Sam Fender a singer with a political edge

_104193345_sam-fender-5

The Newcastle musician Sam Fender’s told GQ magazine that “pretty much every prime minister since I can remember has made me mad. The negative effects of greedy politicians have haunted the north-east for years, it’s very apparent. I’m not an expert on politics, but there’s a bunch of bad people at the top who care about lining their own pockets before creating a society that looks after the vulnerable.” Keeping this in mind you should listen carefully to the lyrics of some of Sam Fender’s songs, especially when his debut album is out this August.

The music video for Play God (released 2017) shows a dystopian world (an imagined  society where there is great suffering or injustice) that isn’t too dissimilar to our own.  The director of the video Vincent Haycock explains: “‘Play God’ is a satirical interpretation of power. The story is set in a dystopian world of exaggerated tropes – masculinity, domination, sexual objectification, racial profiling, and others. Each scene plays with these dangerous fictions – overt ideas of power and fear. In the end, we break the fourth wall, and the character is observed as nothing more than a player of a game.” Haycock wanted to blur the line between fiction and reality so that it showed that in our everyday lives we all play god.

Here are some of the song’s lyrics:

Man is screaming through a megaphone
“Get your hands off the Middle East”
Every word would herd the cynical
Every word would cut your teeth

And he will play God
And he will play God

It’s all the same down in the capital
All the suits and cladded feet
Sewer rats will shower the underground
In a race to make ends meet

And he will play God
And he will play God

In the more recent Hypersonic Missiles (named after a piece of hi-tech Russian military hardware) you’ll find an “an unorthodox love song” where love and hope is found amidst the collapsing world order. There is  a “glimmer of hope” running through the song.
Sam Fender explains: “This song started out when I saw the term ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ in a newspaper. It’s a newly developed Russian missile that travels at something like nine times the speed of sound, which is essentially unstoppable. America currently has no defence against such a weapon, they would be helpless in the wake of an attack, as you have roughly six minutes from the time it is launched to the time it strikes. In many ways, ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ is an unorthodox love song. It’s main focus is on the world around the narrator, who is a complete tin foil hatter. They are convinced the world is on its last legs; they know that it is rife with injustice but feel completely helpless and lacking the necessary intelligence to change it while remaining hopelessly addicted to the fruits of consumerism. Amongst all the chaos is love and celebration, there is this glimmer of hope that runs through the song, a little notion that no matter what happens, these two people are gonna have a ****ing good time regardless of the tyrants that run their world, and regardless of the imminent doom from these ‘Hypersonic Missiles’.”

SAM NEW 1 LO

Below are some lyrics from Hypersonic Missiles:

The golden arches illuminate the business park
I eat myself to death, feed the corporate machine
I watch the movies, recite every line and scene
God bless America and all of its allies
I’m not the first to live with wool over my eyes

I am so blissfully unaware of everything
Kids in Gaza are bombed, and I’m just out of it
The tensions of the world are rising higher
We’re probably due another war with all this ire
I’m not smart enough to change a thing
I’ve no answers, only questions, don’t you ask a thing

Oh, silver tongue suits and cartoons, they rule my world
Singing, it’s a high time for hypersonic missiles
And when the bombs drop, darling
Can you say that you’ve lived your life?

When I first heard this song it made me think of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) which were talked about so much five years ago and nowadays most teenagers wouldn’t have a clue about.

Weapons of Mass Destruction – a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon able to cause widespread devastation and loss of life.

It is something students learn about for the GCSE War and Conflict unit in RS both for Christianity and Islam.

Weapons+of+Mass+Destruction

Golan Heights and Gaza Strip in the news

map golan heights

When learning about pilgrimage our students spend some time learning about the importance of Jerusalem but also linking to a previous focus on war and conflict they also study the Israel and Palestine conflict in a really basic way. One of our initial points of reference is the map, and how Palestine is made up of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Today in the news after a rocket attack on Israel that wounded seven people, the Israeli army has started bombing the Gaza strip to destroy strongholds of the group Hamas. The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said “I have a simple message for Israel’s enemies, we will do whatever we must to to defend our people, and defend our state. After this meeting (in the US) I will return home ahead of schedule, to lead the people of Israel, and the soldiers of Israel.” Newsround on the BBC have tried to help young people understand why Israel and Palestine both want the Gaza Strip with picture, video and written explanation.

On Netanyahu’s trip to the US the American President Donald Trump also brought the Golan Heights under the spotlight by signing a proclamation formally recognising Israel’s sovereignty over it. The Golan Heights is a plateau Israel captured from Syria in 1967. In response to this the Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told secretary of state Mike Pompeo that the US intention to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan would result in a violation of international law. This is because UN security council resolutions have opposed the annexation of land acquired by force, and rejected as “null and void” Israeli attempts to annex the area.

