Indonesian Food Crisis - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

In the UK, unless you're one of the minority living on the streets, can we really grasp the meaning of poverty and famine...? I say this as a hypocrit who regularly says off the cuff "I am STARRRRRRVING mate". But it's harder to express my mere peckishness in such a manor after having watched footage of the Indonesian food crisis, with masses of people trampling over each other for loaves of bread. They'll never have heard of our term 'the best thing since sliced bread' - the loaves are as good as it'll get for many of them. Here's my Ctrl.Alt.Shift report of the situation:

Young Blood: Falling At The Gates
In East London, I’m standing in line. Those in front of me are protesting over the 19 pence inflation on the KFC mini-fillet burger. Little do the ignorant know that at the same time 23 women are being buried in the eastern Indonesian town of Pasuruan. On September 15 the helpless were trampled on and killed in a stampede towards a small charity cash handout of around 1.80 GBP (an amount not even worth a six inch Subway).

Watching a 28 second clip of the disaster on the BBC news website, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Women, elderly, frail, afraid and broken, crushed against the fence. Thousands of tears and cries and hands reaching through desperately for the 30,000 rupiah each from a rich family household. It was a good deed with tragic results, as the wealthy family (traditionally donating during Ramadan as part of the Muslim system of Zakat) could not foresee or control the herd of people pushing to the front, running over fallen bodies and snapping backs of fellow villagers in the process.

For these impoverished and despairing folk, “Please line up in an orderly fashion” is never an option.

In the BBC video footage one mother reluctantly and despairingly lifts her young child over the tall jail-like gates in fear of the swamping wave of hungry and advancing Indonesians behind her.

Perhaps what’s worse about this particular picture is the vicious circle of blame going around, with minimal progress and no realisation of the more transparent issues of poverty and famine surrounding and deteriorating so many of the country’s people.

After the blow of September 15, the time-consuming and useless pattern went as followed; President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono blamed the organisers of the charity handout. Parusuan major Aminurrahman blamed the police for badly organising the distribution. The government blamed the people for not co-operating with the police. The people did not blame, but continue to struggle and kill each other. Between the squabbles and mass hysteria, the government and police authority’s responsibility to simply serve and protect the citizens seems a far and distant objective.

I call for eyes to open. “Would the real perpetrators please stand up?” is not a game we or the Indonesian people have time for...

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Mandatory National Service & Tamil Tiger Training - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Joining the army is one of the last things I'd ever consider - simply because I don't believe it's common sense that if you want peace you've got to be a pawn in a war, plus I have found that, not all, but too many young recruits are easily brainwashed with any real acknowledgement of why they're fighting for their country (watch Jarhead, it's a great movie). This is just some of the founding reasons I fail to comply to the past proposed notion of compulsory national service. It can function in some nations to discipline the next generation, and though used at a somewhat different temperament in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) - the use of teenage soldiers is seen by some as a way in which to induce respect (something we are apparently seeing a lack of from our young-guns in the UK). But though it's not on my agenda to join the ranks at the farce of another Afghan/Iraq conflict - this is a subject myself and (partner in crime) Ben Anderson thought to take to our public, in particular our youth; who's was down for national service? And what was their perception of the Tamil Tiger technique...? Here's the Ctrl.Alt.Shift report:

Vox Pops: National Service Anyone?
Warfare in north Sri Lanka continues between the Tamil Tiger rebel forces and the military, forcing aid workers and organisations out of the area. Despite protests and false promises, the Tigers are reported to still have under-age troops fighting in the fray. We disputed the pros and cons of teenage recruitment with some of our own young-guns.

With the country’s anxiety over youth crime, initially we asked people what benefits would arise from re-introducing national service in the UK. We then wanted to know what age group was considered reasonable for child soldiers. Finally, in light of the extreme Tiger regime, we questioned what impact would it have on our home soil if we transformed our children into fighting machines, trained to kill or commit suicide in the face of defeat or capture.

Craig, 18, London:
"This country would definitely benefit from national service. I personally wouldn’t do it as I’m not into that discipline stuff, but I reckon it would benefit those out of school and out of work. 18-20 seems a good age, but that Tamil Tiger system seems mad. It could cause more problems bringing kids up like that.”

Agnus, 18, South London:
“No way! I think it would have a negative affect. War and fighting wouldn’t help. We need to concentrate on homes and families first. If it was in place, just after A-levels, 18-19 would be the right age. But still, it should be nothing like the Tamil Tigers. That would be horrible. It would totally change our country, taking away the innocence of our children. It’s way too much.”

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East London International Peace Day Event - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Unfortunately, this wasn't the most manic events I've ever been too; then again, I really don't think it was suppose to be... cheesy line coming up, but the message seemed more important at this one - and organiser Shakti Ghimire sold it great (especially with the added free food and drink!). Get your John Lennon gears in check - International Peace Day is about the peace and love babay. Here's the Ctrl.Alt.Shift review:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ International Peace Day
A disappointing turnout did not stunt the ambition and drive of host Shakti Ghimire, the President of Youth Change the World.

