netherhallfebruary news 2011
full disclosure the real scandal of wikileaks
contents Cover page: As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange awaits his extradition hearing on 7/8 February, Barry Solaimon defends the whistleblower website and its besieged founder in his overview of recent developments (‘Full Disclosure’, p. 10 ) while Chima Okezue explores the geopolitical revelations contained in leaked embassy cables (WikiLeaks in Africa, p. 14 ) CONTENT EDITOR Zubin Mistry MANAGING EDITOR, DESIGN & SETTING Luke Wilkinson CONTRIBUTIONS AND ADVICE Peter Brown, Fr Joe Evans, Pablo Hinojo, Simon Jared, Chima Okezue, James Osborn, Neil Pickering, Raffy Rodriguez, Andrei Serban, Barry Solaimon PHOTOGRAPHY Raffy Rodriguez, Simon Jared CIRCULATION Netherhall News is sent by e-mail to current and past residents of Netherhall House. It is also available at http://www.nh.netherhall.org.uk/ magazine/magazine.htm CONTACT US Would you like to be included in our mailing list, contribute to or express your opinion on Netherhall News? Write to: LUKE WILKINSON C/O NETHERHALL NEWS, NETHERHALL HOUSE, NUTLEY TERRACE, LONDON, NW3 5SA, U.K. or E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org. uk DISCLAIMER All opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the authors concerned and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors of Netherhall News, of Netherhall House or of Opus Dei.
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regular features editorial
desert island discs
From Voyeur to Auteur: video games as an art form
Becoming a success: in just three weeks?
Friends Reunited: meeting former residents in south-east Asia
Rules of engagement: the ethics of warfare
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editorial dr zubin mistry concedes that most women could make a better job of these editorials. That said, most men could too.
central and striking aspect of Netherhall’s ethos is work: cherishing, sanctifying and – well – just doing our daily work to the best of our abilities. A significant sliver of my memory of Netherhall is the camaraderie of exam season and the fruitful sense of minor guilt at seeing the same faces planted in the library like immovable rocks as I nipped in and out, carried by the ebb and flow of breaks. A fine literary representation of work comes in George Eliot’s extraordinary nineteenth-century novel Middlemarch. (Doing my own work well demands that I include a ‘spoiler alert’). In Middlemarch, work defines the connected fortunes and fates of an intricate web of characters. Work has the power to redeem but also to corrupt. Work effects profound personal transformation, represents virtue, symbolises tragedy and masks vices. A dour classical scholar, Edward Casaubon, toils away fruitlessly on his magnum opus, The Key to All Mythologies, a hopelessly ambitious undertaking which he cannot hope to complete. Obsessed with producing the perfect scholarly work impervious to criticism, Casaubon is incapable of producing anything. Casaubon’s failure is borne, in part, of an egocentric conception of his own work. If Casaubon’s story has an unhappy futility to it, the story of another character, the ambitious young doctor Tertius Lydgate, is one of unhappy, even tragic, frustration. An idealistic doctor who promotes ideals of medical reform and social medicine, Lydgate seeks to establish a voluntary hospital in the town of Middlemarch. But, through a mixture of his own flaws and moral blindness, Lydgate undergoes a kind of professional degradation, ending his days as the kind of doctor whom he despised in his youth: tending to the rich in a German spa town. But other inhabitants of Middlemarch are ultimately redeemed by their work. Fred Vincy is the highly educated but indolent son in a nouveau riche family. Fred’s wayward existence soon gains a discomfiting clarity when he does not receive any of the money which he thought he would inherit from a rich relative, money which he would have used to pay off debts accumulated in his irresponsible financial dealings. Fred desperately needs to reassess his life and his transformation begins when he convinces Caleb Garth, the father of the girl whom he has loved since childhood, Mary, to train him up as a land agent. In Middlemarch, the Garths function as a moral core in their attitudes to love, money, family and marriage. Mary has a clear-sightedness about Fred and, precisely because she cares about him, initially distances herself so that he can reorient his life. (Theirs is, possibly, the only unqualifiedly happy ending in the novel).
