An Imagined Syrian Refugee.

For a writing exercise we were to create a background for a central character. I imagined a Syrian refugee. All of this background is fiction but comes from research I did on the situation…


CHRISTIAN SHAMMAS (A Syrian refugee)

Christian Shammas is a 22 year old Syrian refugee. His mother Camila Abdel-Massih (surname means servant of Christ in the Arabic world) was a Palestinian Christian who fled to Syria as a child with her wealthy parentsduring the 1967 war. His father Tabarank Shammas is an Syrian Arab and Sunni Muslim. His father is from poorer farming heritage.
Although interdenominational marriages are not unheard of in Syria they are not common. His mixed faith upbringing led to bullying as a child.
Christians first name in the Arabic tradition means love and his surname means friendship. He likes to introduce himself by pointing this out.
Before having to flee his hometown of Damascus in 2015 he was studying dentistry.  He is fluent in English and French. (Both popular second languages in Syria although English is preferred.)
Despite being very well educated Christian is profoundly dyslexic which leads to huge problems for him when he has to flee the country.
During the Arab spring of 2013 he was arrested by Bashar al-Assad security forces with 13’000 other online activists and severely tortured leading to him walking with a severe limp.
He has a seven year old sister Mary Shammas who is entirely uneducated in any formal way.
During some carpet bombing Christian and his sister were separated from his parents. He doesn’t know if they are alive or dead. He has no idea which side was behind the bombing but is determined to find out.
As a refugee in Syria he is recognised by two of Assad’s secret police who threaten to rape his sister. He kills them both with a pistol he found in some ruins.
This forces him to flee the country with his sister with money he has stashed. He makes it to “The Jungle” refugee camp in France which is where we find him.
The only physical possessions he has apart from the clothes on his back is an I-pod and charger. The I-pod is filled with the poems of Syrian poet and Nobel Prize nominee Adunis.
He quotes this poetry often to his sister when she is distressed. The I-Pod is also filled with songs by Elvis. Listening to Elvis also helps calm his sister.
Whilst at the camp his young sister is being targeted by human traffickers.
The camp is now to be demolished and to protect his sister Christian agrees to have her moved to the UK. He has no idea how to contact her once this happens. Christian is to remain stranded in France. Whilst at the camp he befriends a Syrian man named Sayid Burhan who helps him with daily life. For the journey to the UK he entrusts his sister to Sayid.   Unbeknownst to Christian he is the leader of a child trafficking group. Christian finds out the truth a day after he last sees his sister.
Some Quotes.
 “To the country dug into our lives like a grave, to the country etherized, and killed, a sun rises from our paralyzed history into our millennial sleep” ― Ali Ahmad Said Asbar Adunis
“What did we lose, what was lost in us? To whom do these distances belong that separated us and that now bind us? Are we still one or have we both broken into pieces? How gentle this dust is- Its body now, and mine, at this very minute are one and the same” ― Adonis, If Only the Sea Could Sleep
 “If only we were not that seedling of Creation, Of Earth and its generations, If only we had remained simple Clay or Ember, Or something in between, Then we would not have to see This World, its Lord, and its Hell, twice over.” ― Adonis

Did An Immigrant Steal Your Job. No It Was Tesco.

There’s a joke I sometimes do which unlike many of my jokes and stories is based in 100% fact. It goes thus…”I was on the road and found myself in a Tesco supermarket in Wales. As I was putting through my small amount of groceries the young man on the checkout asked if I had a loyalty card? I said I didn’t as there wasn’t a Tesco near where I lived. Really? He exclaimed surprised, Where do you live? I replied, well I’m not telling you otherwise when I get up in the morning there will be a bloody hypermarket at the end of my garden.”

Sadly and ironically since I wrote that short routine there is now a Tesco in the area. It’s about 5 minutes walk from the end of my garden, so I suppose that’s a slight victory.

What’s this got to do with immigrants/Tesco stealing our jobs? I’ll try to explain.

