I wrote this blog some time ago, I edited it following the death of Irish republican Martin McGuiness (former First Minister of Northern Ireland) and ultimately decided to delete it. As my ex-boss of Silk 106.9 told me stay clear of politics and religion some very sound advice but following last week's terrible attack at the Manchester Arena it felt appropriate to speak out.
I visited Northern Ireland in 1998 as part of my English Literature studies. Seeing this beautiful country with my own eyes that I’d heard so much about growing up and visiting Stormont Castle was an experience I’ll never forget. Although I was only 16 I do recall the Manchester bomb on the Arndale Centre it was a major event in my home town. There was a 90-minute warning which meant there was a chance to evacuate the area however there were still some injuries but no deaths. The Arndale Centre was rebuilt and is even bigger and better than it was before.
The events of this week have left me feeling cold an attack on our youngest individuals just feels impossible to comprehend. I have many happy memories of visiting the Manchester Arena and have even saved tickets stubs from events I’d attended as a young teenager. Bizarrely I had woken up in the small hours of Tuesday morning and as we all do checked my phone and saw the news I felt compelled to find out more and sat watching the news for many hours listening to stories from people not just from Manchester but all around the country particularly the North. All week I’ve tuned into the news as more and more details of this tragedy unfolded. Through Facebook I have heard many, many, stories of people who were there. I was even talking to a lady at a networking event last week whose daughter was there I do hope she is okay.
I’ve read with shock some of the comments of my social media ‘friends’ who are expressing their feelings and felt quite distubed by some of what I’ve read. I understand people are angry/upset/bewildered etc. but this is not a time for us to divide it’s a time for us all to unite irrespective of what faith you have. Some comments about immigration policies have really struck home as both my parents are immigrants a word which has such negative connotations now but as I explained in my sticks and stones blog an immigrant by definition is “a person who has come to a different country in order to live there permanently” Source.
In my parents case and the majority of immigrants this is their home and they love it. I have moved to a foreign country with my work when I worked in Singapore as a Marketing Manager but I was an expatriate not an immigrant I was overwhelmed by the hospitality I was shown by Singaporeans the pride they had in their country and how multicultural it was I was very sorry to leave.
My degree in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies was a natural progression from my love of English Literature. Deciphering the hidden themes and messages in the works of Shakespeare, Keats and the seminal work of Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’ truly struck a natural chord with me. This interest in unravelling the subtle meanings in text has stayed with me. If we are what we eat the same can be said for the media, we ‘consume’. By media I’m talking in broad terms to include songs, magazines, movies, films, radio, TV shows, social media even the nursery rhymes we sing to our children.
Despite being a hit record I struggle to listen to Richard Ashcroft’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ as I find it upsetting – I think that is the intention as he’s writing about his father’s death. “The chorus, and title line, 'The Drugs Don't work, they just make you worse' has double meaning; the drugs being given to his father not working and seemingly making him worse, and the undesired effect of drugs being taken to block out the pain of losing your father.” Source. I always interpreted it to be about a friend who was receiving treatment for depression and died, that’s the beauty of art it’s open to interpretation and means different things to different people. Since the untimely death of George Michael I have had his catchy pop tune ‘Faith’ stuck in my head. The opening chords on the church organ with religious connotations and the conflict in the lyrics – it’s very Northern Soul.
In ‘Faith’ George Michael explains his struggles with a partner someone he cares for but can’t be with. ‘Faith’ was released in 1987 however he wasn’t openly gay until 1998 when he came out during a CNN interview. In the interview, he explains that the songs he wrote prior to coming out were indeed about relationships with females with his later works he says they were about gay relationships. His choice to quietly get on with his now well publicised acts of philanthropy with no need to receive credit shows he did have faith in his life. What faith that was is immaterial.
Now I’m purposely skating around the contentious issue of religion even more so following Monday night's attack. But it’s true you do have to have faith however it manifests itself be it Yoga, Church, Meditation or Buddhism the list goes on and on quite simply Faith to treat other as you wish to be treated. With so many choices available we have the choice to pick a faith which most closely matches our idealisms. What unites all these things is the ability to have time for thoughtful reflection.
Have you ever seen a toddler throw a tantrum? They almost always go into the Yogic stance ‘child’s pose’ so over-whelmed by emotions that they don’t yet have the skills to communicate they go into a slightly meditative state. We are advised to put our children in time out if they misbehave. This gives them an opportunity to calm down and think about their actions. In today’s stressful world we could all probably do with taking some time out! Let us not confuse any religious belief with extremists which is “someone who has beliefs that most people think are unreasonable and unacceptable” Source this is a totally different thing.
The same can be said for Faith, in most faiths' there is an element of singing, singing allows you to express your emotions. Humming when you’re in a good mood or listening to a sad song when you feel down. Music is a powerful medium. I feel that George’s words have even more meaning considering last week’s terrible events we all need to have faith. Faith that we will get through this and come back stronger than before. I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest condolences and thoughts to all affected by Monday nights terrible attrocity.
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