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The Garths, who might have become little more than idealised figures from an absurd Victorian pastoral valorising the timeless yeoman farmer, are fleshed out beautifully by Eliot, even if their flaws are almost virtuous. Caleb is warm, diligent yet also impractical when it comes to money, an impracticality balanced by his kind but shrewder wife. Eliot’s use of the Garths as a kind of moral core has a critical edge insofar as their familial virtue exposes not only the faults of others, but also the social changes underway in early nineteenth-century provincial life. In this sense, Middlemarch raises questions about the contexts in which we work, the contexts in which good work is possible. Nonetheless, Caleb’s philosophy of work, charmingly explained to Fred, resonates: ‘You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honourable to you to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying, ‘There’s this and there’s that – if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it’. No matter what a man is – I wouldn’t give twopence for him whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher, if he didn’t do well what he undertook to do.’ Incidentally, a rick-thatcher is, I believe, someone who repairs roofs. Precisely what a prime minister does is less clear, though who can doubt that prime ministers, to mention nothing of deputy prime ministers, ‘do well what they undertake to do’? Anyhow, questions about work have been raised, if rather obliquely, by one of the bigger news stories to dominate headlines in the past week or two. In a sense, the story ought not to be so big, certainly not bigger than the ongoing, and potentially far-reaching, social unrest engulfing Egypt and Tunisia, or the unfolding WikiLeaks drama (a subject to which two contributors turn below). Nonetheless, more people, one imagines, are familiar with the circumstances surrounding the sacking and resignation of two Sky Sports broadcasters, Andy Gray and Richard Keys. Keys and Gray have been the two faces synonymous with commercialised modern football since the early 1990s. But they now find themselves out of work. A furore was ignited following the leaking of off-the-air but recorded remarks made on 22 January before a football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool was broadcast. Noting that one of the assistant referees for the game, Sian Massey, is a woman, the following exchange took place: (Keys) ‘Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.’ (Gray) ‘Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.’ (Keys) ‘Course they don’t. I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny [Dalglish, Liverpool manager] will go potty. This isn’t the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one [i.e. a female official] before?’ A little later, Keys commented on remarks by the entrepreneur and current West Ham vice-chairman [sic], Karen Brady, about experiencing sexism in her professional life: ‘The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.’ The exchange cries out to be prodded and poked, and journalists and bloggers have delighted in doing so. The pair’s comments are not a little ironic. Kenny Dalglish’s daughter, Kelly Cates, is an established sports broadcaster who once worked for Sky Sports (Dalglish is, presumably, not in thrall to that dull cliché ‘women just can’t understand the offside rule’). It is amusing to hold the exchange alongside one of the commonest platitudes parroted by too many football pundits and managers when analysing offside decisions, namely that no-one knows what the rules are any more. What are the rules on offside? Who knows. What are the rules on dangerous tackling? Nobody knows any more. And just who is the new Newcastle signing and French international, Hatem Ben Arfa? This too, apparently, is a great unknown. In fact, despite being paid handsome sums of money to analyse the game, the likes of Alan Shearer are curiously Socratic when it comes to the question of football and epistemology: the one thing they sure as heck know is that they don’t know anything.
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In the wake of the leak, and subsequently revealed off-the-air remarks in which the pair made crude and even disgusting remarks to or about various women, Gray was sacked and, a few days later, Keys resigned. One positive and immediate consequence has been raised awareness of and openness to female involvement in football, both female officiating and women’s football. (I should add opportunistically that Arsenal L.F.C are the most successful English team in women’s football). Another slightly less seemly consequence has been a torrent of Schadenfreude (something with which I’ve struggled myself ). There has also been a counter-attack against the ‘political correctness’ brigade by the ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ brigade. According to journalist Peter Hitchens, those who ‘joined in the stampede of rage against [Keys and Gray] are dangerous, intolerant totalitarians, helping the growth of the Thought Police in our midst’, while TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson opined, ‘I think we have arrived at that stage now where you actually can be busted for heresy by thought, which is terrifying’.
