boxthejack: Born and brought up in the Black Country; studied Arabic and Politics at Edinburgh; volunteered in Zambia and Palestine; married to primary school teacher; worked (and frustrated) in the charity sector and in politics; will sing for bread. My blog's called boxologies
What made you decide to start blogging?
It was a friend's suggestion originally. I began to use it primarily as a way of getting thoughts together, as a means of active reflection. I suppose that's what it remains first and foremost. I've never really settled on a 'brand' for my blog that would give me the dubious authority of an expert on anything.
What is your best blogging experience?
The most meaningful blogging experience emerged from tragedy. I remember hearing about the untimely death of Dave Petrescue, a pastor I'd come to love and respect in Egypt. His loss hit me much harder than I'd expected, so I posted a tribute to him on my blog.
Several people whom I'd never met got in touch with me to share their thoughts and memories. I felt like my short and unremarkable blog post had been used to honour the life of a remarkable man, and in a way that brought people together.
And your worst?
And your worst?
Any time I attempt to start a series on anything it always fizzles out. Perhaps it's my miniscule attention span.
Other than that, it's never good to know that someone's feelings have been hurt, although it goes with the territory. This is the most notable example, but it ended up being quite a positive engagement.
What do you regard as your best blog entry?
This is one of my more personal posts, even if it's a bit verbose.
Going a little further back, this post marks a significant shift in the way I understand faith and knowing.
Some of the best blogs are those set up for a specific purpose for a limited time. Artist Dave Martin maintains a blog whenever he travels to sketch, with some wonderful results in both prose and paint. I followed his Ethiopia blog religiously.
Meanwhile amongst permanent blogs, Ben White's stands out. It's regular, thorough and polemical. It achieves what I aimed to do vis-à-vis Christian Zionism and Middle Eastern Christianity, but a whole lot more professionally. His blog is no depository of miscellany! I also love reading Green Intifada. It's a little irregular, but that's because Whirling McDervish is busy doing amazing work in the West Bank. I'm hoping to visit their project next year. I also feel compelled to read Maysaloon. Wassim articulates perspectives that are too often ignored or obscured, and he does so with extraordinary, provocative eloquence.
You recently blogged about the Euro elections and how you might vote. Do you feel we need electoral reform in this country?
I'm increasingly inclined towards the belief that British democracy is a sham. Arguably, we have embraced the seductive idea that society is nothing more than a collection of dislocated monads, powerless and objectified in an undifferentiated realm of totalising mediocrity: work is about getting the best price for one's labour, peace and prosperity are reduced to security (regardless of on whom we depend for it), and democracy is the occasional event in which we as the circus audience get our chance to play the clowns.
Electoral reform won't change this, alas. Overhauling the structure of government may help, for example by giving very local government real power (thereby attracting more qualified participants), and making referenda a part of the life of citizenship as in Switzerland.
However, even this would be relatively superficial. I don't have answers but I'm investigating a few clues! Georgist economics makes a great deal of sense to me, and moving towards a view of land as common wealth would necessarily change the way we understand productivity and work. More fundamentally, reforming education seems essential. From the very earliest Primary stages, education is likewise deeply individuated, oriented towards labour specialisation and illusory 'independence', and away from real, covenantal codependency. All of these things work against effective participatory democracy.
You also blogged about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. What isn't being done that should be done to resolve that?
You use the somewhat ambitious word 'resolve' so I'll cut to the chase.
Unfortunately, long term peace in the Middle East cannot become rooted until Zionism loses its hegemony in Israeli society and political discourse.
Zionism required the creation of a Jewish majority state where there was no Jewish majority. This necessarily required the departure or removal of non-Jews from the territory. Maintaining the state of Israel likewise requires the artificial maintenance of a majority of Jews, in part by keeping the majority population of the land in a neither-us-nor-another limbo, as non-citizens in a parallel non-state. Ergo, Zionism can not be separated from ethnic cleansing at first, and apartheid in perpetuity. This is clearly unsustainable.
The idea of a Jewish state must be reconfigured such that it does not depend in essence upon maintaining a Jewish majority by whatever means. Bernard Avishai's Hebrew Republic is one significant contribution to this end, and other one-staters have posed creative solutions.
In the short term, however, I do think that establishing a Palestinian state with full sovereignty alongside the Israeli state is necessary, and that's after all what the Obama regime seems recently to have committed to.
You've recently had an album out, what are your plans for the future, musically speaking?
It's a real privilege to be able to earn my bread by singing at the moment. I enjoy the performance dynamic, which is at once one of consensual artifice and honest vulnerability - whether it's singing my own stuff to a sober audience, or a set of standards to Christmas revellers. I'll just keep doing what I do for as long as I have a voice.
That said, I haven't quite put my rock'n'roll dream to rest: if there's a band of noisy zealots in need of a vocalist out there, let me know.
Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?
It's time I visited the US. The place intrigues me. I'd love to spend a year or two travelling from Alaska to the Tierra del Fuego. That'd make a great blog.
Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?
I always want to return to places I've visited - with the exception of Saudi Arabia, which was very dark. I'd love to go back to Ethiopia and Yemen. Both places combined the shared memory of a vivid history with a somewhat mysterious culture, giving me the exhilarating sense of being wholly alien. However, if I could only choose one place, it would have to be Jerusalem. So much beauty and horror, dignity and inhumanity. It is like a microcosm of human coexistence.
Do you have a favourite political figure in history?
At the moment it's Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There's an inspirational complexity to his transformed humanity: he was resolutely a pacifist, and yet as a function of love attempted to kill Hitler and died for it. His love trumped even his beliefs - that's utterly humbling.
Which Christian has been your greatest inspiration?
Possibly Hossam Naoum, formerly vicar of Nablus.
Favourite Bond movie?
Casino Royale by a mile.
Favourite Doctor Who?
Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?
Vanilla. With a sprig of fresh mint. And some chocolate.
Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?
Queen, before 1980.
In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?
They all look the same from Aberdeenshire.
Favourite national newspaper?
UK? Financial Times.
What would you say your hobbies were?
Singing, gardening, cooking, writing, listening to music, enjoying the arts, and travelling (but it's been too long).
And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books (Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?
All the usual caveats and disclaimers apply:
1. If it be your will - Leonard Cohen
2. Life on Mars? - David Bowie
3. Christ is all - The Soul Stirrers
1. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
2. 1984 - George Orwell
3. Small is Beautiful - E.F. Schumacher