Novelist. Author of APSARAS and tales from the beautiful Saigh Valley. First person to quantify spiritual values.

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Friday 29 January 2010

What's Faith got to do with it?

IT IS impossible for anyone not to feel heartfelt sorrow for the people of Haiti after the earthquake tragedy on the 12th January that brought the already poor country to its knees.
The television has brought us unparalleled pictures of the misery of this country but there is one that sticks in my mind. To me the most evocative picture was that of the young girl, aged ten or eleven who was shot dead for allegedly looting some pictures. She lay face down on the ground, the pictures spread out, also face down, close to her hand. What a waste of a young life. Tragic, it brought tears to my eyes, because it was avoidable; it was a man made tragedy.

Haiti's regional, historical and ethnolinguistic position is unique for several reasons. It was the first independent nation in Latin America, the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion. Haiti now ranks 149th of 182 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index (2006). About 80% of the population were estimated to be living in poverty in 2003. Most Haitians live on $2 or less per day and the population of Haiti is 50% illiterate. About 80 percent of Haitians are Catholic and 16 percent Protestant, though more than half the population are believed to practice Voodoo, a religion with roots in Africa. Many Haitians have turned to God for an explanation of their impoverished country's worst catastrophe in living memory, which has killed up to 200,000 people. Remember this is only the latest in a long line of disasters. In many ways, the hurricane season of 2008 was the cruelest ever experienced in Haiti up to now. Four storms--Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike--dumped heavy rains on the impoverished nation.
The rugged hillsides, stripped bare of 98% of their forest cover thanks to deforestation, let flood waters rampage into large areas of the country. Particularly hard-hit was Gonaives, the fourth largest city. According to, Haiti suffered 793 killed, with 310 missing and another 593 injured. The hurricanes destroyed 22,702 homes and damaged another 84,625. About 800,000 people were affected--8% of Haiti's total population. The flood wiped out 70% of Haiti's crops, resulting in dozens of deaths of children due to malnutrition in the months following
the storms. Damage was estimated at over $1 billion, the costliest natural disaster in Haitian
history. The damage amounted to over 5% of the country's $17 billion GDP, a staggering blow for a nation so poor.

Back to the earthquake. At Saint Jean Bosco, an intact Catholic Church in a less damaged part of town, smartly dressed worshipers sang and clapped with their outstretched
palms in the air. They also grieved the loss of the beloved leader of Haiti's Catholic Church, Archbishop of Port-au- Prince Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, who died when his residence
collapsed and he fell to the ground outside, smashing his head. The earthquake was indiscriminate in who survived and who perished. "This increases our faith, despite everything. He (God) has protected us," said Dania Aly, 22.

Well has he or does it even matter? One can't help but wonder if the Christian, Islamic, Jewish God is all powerful, caring and compassionate, why do these disasters happen. If as one cleric on a recent BBC programme put it, he is testing those that are left behind, it begs the question of
WHY? Of course, if you are a Muslim, you cannot even ask this question of Allah because you are
not worthy. All very convenient, but even if you could, you're unlikely to come up with an answer, like the millions of cognisant questioning beings before us. The truth is, either you believe in spite of what you see, or you don't. In Haiti, they have a system of faith that
embraces two religions. The relatively modern one of Roman C a t h o l i c i s m (2000 yrs old)
and Voodoo, a practise whose roots go back ten thousand years or more. In a syncretism,
special to Haiti the people see no problem in combining the two so that the Loa (Spirit) Erzulie is synonymous with the Virgin Mary: Legba, the 'gatekeeper' spirit becomes St. Peter: Domballah,
the serpent spirit is St. Patrick and so on. The benefit of having these two means of practising your faith is that if one seems to be failing you, there is an alternative mode of service to fall back on. The Vodun service relies heavily on music, dancing, sacrifice and drumming. The spirits required are called by the priest (Houngan) or priestess (Mambo) through the gatekeeper spirit Legba and these entities bodily take over the body or mind of the person to be helped. In Haiti there are two types of Vodum practised, Rada and Phetro. The former is to do with helping people, whether a social or medical problem. The priests act more as councillors and healers
in their works. With Phetro, however, we have a darker form of the religion. The spirits invoked
are not loas but guedes, an altogether more sinister bunch of spirits, like Baron Samedi, much
beloved of Hollywood film makers and authors with their tales of zombies.