“Train strikes and delays have caused a lot of problems. Some have struggled to get here, some haven’t tried. But I am happy with anyone who has turned up.”

The International Peace Day event in Charlton, East London was hardly struggling to accommodate the masses. Barely 70 people turned up at the Social Club, most of which were supporters and hosts hoping to educate and inspire the youth of our nation.

Nevertheless, alongside Mr. Ghimire, other humanitarian forces including university lecturer in Human Rights Gopal Chintan and Development Studies masters degree holder Irfan Kahn, stood up to promote a “culture of youth involvement, peace and non-violence around the world.”

Read the full article here


London Tree-Athlon 2008 - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

As September brought down some unexpected (but very welcomed) rays, what could be better than spending a sunny belated summer's day than watching three of my best mates run an eco-awareness marathon; whilst I casually strolled around with my Solero, chit-chatting away with my photographer/brother from another, Harish Vijayan, interviewing the lovely runners coming in at the finish line.

Having known these lads for the best part of life, I was at the London Tree-Athlon 2008 event to support East London's spartans, James Russo, Alvin Cousins and Jonathan Barquilla, and in turn report on how the UK's biggest cities are bettering our environment with some good old active community fun. Read on, and check out the sweat and tears (of joy!) in my Ctrl.Alt.Shift review:

Feature: London Tree-Athlon 2008
The beaming sun was a pretty good sign of the aura at this year’s London Tree-Athlon in Battersea Park. Each and every runner crossed the finish line with sweat, a little strain and a big smile.

Nearly 2000 people took part in the 5km charity race for Trees for Cities. The company’s Press Coordinator Inna Constantini was ecstatic with everyone’s commitment to the cause, telling Ctrl.Alt.Shift; “Our aim is to raise awareness, to plant more trees and beautify deprived parts of our cities with projects in London, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, and Reading as well as in some international cities. And it’s worthwhile seeing so many happy glowing faces like today, as we’re having fun and creating social cohesion whilst tackling global warming.”

Enthusiasm and passion swept through the park as the fourth London Tree-Athlon welcomed family and friends of all races and all ages. The dynamic trio of university graduates James Russo, Jonathan Barquilla and Alvin Cousins epitomised what attitude was expected of the day’s participants.

The most experienced runner in the group, 21-year-old James, ran an incredible time of 19 minutes and 19 seconds.

But the result was of little relevance to the marathon boy. “Of course I’m very happy, but it’s not really a race. Everyone just enjoys it; we’re all wearing the same top so we’re all on the same team. I'm just running because I want to contribute to re-forestation in London and other places where natural resources are continuously being threatened. We ourselves threaten places like Peru, Ethiopia and Kenya with the high commodity we put on timber to fuel with our consumer life-styles, so it's only fair I do something to help.”

Twenty-one-year-old architect Alvin left his drawing board at home to set a great time of 25 minutes and 40 seconds.

He said: “I’m quite chuffed. I got a personal best and had a really fun day. Also I like to think I made that little bit of difference. I raised money through my local parish in East London, so I believe in the process I managed to raise some kind of awareness about ‘green life.’”

With a sprint finish, 22-year-old musician Jonathan passed the line at 31 minutes and 46 seconds, despite injuring his knee half-way through.

Limping towards me, he took a positive note from the event. “It was enlightening to run with several others by my side rooting for the same cause. I hope that all of us running in such a mass group made some kind of difference.”

Read the full article here

Eye Of The Tamil Tiger - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

This is an online feature I wrote for Ctrl.Alt.Shift about the Tamil Tigers; their almost literal sense of a 'never-say-die' attitude, and their notorious history of using child soldiers and suicide methods. Note: This is not to be confused with my perception of the Tamil people - this was as a follow-up to my research on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE):

Young Blood: Eye Of The Tiger
Evil is in the eyes of the beholder.

From the view of a rebel soldier, the Tamil Tigers are a group to be admired and praised. They function with extreme discipline and full commitment to the victory; every initiated Tiger wears a small pendant containing a fatal dose of cyanide around there neck, ready at any time to take an “honourable death” if ever caught.

Therein lays the motto of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE); that in the course of battle, one must to fight to the death, and that death and suicide for the cause is better than capture or defeat.

No fear. Pure passion. However, from the outset, is the path of the Tiger necessary discipline? Or unnecessary evil?

There are talks in this country for a drastic recall of national service, in hopes to control delinquent youths. Take a hypothetical step back. Can we imagine what implications such an extreme revolution of our system would have if our youth were trained in the same light as the guerrilla rebels in Sri Lanka? The sheer prospect is an unnerving one.

The Tigers cannot be pigeon-holed. They belong in no league. They have endured over 20 years of civil war, fighting for Tamil homeland against the Pakistani government, initiating over 240 suicide attacks and killing a former Sri Lankan president in the process.