One might be tempted to retort, ‘totalitarians, heresy by thought? Do me a favour, love’. Admittedly, however, the fate of Gray and Keys does raise questions about privacy. Hitchens warns that, ‘if they can lose their jobs because of private remarks, then so can anyone else’. But the case with Keys and Gray is more complicated. They did not, it must be said, knowingly broadcast these comments, or the far cruder comments mentioned above. But the fact that these off-the-air recordings were leaked hints at another layer to the story. In the course of the scandal, allegations have been made by anonymous current and former female employees that this was the ‘kind of language and vocabulary that is used within the Sky football department all the time’, that the working culture was ‘sexist’ and like a ‘lads’ club’, and that Keys and Grays were ‘bullies’. Given that the leak was almost certainly internal, it is possible that this was seen as an appropriate and effective resort by someone within the organisation frustrated by an unsavoury working culture. Moreover, being a television presenter is a highly peculiar sort of job. Public image is an essential aspect of Keys’ and Gray’s work. (One is reminded of the Blue Peter children’s presenter who was sacked after various nightclub indiscretions were publicised).
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That image has – and here one must question Hitchens’ view that this is ‘just part of our national comedy’ – been tarnished. It may be that Keys and Gray were oblivious to the future publicity of their comments. But the publicity has brought to light unsavoury elements greater than the sum of the remarks themselves, and Sky’s decision, if very much calculated and shaped by the outcry, no doubt reflects this. If the ‘privacy’ aspect is unsettling (which, to some extent it is), so is the probability Sky would have been far less inclined to discipline its employees for their leering and unpleasant humour the less we knew about their ‘banter’.
as my sister once explained to me, the offside rule is really very simple: A player is in an offside position if she is nearer to her opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. A player is not in an offside position if she is in her own half of the field of play, is level with the second last opponent, or is level with the last two opponents. The player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of her team, she is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play. Easy. One final irony concerns women’s capabilities. It is with a sweet irony that Sian Massey did her job running the line as an assistant referee very well in the match that followed the exchange. As it happens, Massey got some tricky, marginal offside decisions absolutely spot on. But are there some lines of work in football which are simply closed to Massey and other women? I fear that
there are. Thinking about the Keys and Gray scandal, it seems that there are certain prerequisites, including laddish sexism and a disavowal that anyone knows the offside rule any more, for becoming the ‘face of football’. So could a Sian Massey ever become the new Richard Keys? Do me a favour, love. The game’s gone mad.
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director’ s notes peter brown celebrates netherhall’s rich A
heritage of guest speakers
lthough I’m writing at the end of January, this edition of the magazine covers the Christmas period, which included the wonderful Christmas dinner and show on Friday 3rd December, and Carols and Punch on Sunday 5th December. Both events were, as always, very enjoyable. Made possible by the work of the staff from Lakefield, the Christmas dinner is always memorable and the show after the dinner once again gave us a glimpse of the musical and dramatic talents of the residents in the House. The weekly guest speaker series in Netherhall is something that has been going on since the House opened back in 1952. Over the years hundreds of people have generously given of their time to come and speak to residents about all manner of things. Academics, businessmen, sportsmen, politicians and journalists have formed a colorful array of speakers. It is a great credit to the sense of public service in this county that so many have been prepared to give up their time in this way.