In Vodun, the earthquake was the work of one of the guedes, as were the hurricanes. It is something the Haitians have to live with, because in their Voodoo faith, the responsibility for everything that happens in life is decided by the spirits. For instance, they have no concept of the Christian 'good' and 'evil'. A person is either filled with a good or evil spirit and is, therefore,
not responsible for his actions. This belief in the inevitability of what ever comes to pass gives
them a resignation or stoicism to accept whatever life throws at them. There is nothing they can
do; it is beyond their means to alter the course of their lives. I can only speculate that they cope by drawing on whatever mental resources are available to give them greatest hope. The Catholic
faith has drummed into them the truth of the divine love of Jesus Christ and the sure and certain
resurrection of the dead on the day of judgement. If it helps them deal with the loss of loved ones, then who can argue that it is a waste of time? Mind you, a little financial help from the Vatican to help rebuild their shattered Country wouldn't go amiss.

Returning to the picture of the shot little girl. As I looked at the photograph, I wondered if the
images depicted on the pictures were ironically, one of Jesus on the cross and the other The Virgin Mother, both representing her hope for her future. I wouldn't be surprised.

Kevill Davies is author of
'Apsaras'. Available at most on
line book shops.
Read more on his Indaloblog at local news updated daily online - 950 88 81 80
local author and globe trekker Kevill is a local author and is working on other projects all of the time. kevill davies
See his website at |
Check out his latest book, “Apsaras”, on!

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Elizabeth Wilmhurst

I don't know about you but I was mightily impressed with the appearance at the Chilcot Iraq enquiry of Elizabeth Wilmhurst. I am not alone in thinking hers was the testimony of a person of integrity, who spoke clearly and honestly. At the end of her evidence she was applauded by those watching from the public area. Quite right, too. In contrast we had the mealy mouthed offerings from Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett, two stalwarts of a Labour Government that the people no longer trust.
The advice of other senior Civil Servants about the legality of the Iraq War was ignored in favour of Labour's then Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, showing just how disingenuous this administration was and is.
Before the outbreak of the war, Elizabeth Wilmhurst resigned from her post, so strongly did she feel that the Governments course was wrong. It's a pity that members of the discredited Blair Administration didn't follow Elizabeth's example and quit at the same time.

Monday 25 January 2010

Force and self defence

The story of farmer Martin is back in the news again, as a man is released from Jail after his appeal in a higher court was upheld.He and his brother had surprised a career burglar. His brother had joined in the chase as the burglar escaped the house and fled down the street. When they caught the felon, they allegedly set about him with a cricket bat. The courts later released the man because he told them he suffered from brain damage. Later he reoffended within weeks of his release. The victim of the crime, who had been defending his property and his family was imprisoned for using excessive force. I am reminded of a Tom Sharpe story, I think it was 'Riotous Assembly' where Constable Els attends the scene of a burglary in which the remains of the perpetrator is plastered all over a tree, having been shot with an elephant gun. Els recovers the remains and puts them inside the house and tells the victims that because the burglar was inside the house, they were perfectly entitled, in law, to shoot him.

