere else. In California State Senator John Briggs sensed he had been provided with a cause to gain public support for his campaign to become State Governor in 1978 and although saying he had nothing against Gays and it was just political opportunism he drafted a bill proposing to ban Gays from teaching in public schools and seeking the dismissal of anyone supporting gay rights. The death of a man for being Gay resulted in a quarter of million turning out for the Gay Pride event in the City. The city began to draw in Gays from throughout the US with the resident population estimated between 100000 to 200000 which would have meant a quarter of the city at the higher level. Half the candidates at next election for City supervisor were Gays and which was based on geographical representation. In the district Harvey’s opponent was also a homosexual who had been open about his preference far longer than Milk but was an evolutionist rather than the revolutionist Milk had become.

Harvey commenced to receive death threats and decided to record notes in case he was killed, which he hoped would help his successor. The film does not make clear why he commenced to make the diary. He successfully became the first non incumbent elected to public office in the USA while open about his sexual preference. It is important to put his election into perspective as a single mother, a Chinese American and an African American woman were also San Francisco Supervisor firsts. The film‘s failure to make this point is one of several examples where it did a disservice to the city and to Milk. He was not a single issue politician. Indeed he quickly came to resemble the politicians he sometimes attacked forging an alliance with the conservative Dan White, an ex policeman and fire-fighter, giving him the impression that he would support his opposition to the creation of a psychiatric unit for troubled adolescents. He also appeared to become something of a political bully, do what I say not because it is right or there political support, but I will use my electoral clout regardless of the merits of the issue in question. It was this, according to film that led to his assassination and that of the City Mayor. It is not clear that this was so.

Having said he had become a typical politician, he used his new position to bring forward and pass a civil rights Bill which was agreed by everyone except White. He then gained national attention once more by introducing city legislation to require pet owners to clean up any fouling by their pets, a move which was adopted throughout the UK. The film covers this but not that he walked the park of an hour to chose the right spot for a media interview in which he could appear to unintentionally walk onto a leaving. During this period he had a relationship with a volatile and excessively possessive younger man who in the film resented the time Milk devoted to politics and campaigning, Contrary to the film the younger man had separated before Milk found him hanging in his new apartment. The film suggested this was because Milk had arrived later whereas Wikipedia says the young man already disturbed became even more upset by the growing campaigns to curb the increasing role and power of those openly flaunting their sexual preferences.

The state wide campaign to ban Gay Teaches and those supporting them from public schools led to the two men debating and campaigning across the State, Briggs who had alleged it was political and that he was not anti gay, continued after he was not successful in the getting the nomination for state governor and at one point promoted the myth that homosexuals went into teaching to abuse and recruit children. Milk produce the evidence from the law enforcement agencies which showed that paedophiles were predominantly heterosexual.

My professional experience and subsequent investigation into the abuse of children in public care by their professional carers and their managements bears this out. In the profession which I know less about factually the evidence is mainly of male teachers running of with adolescent pupils and male lecturers having affairs with their students, just as it heterosexual male estate owners and their managers who fathered African American children, often against the will of the individuals concerned. There is also evidence of a tiny number of women teachers having under age sex with their male pupils. However my knowledge from the media is that the majority of Catholic priests violating children, did against boys, and there are no figures to set alongside the number of priests who have heterosexual relations with their female parishioners and housekeepers.

An estimated quarter of million to 375000 attended the 1978 Gay Parade in the City. In the march Milk asked everyone to advertise their original homes towns and in his speech he called upon everyone to declare themselves and demand the same civil rights as everyone else.

It was at this point that the Conservative Supervisor White resigned his position because he could not afford to keep his wife and young family just on the salary of $9,600. When he changed his mind and wished to retract the resignation the Mayor refused having come under pressure from other Supervisors that White did not reflect the interests of constituents. Shortly before the announcement of the successor White entered the building through a basement window to avoid the security system and shot dead first the mayor and then Harvey Milk. Tens of thousand filled the streets from his home area along the mile and half to City Hall in a spontaneous candle lit procession and the city was rocked with horror and grief at what had happened,

The film concentrate on the interaction between the two, Milk’s alleged belief that White was a closet gay and the break between them after Milk did not support the proposals to stop the psychiatric unit for disturbed youngsters. The film does not then cover what is now regarded as one of the worst examples of a fix between predominantly Irish Catholic city Police and the city justice system as White was treated as a hero by the police, the jury was fixed in terms of its composition and a defence of diminished responsibility because of an excessive junk food binge the night before(I kid you not) was agreed. He was sentenced to only seven and half years which with good behaviour meant five, despite a law which had included the death penalty for those found guilty of killing a public official. Unsurprisingly there was rioting and at one point the police raided a bar and beat everyone up indiscriminately. 61 police and 100 rioters and residents went to hospital. The police chief only reduced the damage by ordering his officers out of the neighbourhood.

Some commentators have drawn attention that the two killings occurred only a short while after two events which took White out of media interest. On November 7th Proposition 6 as it is known, to sack openly gay teachers, was defeated by over one million votes and in San Francisco the voting was 75% against. Three days later White handed in his resignation. Eight days later the world’s press was filled with the news of the murder of Californian Representative Leo Ryan in the Jonestown “suicide” where 900 individuals from around the world died. White remarked to his two aids working for his reinstatement, you see one day I am on the front page and next day I’m swept off “ as if his plight merited continued publicity compared to the deaths of 900. He committed suicide in the garage of his ex wife a year and a half after his release, and based the superficial information available I agree with judge that the killings were not cold blooded but the results of a deranged mind.

The extensive Wikipedia article considers the impact Milk had in death as well as in life, mentioning some of the long term recognition given to him and despite his personality and lifestyle, he was right in understanding that only by facing up to themselves and demystifying the subject was there hope in reaching a common sense equilibrium with the rest of society.

My own position has been built up over decades. It is unfortunate that some religions and some adherents of religions have attempted to define sexual activity as immoral and sinful if conducted outside of a heterosexual relationship within a legal union of marriage. This has resulted in an unhealthy and disproportionate emphasise on what is a basic experience for human existence along with food and drink and shelter.

For the majority it should be a private matter along with the food they eat, the clothes they wear and how they spend their time outside of looking after themselves and any dependents. Just as some people take up playing chess against a computer as a hobby, or antiques, some concentrate on fine food and wine, some on the sexual experience, some as voyeurs and some as exhibitionists, This again should be a private matter for those involved. As with other aspects of life, the state, that is governments, national and local, and religious groups should only become involved when behaviour adversely affects the lives of others. There is an important role of parents and educators to ensure young people are aware of the reality of sexual activity and its outcomes and learn to protect themselves from danger and disease, as well as the emotional and psychological impact of the sexual experience on oneself and on all partners.

It is also important than no one forgets that the primary purpose of sexual activity is the creation of new life and this is the most satisfying form of experience. Clearly there is now the means to artificially create new life without the direct sexual experience. This is of value to those who want and can become good parents although I am in favour of having to pass good parent potential test before public money is used.

Similarly while I believe individuals have the right to do as they wish with their own bodies, including premature and painful deaths by smoking, excessive alcohol, taking some other substances, the state had a duty to intervene when an action adversely affects the life of another whether it is by spreading lethal smoke or terminating life once it has been created.

Life is created instantly with the sexual act whether naturally or artificially and no amount spin and self delusion can alter this fact. It does not follow from this that abortion should stopped in all circumstances or that sexual activity which does not involve the potential of creating new life should be discouraged. It is about individual and social education and enlightened understanding and behaving responsibly in an area where passion can quickly rule.

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