The speaker evenings have two primary purposes. The first is to give students an opportunity to hear someone speaking about a topic outside their principal area of study. In an age of increasing specialization in almost every field, students can be confined more and more to the study of narrower and narrower subject matter. For an hour a week the speaker evening can open a window onto something totally different. By means of these evenings we help students to broaden their minds and address cultural, political, social or ethical issues outside of their academic specialty. This is an important aspect of the formation Netherhall seeks to offer to its students. The second purpose is, of course, to stimulate discussion and debate. Whilst this is most often about purely secular topics, inevitably presentations and talks occasionally touch on areas where both religion and reason have something to contribute. I like to think that in stimulating such debate in a house where there are people who have strong religious beliefs and people with no such beliefs we can help in some small way to bring about the accord between faith and reason which Pope Benedict referred to in his speech at Westminster Hall in September 2010. The whole idea of get-togethers and guest speakers fits very well too with the ideas of education expressed by Blessed John Henry Newman about which we heard a lot back in September. Newman (and this is, I confess, a loose expression of his views) said that university education required both the academic input which comes from classes and the ‘education’ which comes from living with and learning from one’s peers. This was so important in Newman’s vision of education that, if a student were only able to receive one of these two aspects of education, then the latter was deemed more important than the former. To receive only the education provided by attending classes was not an education at all. He would, he said, give a certificate of attendance rather than a degree for such ‘education’.
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this collection of images shows residents at the christmas end of term dinner and variety performance
Guest speakers for the Lent term: 01.02.11 - Russia v Napoleon Professor Dominic Lieven, Head of Department of International History, LSE 07.02.11 - Questions and Answers on The Supreme Court The Right Hon the Lord Collins of Mapesbury, Justice of the Supreme Court 16.02.11 - Citizenship, religion and secularism Professor James Arthur, Head of School of Education, University of Birmingham 21.02.11 - Aspects of Economics Dr Vikram Pathania, LSE Fellow, Managerial Economics and Strategy group of the Department of Management 10.03.11 - The Christian Church and British Values The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve MP, QC Attorney General 14.03.11 - Making Moral Sense of the Financial Crisis Edward Hadas, Assistant Editor of the Financial Timesâ€™ Lex comment and analysis column 21.03.11 - The Business of Jazz Richard Wheatley, Chief Executive Jazz FM netherhall news 9
full disclosure a dummies guide to the wikileaks controversy, by barry solaiman
ikiLeaks launched in 2007. It is an organisation that relies on volunteers to provide information. The information, to which we shall come, is far ranging. When the information is received, WikiLeaks claims to verify it before publishing it in its original form. We can then access it via their website. Julian Assange is a journalist and by his own description is the Editor in Chief of WikiLeaks. It is probably more accurate to think of him as the founder. Unless you have been sleeping under a rock during the past few months you will have seen his face knocking about in the newspapers and on TV. Although WikiLeaks has leaked information over the past few years, it is a series of recent leaks which has taken the media by storm. An American soldier called Bradley Manning allegedly leaked 260,000 diplomatic cables. These are official records written by embassy staff during meetings. It turned out that these cables contained a lot of fascinating information. It was revealed, for example, that the US was spying on the UN secretary general, that the Saudis urged the US to go to war with Iran, that Prince Andrew was rude to a US Ambassador, that Russian president Vladimir Putin ‘probably’ gave the ‘OK’ to a mur-