Beauty hardly describes the Tiger’s ruthless regime including their audacious long history of recruiting under-age troops for military battle. In past reports the LTTE have been known to demand one child per supporting Tamil household to join the “cause”. And despite releasing 135 under-age Tigers last year, UNICEF reported that over 1000 minors remained in rank (a shameless contribution to the global figure of over half a million children already being deployed as weapons of war).

Velupillai Prabhakaran leads this unforgiving army and culture of self-sacrifice. Nevertheless, despite their questionable tactics and harsh nature, the Tigers do come with their small minority of supporters who claim the rebels are fighting against the Sinhalese majority on behalf of their years of suffering and oppression. I say good for them-but as to how the aid is being executed, I am yet to be convinced...

Read the full article here


London Peace Concert 2008 - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

I really am a moaner when it comes to my great city - coming back from the Lucktung clans in Mauritius, Canada or France, I despair getting off the plane and mope around for a few weeks like gollum, bitching about anything and everything in L-Town. But sometimes, London is just the place to be.

It is so bustling, so diverse, never quiet - and the sight of a FREE! concert at Trafalgar Square never seizes to draw in the thousands. This week welcomed the anti-gun, anti-knife crime, anti-domestic and global conflict etc (you get my drift) London Peace Concert 2008; and looking at the ravers around the fountains and landmark lions, dancing to the live sets by Natty, Kano, and sexy SEXY Ayi Jihu - I was definitely happy to be home (at least until the dreaded Underground crawl back to E7).

This was one of my first on-location reports for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, and I was more than happy to get back to my music journalism roots alongside my sidekick for the day, photographer and friend Lawrence Carlos. Our fondest memories will probably be hooking up with our fellow East London boy/rapper Kano, and of course, stuttering like slightly nervous schoolboyz in an interview with the lovely Ms Jihu... Here's the review:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ London Peace Concert 2008
On Saturday, September 13, 2008, 19-year-old Oliver King-Onzila was stabbed to death outside a bar in South London. The news was distasteful, shocking, and yet depressingly predictable. On the same day, in the same city of Olivier’s death, an event was held in a plea for cease-fire.

Collaboration. Reconciliation. Celebration.

That was the message at the London Peace Concert as thousands congregated at Trafalgar Square to make a stand against violence in the capital. The chant of ‘enough is enough!’ was lead by reverend, chief executive of the Peace Alliance and founder of London’s Week of Peace, Nims Obunge.

Angry and scarred by permanent memories of burying kids struck down by knife and gun crime, he stated: “We must work together, to teach the kids their value and to take responsibility for our actions. But this work for peace must go beyond a week.”

Indeed the mass of talent showcased at the concert affirmed that there are many young acts in this country that require support, deserve to be heard, and need to be harnessed as present and future role models.

A talent contest was followed by a line-up of music artists including Ayi Jihu, Akala, Fun*dmental 03, Nate James, Ironik and Kano, who all announced their presence in the fight against war in the city. Contestant and rapper JP wore a T-shirt that read ‘Put the knives down, Put the guns down’.

Performer Natty said: “People need to stop talking at the kids, and start listening to them.” Headliner Kano reiterated: “People need to grow up and realise there’s so much more to live for. The parents, the schools and the government all have a part to play in making a difference.”

Read the full article here


Abu Dhabi Show Man City How To Spend Billions - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

How would you spend £400 billion? (I would write all the zeros, but I get confused after a while... ). That is what the Abu Dhabi Group is worth, a GIANT organisation who just spent £150 million of their shrapnel on Premiership blues Manchester City - they could've gone for football's equivalent giants Man Utd, but hey, Sir Alex Ferguson, myself, and the rest of the Red Devil faithful fear nothing from our derby rivals... yet.

Getting back to the 'It's all about the benjamins' Abu Group, I set out with Ctrl.Alt.Shift to find out how much the public knew of this mammoth enterprise of wealth, and what they'd do if they had billions to burn. Here's the feedback:

Vox Pops: How To Spend Billions
Following the Abu Dhabi groups purchase of Manchester City for an estimated £150 million, their investment into London property hot-spots such as Berkely Square, and a planned £1 billion investment into Hollywood, we took to the streets to drop these figures on the good people.

First up we wanted to know if people realise how much the Abu Dhabi group are worth (£400 billion), what they would do with that money before reminding the masses that there's a flooding crisis in India. Considering a survival pack, containing enough essentials for these people to stay alive for a month, how they feel about excess fortunes such as this sitting in banks rather than being put to good causes.

Peter, 18, Walthamstow, London:
"Wow, I'd have guessed £4 billion. I didnt even know that amount of money existed! I would buy a house and a car and ensure I never had to do anything ever again. I'd also go on holiday for as long as I wanted. In light of what you've just told me about survival packs, I do think the richer segment of the world should be doing more to help those in need."

Abiola, 21, Hackney, London:
"I would have thought around £7 billion, I mean what do you need £400 billion for. I would put the money to good use, invest in medicine develop cures for illnesses and provide hospitals for disadvantaged countries, on top of that i would look into other charities for which my money would be of good use. After even your first billion you are going to have problems spending that much money, its just greedy!"

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