As we know our supermarkets are reliant on farmers. In recent years it’s become acutely obvious that farmers tend to rather employ foreign immigrants to do the heavy labour of harvesting plumbs or carrots etc. The number one reason they give for this, “British folk just wont do the work”

Now there may be a few reason us Brits might be reluctant to do this work but things like having to live in a hut onsite with 20 other folk, you don’t get paid for extra hours and what you do get paid (most of which will go to a rip off landlord) means you probably have to again ironically visit a foodbank despite the fact you’ve been handling the bloody stuff all day. Even UKIP agree these workers are treated badly.

But the idea that Brits are unwilling to do hard work is daft. Have you ever been on an Oil Rig? Did you meet many Bulgarians? No of course not. British folk like any other type of folk are perfectly happy to work in severe conditions as long as the wages are good.

So why is the farmer encouraging such push down economics and doing us all out of work? Well because that’s the only way he can just about stay in profit. Profit margins in farming are now very small. The reason for this is their customer i.e. the likes of Tesco exploit global markets and force them to put the price further and further down. Why get a carrot from Surrey when I get a cheaper one from Lithuania. In a way businesses like Tesco pretty much see people like carrots. And treat them likewise.

Surely this should result in cheaper groceries. Err…no, not now and not ever. Because Tesco then take the massive profits they make from this ideology and share it amongst executives and shareholders. 20 years ago a ton of wheat cost 180-200 pounds. Now it costs around 100. Yay cheaper bread! No. Not for you anyway. But for the executives and shareholders, well you know what they say… Every Little Helps…big style.

Surely our MPs should intervene. What and appear “anti business” Are you mad? Try putting up prices? What in a such a low wage economy as ours. There’d be bread riots!

It’s nuts isn’t it. I can actually sympathise with large sectors of folk that are worried about immigration because it affects those at the bottom more than anybody. I think there’s a ton of folk out there that are anti immigration not because they don’t like foreigners but because the country they live in keeps slamming their faces against a poverty wall. It worries me personally because if this arty farty lifestyle of mine were to stop. I’d be in that group. So tell us your work experience for the last 10 years Mr Scott. Err…telling jokes. OK, well now that, that’s gone have you ever considered fruit picking?

So what does the government do to help those at the whim of these merciless economics? We demonise them. Yeah that’s you ya scrounger. Here’s a tenner for a days work now why don’t you fuck off and take out a mortgage on an empty crisp packet.

I suppose the clues in the title…super…MARKET.

Todays problems in brief….

It’s the best smokescreen ever and a scapegoat for all the main political parties…blame the foreigners….The fact is there is no problem with immigration. 20 billion put into the British economy in the past 10 years from migrants. Benefit tourism takes up 0.04 % of the budget. The London economy is thriving because of immigration.  Migrants do work we don’t want to and help balance the economy. Europe may be a problem because it is used to shift about cheap labour. But that’s blaming the cause not the symptom. Workers are exploited regardless of where they are from. There is a problem with excessive population growth but that’s a different issue.
Corporate tax evasion, wealth tax avoidance, bankers unregulated while the public purse pays for their sins, politicians using their job as a way into city finance while having little regard for who they’re supposed to represent, fracking leading to pollution of the water supply, the third world being kept in their place because capitalism wouldn’t work without it, entire continents being pushed back into slavery,  austerity cuts, persecution of the disabled, demonization of the working classes, zero hours contracts, people being worked like battery hens in call centres, no access to education unless you’ve got money…these are  real problems. Either wake up or get in the bastards faces. I look forward to what alternate votes like Green and SNP bring to Westminster next year. That is all. x

Lawrence Vs Brand.

I think the thing I’ve found most interesting on this here comedians crucible of what we can and cannot express within our jobs/opinions/lives is the amount of comics in the same week who went out their way to savage Russell Brand for saying “nice” things while not defending his freedom of speech, while passionately defending Andrew Lawrences freedom of speech to say “not so nice” things, while being quite accepting of what was being said.