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der, that Bank of England Governor Mervyn King expressed great concern about David Cameron and, most interestingly, that the General of Burma considered buying Manchester Utd. Of course there are 259,994 other cables I have not mentioned but you can imagine from these few examples that the American government were not happy. All of their conversations were being leaked and frantic phone calls had to be made as the US sought to apologise to other governments. The United States wanted revenge and locked its sights on Assange. The Americans argued that the leaks endangered the lives of their army personnel. There has not, however, been a single death attributed to the leaks since their release. Vice President Joe Biden called Assange a ‘terrorist’ and, in a display of calm, Republican possible presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin called for Assange to be ‘executed’. The mainstream media also turned against Assange. Perhaps they were upset that someone was doing real journalism. WikiLeaks was censored. MasterCard, Visa and PayPal stopped processing online donations to WikiLeaks, Assange’s bank account was frozen, and Amazon withdrew server space that was used by WikiLeaks to host the cables (no prizes for guessing who ordered these companies to stop allowing WikiLeaks to function). Unsurprisingly, these companies were then attacked by supporters of WikiLeaks, who believed that freedom of speech was being attacked. Then, Assange was put on a wanted list for rape offences. The allegations relate to relationships he had with two women in Sweden. Of course, such allegations are serious and they should be looked into. However, taking into account the current circumstances, it is unclear whether these allegations are more than a smear campaign. Assange is the head of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks released 260,000 diplomatic cables. These revealed uncomfortable truths to the people. This infuriated those in power, such as the US and the mainstream media, who began to attack Assange and WikiLeaks. Then, suddenly, Assange was faced with rape allegations at the same time. Is this all just coincidence? The allegations were filed in Sweden. One of the prosecutors in Sweden withdrew the allegations as the case was so weak against Assange. Then a superior above the prosecutor overturned the decision and pressed the case forward. I will not go into the allegations as they are long and detailed, Top left: WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange; though one can read them for oneself online. They appear to be very weak and insufficient for achieving a guilty verdict.
Top right: WikiLeaks supporters protest Assange’s innocence;
Meanwhile Assange has been residing in the UK. Sweden has brought a case against Assange in the courts to attempt to extradite him to Sweden to face the charges. The case will be heard shortly on 7-8 February. Sweden has had an extradition treaty with the US since the 1960s. As you read this the U.S. is trying to build a case against Assange. How convenient an extradition to Sweden would be for the US. They could get their man fairly quickly. Therefore it is up to our legal system to block this extradition.
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Bottom left: Among the most famous of the leaks is the so-called ‘Collateral Murder’ video of a US Army helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007. This still captures moments before an Apache helicopter opened fire in an attack which left 12 dead, including two Reuters’ employees. Bottom right: Seconds after the helicopter opened fire on a van, which had stopped to help Reuters’ employee, Saeed Chmagh. Chmagh’s corpse lies in the foreground.
By the time you read this, the result of the case may well be known. It is my prediction that if he is extradited, Sweden will eventually send him onto the United States if he is not imprisoned there. If he is sent to the US, it is likely that he will be held up in the legal system for a long time.
For his part, Assange has stated that he holds â€˜insurance filesâ€™. If he is assassinated or jailed, he threatens that these files will be released immediately. The contents of the files are unknown, though it is thought that they relate to Rupert Murdoch and his global media company, News International.
Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking cables, has been in solitary confinement since July 2010. It would be the perfect tactic for suppressing WikiLeaks. If he is not extradited, then it will be a great victory for the legal system in England and Wales, and for Assange.
Whatever happens to Assange and WikiLeaks, the world will be watching. Barry Solaiman is in his first year of study for the Bar. More importantly, this is his first year in Netherhall.