Stolpersteine

I remember seeing these little bronze plaques in the pavements when I lived in Germany.  Stolpersteine are small plaques, with Stolpersteine  translating into stumbling stones or stumbling blocks in English, that have been installed in pavements in Germany and other countries to preserve the memory of the Nazis’ victims. Each stone is engraved with the name, date of birth and fate of an individual, and placed in front of their last voluntary place of residence. To practise your German you can watch a documentary by ARD about Stolpersteine, or in English a group of young people have made a short documentary about the stones in Lubeck.

stolpersteine

In the week when it was reported by the BBC that up to one million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim groups could be being detained in the western Xinjiang region, where they’re said to be undergoing “re-education” programmes; when eleven Jewish people were murdered in a hate crime in Pittsburgh, USA; when you start to see Poppies being worn by people in the UK ready for Remembrance Sunday to remember all those that died in war; reading about Stolpersteine and their incredible memorial to those torn away from everyday existences in the Holocaust, just seems to show a never ending desire by humanity to hurt others because they are different and feared.

“The Deaths of Millions May be One Tiny Tantrum Away”

“The deaths of millions may be one tiny tantrum away” says Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Ican: a coalition of hundreds of non-governmental organisations that has worked for a treaty to ban the weapons.

Ican were praised for highlighting the dangers of nuclear weapons as well as trying to eradicate them. A key and brave Ican campaigner is Setsuko Thurlow, an 85-year-old survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. She was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building at the time, and said that most of her classmates, who were in the same room, were burned alive.

“Processions of ghostly figures shuffled by. Grotesquely wounded people, they were bleeding, burnt, blackened and swollen.” Setsuko Thurlow

Setsuko Thurlow

Key Facts on Ican

  • Ican, formed in 2007
  • Its mission is to highlight the humanitarian risk of nuclear weapons.
  • A coalition of hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • Based in Geneva
  • Helped get the introduction of a UN treaty banning the weapons, which was signed this year.
  • 122 countries backed the treaty in July
  • Talks boycotted by the world’s nine known nuclear powers
  • Only three countries, the Holy See, Guyana and Thailand, have so far ratified the treaty, which requires 50 ratifications to come into force

ican-regular-logo

It’s not really about religion, it’s about the power of nations

So far it has felt like a Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but people are fearful it might soon turn into an open conflict. The Independent reports how the greatest threat to world peace coming from the Middle East is not terrorism but the wider Sunni-Shia religious conflict.

‘This is not really about religion, any more than the wars of religion of the 17th century, or the conflict in Northern Ireland, or the bloodshed in Bosnia. In almost all great so-called religious conflicts, what lies behind the shouting of the clerics is a contest between the power of nations. This one is, in reality, a contest for dominance in the Middle East between Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Tehran (Iran).’

Middle-East-Political-Map

The Guardian also reports on the mounting tension in Lebanon, due to the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

‘Now, more than at any point in modern history, Iran and Saudi Arabia are squared off against each other as a race to consolidate influence nears a climax from Sana’a (in the Yemen) to Beirut (in Lebanon).’

Trump gives a punchy speech to the United Nations General Assembly

First of all, what is the UN’s General Assembly?

It was established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, and it takes a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique space for discussions between world nations. It also plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Assembly has the power to make recommendations to nations on international issues. It has also started actions—political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal—which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world. You might learn how the UN works in Religious Studies lessons in Year 9 and Year 11.

Today Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations as US President and it was full of headline grabbing gambits…

He told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. He openly mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”

North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had earlier urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.” On the photograph below UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on the left and President Trump on the right:

trump-un1-ap-ml-170918_12x5_992

The American leader didn’t hold back either by also attacking Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” which was intent on destabilising the Middle East. He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.

With such a bolshy speech by the US President it will be interesting what North Korea, Iran and the USA do next.

the-uk-and-the-un-10-728

USA urges Security Council of the United Nations to take “the strongest possible measures”

What is the UN Security Council? The Security Council has the main responsibility for the keeping international peace and security. It has 15 Members, and each Member has one vote. Under UN rules all Member States are obligated to (as in they have to) comply with Council decisions.

“The time has come to exhaust all diplomatic means before it is too late,” Nikki Haley the US envoy to the United Nations told an emergency meeting of the Security Council in New York today.

North Korea has been in the news for most of this summer. There are reports which suggest that North Korea is preparing new test missile launches. It tested a nuclear bomb underground on Sunday. Estimates of its power range from 50 kilotonnes to 120 kilotonnes. A 50kt device would be about three times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

At the start of Monday’s Security Council meeting the UN Under Secretary General Jeffrey Feltman said North Korea’s actions were destabilising global security, and he called on Pyongyang to abide by Security Council resolutions.

“The DPRK [North Korea] is the only country that continues to break the norm against nuclear test explosions,” he said.

SC_DPRK_vote_2017_729980

The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said direct talks with North Korea were only possible if Pyongyang stopped the escalation.

“Dialogue will always be our end goal but returning to dialogue without a serious sign of intent from Pyongyang would be a set-up to failure,” he said. “North Korea must change course to allow a return to dialogue.”

Meanwhile China’s envoy to the UN, Liu Jieyi, reiterated a call for all sides to return to negotiations. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

People often wonder what type of pressure the United Nations can put on a country not keeping to international law.  Well in the case of North Korea just last month, the Security Council voted unanimously to ban North Korean exports and limit investments in the country. Diplomats are suggesting that the next harsh sanction which could be imposed is an oil embargo that would have a crippling effect. Other serious steps that countries might take through the United Nations are  a ban on the North’s national airline, limits on North Koreans working abroad, and asset freezes and travel bans on officials. All of these things are designed to put pressure on North Korea. Do you think they would work?