Letters: Ancient hatred stalks the land once more

These letters appear in the August 15 edition of The Independent


I’m just an ordinary middle-aged Londoner.

I work in an office. I go to football. I like eating out. I enjoy the arts. I am a proud family man. I give up time for charity work. I try to be a decent contributing member of society. I pay my taxes honestly. But there appears to be something that sets me and my kind apart.

At park gates in East London a friend of mine gets told to f**k off for photographing a flag. At a pub in Bath my wife gets called scum when she mentions her background.  In a student hall in Manchester a friend’s son is asked to leave as the specially prepared food he chose to eat is not permitted because it carries a label written in a language used by a country that is “banned” by the student union. 

In Belfast a historic blue plaque is removed to deny part of my history.  In theatres in Edinburgh and London I am told to denounce my opinions or lose the right to perform. A sportsman in Ireland tweets if he sees my kind he’ll punch us in the face and recommends others follow suit. 

Protesters across the country show no shame in shouting that my historical persecutors were right and social media is rife with vitriol towards me (even from so-called friends). And in Bradford I’m told that I am not even permitted to enter the city.

What is this? Racism.  Where is this? Britain and Ireland. When is this?   Now. Who am I? I am a Jew.

Never again, we say, never again.

Stephen Spencer Ryde
London N3


As a Jewish grandfather I recall going to school without guards outside to protect us. I recall walking to the synagogue with my dad, without guards to protect us. And I recall after the Second World War my dad saying to me: “They will not hurt Jews again.”  What has happened to our green and pleasant land?

Jeff Bracey
Great Budworth, Cheshire


Why Ebola is so hard to treat

Your Editorial “Treating Africa” (16 August) was spot on in saying that there is no magic bullet for Ebola, and that the lack of a cure or a vaccine is related to its status as an African problem. But this is a big oversimplification.

Scientists have been studying Ebola virus intensively for 35 years without finding a weak spot to attack with drugs. And if a vaccine had been developed, a very big issue would be testing its efficacy. The opportunities to do this would be rare, because outbreaks are very infrequent and occur without warning.

Far more difficult would be getting it to those who need it. In large part the current outbreak has got so big because the affected populations do not trust the medical systems in their countries, prefer traditional remedies, and care for the sick at home, where we know from previous outbreaks that carers have a 25 per cent chance of being infected.

And it’s not just Ebola that has a vaccine problem. Local polio vaccinators are being assassinated in Nigeria and Pakistan.

Hugh Pennington


RSPCA faces hunt supporters’ fury

I wonder if Grace Dent (12 August) would consider becoming the new chief executive of the RSPCA. Since the much-lamented departure of CEO Gavin Grant, the vacant post has been crying out for someone who has the guts, like Grace, to stand up to the vicious and concerted hate campaign conducted against the charity by hunt supporters and their friends in the media.

I am one of the monitors who collected the evidence of repeated illegal fox hunting by the Heythrop Hunt, which was used by the RSPCA in their successful prosecution.

The massive animosity hunt monitors routinely suffer is now directed at the RSPCA, by people who do not give a damn about puppies and cats, but who simply want to so damage the confidence of the charity that they will stop prosecuting illegal hunting.

This would leave this one large group of animal abusers absolutely above the law, because the police and CPS have demonstrated only too clearly over the past nine years that their will to do the job is virtually non-existent.

Penny Little
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire


I hear first hand of the animals rescued from the uncaring, uninformed, and downright ignorant. I watch my stepdaughter work long hours for little pay because she cares. I listen to the RSPCA-knockers and rage.

How many times has she been called out by time-wasters wanting the removal of a squirrel from their conservatory, a pigeon from the front room or a cat from a tree instead of being left to get on with the neglect and cruelty cases of which there are too many.

I see her come home exhausted, filthy and disheartened, but she will never give up the job because she cares.

The people on the ground who work for the RSPCA do the very best they can with the time and resources they have – give them a break.

Barbara Rainbird
Isleworth, Middlesex


Yazidi link to the origins of religion

The fate of the Yazidi has bought to public attention this ancient people whose strange beliefs in the Peacock Angel and the process of tribal reincarnation are said to date back to Zoroastrian times of ancient Persia (letter, 9 August). In fact they are far more significant and older, dating back to pre-Neolithic times.

Over recent decades excavations into the monumental structures at Gobekli Tepe, Cayonu and Nevali Cori (all in this region of northern Iraq), dating from some 14,000 years ago, have enabled us to gain an insight into an ancient ritual world dominated by the cult of the vulture as the intermediary agent/angel/psychopomp (“soul carrier”) between the living and the dead.

Murals from the site of Catal Hoyuk depict the vulture/angel ferrying the souls of the dead and the foetuses of the pre-born within a tiered cosmos which has echoes of the still more ancient cave art of Western Europe, such as at Lascaux and Chauvet, which take us back 35,000 years to the very dawn of religious consciousness in humans.

The Yazidi are a unique link in this chain of human religious development, a point to which most later religious beliefs can be traced, including Islam, which also claims to have been revealed by an angel.

It is amazing that they have survived to this day, and they must be protected, for their anthropological and historical significance as well as immediate humanitarian need, from the clutches of monomaniacal and moronic Islamists.

Dominic Kirkham


Action needed on cyberbullying

So much has been said about the internet and social media, and few would disagree with your thoughtful and balanced editorial (11 August).

I feel parents and schools in particular need to educate children more forcibly about how thoroughly nasty, vindictive and cowardly anonymous cyberbullying is, and try to discover why children feel the need to indulge in it.

Parents have a big responsibility to emphasise all the dangers of social networking, if children really must participate in the inherent narcissism implicit in self-advertisement.

The sites have a responsibility, too. Search engines’ handwringing must be translated into positive and meaningful action. We have seen far too little of this. Search filters are, by themselves, insufficient and always  will be.

There has been far too much talk and far too little action quickly enough. Perhaps some hard government legislation is necessary, as this is a big problem which is not going to go away.

Brian Diffey
Gosport, Hampshire


Misanthropy on the train

David Carter’s misanthropy knows no bounds (letter, 13 August). The “trish-trash noise” from his youthful fellow traveller’s headphones may not be to Carter’s taste, but compared with the general noise of a moving train this headphone spill is minor. And pulling a pair of pliers from one’s briefcase and threatening another person’s property is a criminal offence, as well as demonstrating that Carter is a curmudgeonly bully.

Ronan Breslin


The blame for jail suicides

For the avoidance of doubt, the words of the headline “Grayling’s policy ‘responsible for prisoner suicides’ ” (12 August) are not words I used, and I would not make a personal remark about the Secretary of State in that way.

Nick Hardwick
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, London WC2


Sporting victory

What a delight to see the dignified finish of the European 10,000 metre race by Jo Pavey – quite different from the ugly antics of the male winners who do not seem to know what to do with themselves on lesser achievements.

Valerie Pitt
London SE3

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