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wikileaks and africa
Embassy cables contain revelations about behind-the-scenes machinations of geopolitical elites, writes Chima Okezue
ince WikiLeaks and its mainstream media allies started releasing fractions of the 250,000 intercepted secret US embassy cables prepared by American diplomats around the world, we have learnt a lot about the disparity between what the American government says in public and what it does in private. To be frank, some of the embassy cables verge on pure and simple gossip. Some cables, for example, poke fun at the First Lady of oil-rich Azerbaijan, who, diplomats claim, is unable to show ‘full facial expression’ and looks almost as young as her daughters because of the extensive amount of cosmetic surgery she has undergone. Another cable revealed Hilary Clinton’s instruction that diplomats should investigate the mental state of the leftist Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and report what medication she takes to deal with ‘nerves and anxiety’. Even staunch US allies such as Silvio Berlusconi, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown have not been spared from the disdainful tone of gossipy cables. Of course, many of these embassy cables are more serious and
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reveal a lot about the US government’s binary division of other governments around the world into ‘good’ or ‘evil’ categories according to its vested geopolitical and energy interests. From some of these serious cables, we learn of US concerns about relations between China and Africa; the duplicity of pro-American Gulf Arab dictatorships which maintain good relations with Iran while urging the US to bomb it; plans to install missile shields in Eastern Europe, which might actually be for the sole purpose of containing a resurgent Russia and not the oft-stated aim of halting any future aggression from Iran; instructions to American UN diplomats to illegally obtain biometric data, frequent flyer account numbers, credit card details, email addresses, computer passwords, personal encryption keys, phone and pager numbers of key UN officials, diplomats and foreign politicians. Of all the US embassy cables on Africa, the ones I found most interesting were those on Nigeria, Zimbabwe and China-Africa relations. The paranoid reaction of the US to China’s rising global profile in many ways colours its diplomats’ views of China’s growing economic ties with Africa. In one of the leaked
cables, this paranoia is aptly captured by comments made by US Assistant-Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson during a meeting with Western multinational oil companies in Lagos City. Johnnie Carson claimed that China’s involvement in Africa was ‘aggressive and pernicious’. He stated the obvious when he said that ‘China was in Africa for China primarily’. He also made it clear to his western corporate interlocutors that ‘China was not in Africa for altruistic reasons’. These remarks will not surprise anyone who monitors the output on this subject from Western media, government officials and commentators. Despite positive statistical information about the benefits of the ChinaAfrican economic relationship provided by the World Bank, UN Conference for Trade and Development and economists, many western journalists and commentators continue to align themselves with the negative propaganda of western governments scared that China is trying to take over their ‘African backyard’. China’s engagement with Africa dates back to the 1950s, but unlike the strong political undercurrents of China’s Cold War era alliance with African nations, the relationship today is primarily economic. China deploys its state-owned companies to build critical infrastructure —schools, roads, railways, power stations, telecommunication networks, ports, etc.— in various African nations in exchange for natural resources to feed its burgeoning economy. Commentators who peddle allegations about the ‘Chinese colonial plundering of African resources’ want to pretend that the China is taking resources by force like European colonial regimes and conveniently forget that China also invests heavily in resource-poor African countries such as Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, Malawi and Burundi. In fact, most western governments’ criticism of China’s engagement with Africa is motivated by geopolitics rather than ‘human rights’ or ‘good governance’. During the Lagos meeting with the western oil multinationals, whose own human rights and environmental protection track records are far from stellar, Jonnie Carson stated that the US will not ‘tolerate’ China if it attempts to train armies, obtain ‘military base agreements’, ‘develop intelligence operations’ or build a ‘blue water navy’ in Africa. In other words, the US will not ‘tolerate’ China if it copies the American practice of running military bases and espionage rings in foreign nations around the world. A separate cable originating from the US embassy in Beijing reveals that efforts by the more pragmatic European Union to persuade China to collaborate with European nations on African development projects have been bitterly opposed by African nations, who suspect that it is a plot to restrict China-Africa trade relations and diminish Africa’s newly acquired bargaining power. The suspicion is further heightened by the fact that the EU engaged China in negotiations for a trilateral pact between China, the EU and Africa without involving the African nations who are supposedly parties to it. Julius Ole Sunkuli, Kenya’s Ambassador to China, and South African Minister Dave Malcomson best captured Africa’s opinion of the EU plan when they told US diplomats that ‘Africa would lose the benefit of having some leverage to negotiate with their do-
