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Londonderry Heir

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

Let’s play the word association game.  I’m going to name some famous film stars and you think of the first adjective that comes to mind.  Renée Zellweger; Al Pacino; Steve Martin;  Reese Witherspoon; Matt Damon; Emily Blunt; Mark Wahlberg. In order your list would probably read something like this: down-to-earth & heart of gold; dangerous Mafioso ; hapless patsy; dizzy blonde; tough & resourceful;  dark & mysterious; heroic hardman

Of course, our descriptions might differ slightly, depending on what part they’ve recently played and what movie we’ve seen them in but my point is that most actors and actresses have a certain style and persona which means they will often be typecast into roles that suit their personality and particular acting skill sets.  This doesn’t come about by accident. 

A movie director, reading through a new script and visualising the characters, will often have a good idea of who he or she would like to cast in the leading roles from their past work and we, the audience, will have clues as to what to expect from the movie just by looking at the cast list.

So in the light of recent events I’ll add one more name – Liam Neeson.   Let me run through the titles of some of his biggest blockbusters – Taken (1, 2 & 3), Unknown, The Grey, Non-Stop, A Walk among The Tombstones, Run all Night, Darkman, Silence.  They don’t sound like something you’d take the kids to see for a fun night out and indeed they all come with age restrictions.  Neeson has carved a name for himself as the rough, tough anti-hero, specialising in psychological thrillers with a good smattering of dark evil and supremely sadistic violence.

Now an actor’s job is to play a part, to become something other than them self, but the most convincing amongst them are often those who have dug deep inside their souls and drawn out aspects of their own self and psyche which they bring into their characters and make them come alive. 

From the list at the start, for example, Mark Wahlberg , product of a fatherless family struggling to make ends meet, dropped out of school aged 14, joined a gang, dealt drugs and then viciously attacked 2  Vietnamese nationals without provocation, hitting them with a 5’ stick, and quoted as saying ‘Vietnam f—-ing s—t’  for which he was subsequently charged with attempted murder, later reduced to criminal contempt and sentenced to 2 years in a correctional facility.  In the end he served only 45 days in jail, during which time he made a decision to turn his life around and on his release he channelled his energies into developing an acting career.  

On now to Liam Neeson.  You’ve all heard the interview – voice so low you have to strain to hear it, he relates a dark time in his life, some 40 years ago,   when he was so enraged by the brutal rape of a friend by an unknown black man, that he picked up a cosh and for several nights, roamed the streets of his town looking for any random black man, hoping to provoke him into an attack so he could react with extreme violence, even to the death.  After describing the event Neeson says he is deeply ashamed of the episode, that it no way defines him as a racist and that it was born out of a primal need for revenge, a feeling he had never experienced before or since.

Since the television interview aired, mainstream and social media has been in a frenzy of commentary.  There are those who utterly reject his apology and who brand him as racist through and through, despite the fact that it was one week some 4 decades ago.  There are others who sympathise with his reaction, pointing out that in the end, he did not act on his intent and accepting that he has moved on and grown, both emotionally and intellectually.  Interestingly, these opposing views are not divided along racial lines.  Today, for example, brought condemnation from singer Lily Allen (white) and support from Whoopi Goldberg (black).

Then there are the cynics who question why, having kept his silence for all those years, choose now to reveal his dark secret.  Could it be because he has a new movie to promote, a movie which in some ways mirrors the incident in that it revolves around,  a hunt for revenge, entitled Cold Pursuit?  Well, if that were the case it has backfired disastrously, with the New York red carpet première of the film cancelled in light of the media feeding frenzy.

Now I’m not pretending to have any insight into the incident but for those of you who may not be familiar with the dark times in which Neeson spent his formative years, a brief summary might go some way to explaining his actions and reaction.  Liam Neesaon (66) was born and brought up in Northern Ireland, not to be confused with Eire or southern Ireland, a separate country and not part of the United Kingdom but in the similarity of the names and the proximity of the two countries, therein lies a tale. 

Northern Ireland has been part of Britain for hundreds of years, while its southern neighbour, literally referred to in history as being ‘beyond the pale’ was  left to its own devices.  The south subsequently developed into a largely Catholic country, the north more Protestant.  By the start of the 20th century, these religious and national differences were coming to the fore, with a core element of the north wishing to unite with their southern cousins, another faction determined to stay part of the United Kingdom.

Decades of sectarian violence followed, culminating in the ‘60s and ‘70s with the militant illegal IRA (Irish Republican Army) waging a bombing campaign war against Britain, with many random civilian attacks including one that killed Prince Charles’ uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten.  The British army was moved into Northern Ireland to counter the attacks and keep the peace between the fighting factions. 

The major cities of Belfast and Londonderry were  peppered with sandbag barricades and army checkpoints.  Protestants hated Catholics and vice versa and everyone hated the British soldiers.  Atrocities were carried out by both sides of the divide.  Men and women were literally tarred and feathered, some disappeared over night and to this day many bodies have never been recovered, others were openly executed Mafia-style to make a point.  These were dark, dark days indeed for Northern Ireland and it is hard to imagine what it must have been like for young people growing up in such a fetid, febrile atmosphere.

Little wonder, then, that a young Liam Neeson’s first reaction to an attack on his friend, hardened by the daily brutality all around him,  might have been vicious revenge.  It was how things were done.  Of course it wasn’t right, of course it isn’t justified but an eye for an eye was a factor of his daily life. 

The irony of the tale is that he tells us he went looking for any black b—–d on whom to exact his revenge but in ‘80s Northern Ireland they would have been as rare as rocking horse droppings!  No-one in their right mind, black or white, would have to wanted to move to NI so happily Neeson never found his random black man and after a few days of being literally out of his right mind, he came to his senses and abandoned his violent quest. 

Like Mark Wahlberg, he moved on,  moved to America and subsequently carved out a very successful movie career.  Also, like Wahlberg, given their respective backgrounds, they were unlikely to be cast in family film franchises or comedic characters.  Both actors have used their early experiences as inspiration for the dark, deep anti-heroes they were destined to play.

The comparison of these 2 big movie names is apposite.  Both were guilty of racist and violent thoughts, Wahlberg acting upon them, albeit as a juvenile, and having to face the full force of the law, Neeson fortunately never able to  carry them out, except in later life in the cathartic world of movie acting.   Importantly, they have both moved on and turned their lives around which surely is to be applauded?  Anyone of a  religious or spiritual nature will know that forgiveness is at the core of all belief systems.  Nominated for  many acting awards, widowed in 2009 after the tragic death of wife, actress Natasha Richardson,  let’s separate the leary young Neeson, a product of those dark, dog eat dog  times of The Troubles with the fine movie actor that he has become, bringing his past into his craft and acting, rather than acting out.

What’s more, let’s hope most of us never have to reveal those fleeting dark thoughts we’ve all had at one time or another, left we be similarly shunned or tried in the kangaroo court that is the world of social media.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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