Well, we don't want a bent police force, but we do expect some measure of justice from the authorities stretching down from the Ministry of Justice, through the courts to the 'bobby' on the beat. If you find someone in your home you are entitled to use appropriate and proportionate force to protect yourself. What a load of crap! How can you in the heat of the moment, estimate what is appropriate and proportionate. Your adreniline filled mind reverts to the flee or fight mode in which the niceties of philosophical debate do not apply. If you cannot flee, because say your wife and children are in their bedrooms, you fight. Not with measured force, calculated to the exact erg or Newton per square foot, but with as much force as you can apply with the nearest tool that comes to hand. Are the only people who cannot appreciate this, those judges and ministers who, living in their ivory towers, can never be expected to suffer this type of crime. They expect that you use minimal force but what is that? If you tap a burglar he may later recover and become twice as dangerous as before, using his own force to escape arrest by bludgeoning you, possibly to death. Would that better satisfy the courts? Would the judge be more comfortable with that scenario?
To my mind, when confronted with a masked and possibly armed burglar you attack him with as much force as you can muster with the best tool you can put your hand on. The heavier and harder the better. The courts should back you up to the hilt on the following grounds:-

1. He, by exercising his own free will to enter your property illegally, should forfeit all his human rights. The excuse that he was under the influence of self administered drugs should not be allowed.

2. The householder, having no free will in the matter, should be permitted to take whatever steps he wants to rid himself of the danger to both his property and himself, including his family. This should extend to his garden and adjoining land. Remember that farmer Martin, a man of good character went to bed with no thoughts other than going to sleep. Through no fault of his own he is later jailed. If the man he'd shot had gone to bed he'd be alive today and farmer Martin wouldn't have gone to jail.

3. The police, when attending the scene should do so with the urgency this crime demands. It is a frightening experience for the victims and the police should be concerned for their welfare before giving any consideration to the burglar.

There should be NO latitude in giving any credit to the perpetrator of the crime.They are not victims of society and are not due any leniency from the law abiding majority.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Britain - the 25th best place to live in the world!