nors if their development partners joined forces’. Sunkuli explained that African governments were frustrated by We s t ern insistence on capacity building, which mostly translated into ‘more conferences and seminars about good governance’. He praised China’s focus on infrastructure and tangible projects. Malcomson added that although good governance, peace and security were crucial to African growth, they had to be accompanied by measures to reduce poverty and build infrastructure. He told the US diplomats that China’s emergence in Africa as a counter-balance to EU and US trade partnerships was positive because it fostered ‘competition’ and gave African nations more options. The African government officials are right. As I wrote in a 2008 article for the Netherhall News magazine, China’s engagement in Africa has indeed fostered ‘competition’ as evidenced by the scramble of the EU, India and Japan to host their own summits with Africa following the resounding success of the December 2006 China-Africa Economic Summit. The greatest outcome of China’s engagement with Africa has been the encouragement of companies from Brazil, South Korea, Singapore, Turkey, UAE, India and Malaysia to see beyond Western media stereotypes and invest in Africa. Another important by-product of China-Africa relations is the fledging partnership between individual African entrepreneurs and Chinese companies, which has led to the procurement of cheap, efficient equipment and transfer of technical know-how. The unstable political situation in Zimbabwe is the subject of another interesting set of US embassy cables. In one cable, EU officials who met President Robert Mugabe informed US diplomats that the octogenarian leader remains ‘physically fit, mentally sharp and charming’. They claimed that the Zimbabwean strongman’s political power remained undiminished, though he was surrounded by hardliners who were ‘dodgy’, ‘cold’ and lacked
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‘Mugabe’s intelligence’. But in another cable, the new US Ambassador Charles Ray contradicted the EU officials, claiming that Mugabe was in frail health. An important series of revelations include unsuccessful attempts to bribe Mugabe out of power by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan back in September 2000 and later on, by John Bredenkamp, one of several white Zimbabwean businessmen allied to the ruling Black nationalist Zanu-PF party. In a separate cable written last year, US diplomats came under pressure from top officials of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to get the United States to contribute to a ‘trust fund’ designed to buy off Mugabe’s senior military officials. Elton Mangoma, an MDC cabinet minister in the Zimbabwean government, told the Americans that the UK and Germany will be approached with the same request. The most fascinating and nuanced account of the political situation as perceived by US was recorded in the cables of former US Ambassador Christopher Dell, who ran the Harare embassy from 2004 to 2007. Despite being the arch-enemy of Robert Mugabe, he called the Zimbabwean strongman ‘a brilliant tactician who had long thrived on his ability to abruptly change the rules of the game, radicalize the political dynamic and force everyone else to react to his agenda.’ The ambassador pointed out that Mugabe was hampered by his ego, infallibility and ‘obsession with the past as justification for everything in the present and future’. He also poked fun at Mugabe’s lack of understanding of economics despite the fact that Mugabe is a highly educated man who holds multiple academic degrees and honorary doctorates. In the cables, Dell lays out scenarios about how the ruling Zanu-PF regime may come to an end. These include a military coup scenario, in which Mugabe is removed, killed or exiled, setting off a deadly struggle for power among various contenders; a popular uprising against the regime that could lead to a bloodbath even if it is ultimately successful; and (perhaps Dell’s least fanciful scenario) the sudden natural death of Mugabe setting off a power struggle for succession. Dell’s assessment of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is scathing. Morgan Tsvangirai is described in the cables as a brave democrat and the only person ‘with real star quality and the