These are interesting times. Obviously I find much of what Andrew Lawrence said pretty abhorrent. Of course I do. I’m one of the leftie/liberal hacks he’s targeting. But I’m also an advocate of free speech and I’m delighted he’s said it. I can think of a couple of other folk I work with that have exactly the same views but not so high a profile. Do I refuse to work alongside them? I do not.

So let’s look at Mr Brand first. I can’t ever really say I was huge fan. But that changed last year when he did the editorial of the New Statesman. It was informed, eloquent and raised some great points. Yes he got it wrong with the “don’t vote” thing. Especially because that’s what everybody decided to leap on and completely ignore the main thrust of his polemic. The one thing I’ve personally taken from the whole shebang is I’ve read the New Statesman ever since and I feel I’m better informed because of it. I really am bamboozled as to why such a good looking, opinionated millionaire manages to attract such disdain from the community.

I haven’t seen Mr Brands latest News Night appearance or read his book. I’m of absolutely no doubt that some of what he says is ill informed or total pie in the sky thinking. Here’s why I like him. It was actually his involvement that put me on to reading the New Statesman. More shame me for letting celebs influence my tastes.  So maybe the good thing about him is he raises the profile of important humanitarian issues and then we go look at more informed sources for the real solutions. This is a good debate we’ve all had about him this week and the points he airs. But we are having it BECAUSE OF Russell Brand. Here ends the defence.

And so the prosecution. It may come as a surprise but like Andrew I am also anti Europe. The main reason I have for this is I think it is a gang master for moving about cheap labour and exploiting workers. And there’s the difference. In saying this I’m attacking the cause not the symptom.

It’s Andrews language and targets of attack that so concern me in his initial diatribe. But can I first take a wee look at the type of comedian he attacks. He describes, “Out of touch, smug, superannuated, overpaid TV comics with their cosy lives in their west-London ivory towers taking a supercilious, moralising tone, pandering to the ever-creeping militant political correctness of the BBC with their frankly surreal diversity targets.”

For anybody that knows me and the lack of impact I’ve made on the comedy business there’s no way I can fit into this bracket. Jings how I wish. In fact in reply I would say Andrew fits this description much more than me. I accuse him of being a smug, overpaid TV comic living in an ivory tower, because from my career perspective that is what he is. It’s not only Andrew that everything didn’t come up roses for but he’s had a way better kick of the ball than I ever did. So why the hatred? I’m frustrated too but it does not manifest in attacks on minority groups.

I do wonder if he’s actually ever had to watch 300 EDL marching past his house chanting vile hatreds on Islam and anything else their bile gets directed at that day from his London hole. I somehow think probably not.

Then there was the comment on “liberal back-slapping on panel shows like Mock The Week where aging, balding, fat men, ethnic comedians and women-posing-as-comedians, sit” If this was intended to sound like the language of a bigot then he did a no bad job. I’m just glad I’ve still got my hair. I don’t think we need pour over those words too much. Others justifiably already have.

The bit that really concerned me was in the comment(s) “for every person that comes here and contributes to our culture there are those benefit tourists, criminals and those that refuse to assimilate.” I feel here he’s laying the blame for our economic woes squarely at the foot not just of the immigrant but also at the underclass. But hey he’s a right wing comic. That is his (new) job.

How terrible it is that everybody moving around the various bits of the planet does not walk along the great and the goods corridors that Andrew feels he strides. For shame that not all of us can reach the same salient heights of human endeavour that Andrew so clearly must feel he has.

I’ve mentioned further back what I feel the problem with Europe is. I’d rather we kick up the way than down. But that’s the fundamental difference in our thinking.

Overpopulation isn’t just a British problem it’s global. And yes I feel it needs addressed. But I advise great caution in the language we use when addressing such issues. Otherwise somebody somewhere will shoulder the brunt of the blame. If you’re going to shout, shout to the top.

Does any of this mean I’m opposed to Andrew expressing his views? Absolutely not. But if the gloves come off we should be allowed to take a swing back. I actually quietly respect his…er…gall. But I also fiercely defend my/our right to be equally as galling.