place to live in the world... behind Lithuania,
the Czech Republic and Hungary (according
to Peter Allen of the Daily Mail).
While France tops the poll for the fifth year
in row, the UK is associated with a dismal
climate, soaring crime rate and cost of living,
congested roads and overcrowded
Even former Communist countries where
unemployment is still rife are considered
better places to live. The Czech Republic
and Lithuania were not even accepted into
the EU until 2004!
Happiness to my mind is achieved when
life contains four essential elements. I add a
fifth as a luxury item because the four conditions
for a happy life could equally well
apply to a herd of elephants or a tribe of
1. The nuclear family in a home is the
basis of all civilized living.
2. Good neighbours.
3. Safety from physical and mental attack.
4. Access to food and water
5. Art and culture.
The list does not include climate because
to my mind, on its own it doesn't contribute
to happiness and in any case you can't
change it. Of course, sunshine makes one
feel better but if it was that important, ALL
the peoples of the world would be contained
within certain degrees of latitude, close to
the equator. Moreover, sunshine plays a
part in items 3 and 4 and remember for
some people who live in deserts, a good
downpour is worth having a party for. Inuits
can feel good if they have the five listed
above in good measure.
David Cameron has embarked on an
election campaign founded on the core
premise of 'Family, community and Country'.
It is no different than the categories listed
above and I believe it was also in one of
Barack Obama's election addresses.
Why is the UK, lagging in the happiness
stakes? Well let's look at each of the categories,
starting with family. The proliferation
of one parent families with teenage girls opting
to become pregnant is tolerated where
once it wasn't.
Getting married isn't necessarily the
answer, either. Divorce is easy and without
stigma. Couples don't have to try and make
a marriage work and they don't. They move
on to the next relationship. We therefore
have a generation of children being raised
without a father figure and often where there
is one it is inappropriate.
Sadly, much of the blame for the breakdown
of the core family is men and the single
biggest reason for their declining status
is lack of discipline. Single teenage girls do
not get pregnant on their own; its reckless
men, both young and those who should
know better. The biggest cause of divorce is
infidelity, accounting for 27% of all cases,
and predominantly this is down to the man.
Is it then any wonder that France leads the
poll when they have a stronger family ties.
That Spain doesn't figure higher than 17th is
due to other factors.
Secondly one needs good neighbours
who observe the same core values of harmonious
In days of old, people could leave their
doors unlocked when they popped next
door for a cup of sugar. Now, you won't find
people talking over their garden fences for
fear of being branded as “nosey”.
On television, recently, we have seen how
just one rogue family can plague the lives of
a community. One lady in the last year was
so upset by the treatment she received from
her neighbours and by the lack of interest
from the authorities that she took her own
life and that of her child. Life can't get more
miserable than this and yet the police still
don't treat ASBOs seriously.
Thirdly; one needs to feel safe from any
sort of attack, whether physical or mental.
Since the very dawn of mankind, humans
have had to fight hard to protect themselves
from each other and wild animals. Survival
instincts are built into our fabric. To ensure
that we sleep soundly in our beds we
employ locally the police and nationally the
armed forces to protect our borders.
The authorities are frightened of tackling
the terrorist threat because of fear of upsetting
minorities and losing important votes in
Labour seats. Outspoken and abusive
Jihadists walk our Green and Pleasant Land
with impunity. My father, a soldier in the second
world war and highly decorated would
spin in his grave.
Under both Tories and New Labour we
have seen the budget for the armed forces
reduced so that now we send the young
men and women to war without the necessary
equipment. If the police are guilty of
paying too much attention to political correctness,
then we must put the blame for
heavy losses in Iraq and Afghanistan at the
door of Tony Blair and the man who as
Chancellor starved the forces of money,
Gordon Brown. How can the nation feel
good when we see our brave troops coming
back to England in coffins?
Fourthly. The family must have a means
of obtaining food and water. By this, I mean
families must have a source of income, and
I do not include social handouts. The
Country should have a vibrant economy
with everyone who wishes in gainful
employment. Sadly Spain has a higher level
of unemployment than the UK which effects
almost every aspect of life. In the UK, the
level of unemployment would be much higher
if it wasn't for the huge numbers of people
employed in the public sector. The country
cannot afford them all. The burden of all
these workers is borne by the working public
in their taxes. Not only in their income tax
but the tax that masquerades as National
Insurance and their local and ludicrously
inflated Council Tax. People are working
longer hours to keep pace in a race that I feel they must ultimately lose. Only celebrities
and television folk can afford to live in
the UK with the politicians and high flying
town hall mandarins.
One can do without the latest toys, but it's
difficult to be happy when a family can't pay
the super inflated energy bills or run a family
Lastly, although strictly speaking it is not
an essential for contentedness, appreciation
of the arts can be the cherry on the
cake. It is the one luxury I would admit to
bringing fulfillment to life. Music, a good
book or a beautiful painting can bring great
joy, even in an otherwise drab existence.
A country that has good museums and
galleries cannot be a happiness desert. A
country that appreciates world class productions
of dance and opera must still retain a
culture worth saving.
A week ago, Pimco (the world's biggest
bond fund) announced that it will be a net
seller of British Government bonds this year,
raising further fears of a debt crisis at a time
when the Treasury needs to raise an
unprecedented £200billion in the international
capital markets to finance the burgeoning
national deficit.
The world will speak. What they will say is
that this labour Government like its predecessor
that had to be rescued by the IMF in
1976 has brought the country to its knees.
It's no wonder that the people of the United
Kingdom are dropping down the list of
happy countries.

Kevill Davies is author of 'Apsaras'. Available at most on line book shops.
Read more on his Indaloblog at

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Writing and selling a book

Writing a novel or trying to find an agent?

I have just started my fifth novel, 'Apsaras III'. Go to my Apsaras III blog to follow my progress as I construct and write the novel. Click on below:-

With my fourth novel completed I'm now trying to find an English agent that will represent me. Follow my progress on my "Green Man at Buddleigh' blog. Click on below:-