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Top: Robert Mugabe’s most powerful opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, was described as a ‘flawed figure’. Middle: The Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, 2006. Bottom: Ogoni protestors keep alive the memory of environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa. ability to rally the masses’. Despite this effusive praise, however, Dell blasts Tsvangirai as ‘a flawed figure not readily open to advice, indecisive and with questionable judgment in selecting those around him’. Dell claimed that Tsvangirai was indispensable to the victory of Zimbabwe’s political opposition, but would be an albatross once in power. ‘Morgan Tsvangirai’, Dell wrote, ‘is a kind of Lech Walesa character— Zimbabwe needs him, but should not rely on his executive abilities to lead the country’s recovery’. Other MDC leaders are variously described by Dell as incompetent or divisive, though he made a few exceptions. He also expressed despair that the self-inflicted rifts within the MDC could not be healed. In my opinion, Dell was actually very modest in his description of Tsvangirai. Dell’s comparison between Tsvangirai and Lech Walesa is insulting to the highly effective Polish Solidarity leader. It was because of Tsvangirai that the MDC split in 2005 into two irreconcilable parties bearing the same name but with the surnames of its factional leaders added as suffixes to distinguish them from each other. Distinct from the ‘MDC-Tsvangirai’ factional party, the ‘MDC-Mutambara’ faction is lead by Robotics Professor Arthur Mutambara. From a separate cable, a member of the ‘MDC-Tsvangirai’ faction told a US embassy official that MDC was alienating its supporters because of widespread corruption among its elected parliamentarians and that MDC-run local councils were drowning in graft. Tsvangirai reluctance to leave office after a decade at the helm is another problem. All these inconvenient facts are ignored by Western governments who are obsessed with removing their arch-enemy Mugabe in order to advance their vested interests. Western government officials do not wish to acknowledge the contradiction of opposing Mugabe while supporting the MDC leader who has the potential to mutate into a corrupt ruler much like the former Zambian President Fredrick Chiluba— a one-time trade unionist in Zambia who was once a political prisoner of the socialist regime of Kenneth Kaunda. Chiluba transformed into a kleptocratic ruler once he swept into power in Zambia’s first multi-party elections in 1991. Unsurprisingly, embassy cables concerning Nigeria reveal much about the geopolitics of oil. From one cable, we learn that Royal Dutch Shell plc has a stranglehold on Africa’s most populous nation, having succeeded in infiltrating its spies into key positions of responsibility in all major federal government ministries. According to the cable, it was Ann Pickard, Shell’s former executive vice-president for sub-Saharan Africa, who revealed that interesting piece of information to Renee Sanders, the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, in 2009. For a couple of years, many Nigerian activists have been campaigning for Western oil multinationals to pay more royalties to the federal government, end the practice of gas-flaring, clean up their environmental pollution and annually pay at least 10% of
their earnings to the ethnic communities affected by their nefarious activities. As part of the peace settlement that partially ended militant activities in the Niger Delta, the federal government came up with the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The PIB not only incorporates the demands of the activists, it also includes provisions that will compel oil companies to contribute more revenue for operations relating to the nascent natural gas sector and force them to end the practise of importing Western expatriates to fill job positions where there are Nigerians with the relevant skills sets. The bill also bans oil multinationals from sub-contracting foreign companies to supply products or services that are within the capabilities of local Nigerian firms. Since the PIB appeared in the bi-cameral Nigerian National Assembly, Western oil multinationals led by Royal Dutch Shell, have been alternately applying cajolement, blackmail and intimidation on the federal government to have the bill withdrawn or re-written to favour them. The oil companies drew in the US by playing on its paranoia about Chinese and Russian competition for energy resources across the globe and its constant need to keep its foreign sources of energy ring-fenced from local political instabilities. Given this context, it comes as no surprise that US officials held meetings with their oil multinational allies. The embassy cables only report two such meetings— the one in Lagos city at which Johnnie Carson tongue-lashed China and the other in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja in which Ann Pickard boasted to Ambassador Sanders of her company’s strangle-hold on the oil-rich nation. Pickard told Sanders that Shell’s spies in the Nigerian government had passed on to her a confidential letter sent to the Chinese in relation to their offers to invest in the oil sector. She also said that the spies and the British government had supplied her with ‘intelligence’ showing that Gazprom, the Russian energy company, was going to spend $ 2.5 billion building refineries, pipelines and power stations in exchange for gas exploration rights. In return for her co-operation, Pickard requested US intelligence information on Gazprom and the sabotage activities of Niger Delta militants. Pickard also expressed confidence that her spies in the Nigerian government would undermine the aims of the petroleum industry bill, but nonetheless requested that the US government pressurise Nigerian legislators to favour the oil multinationals. At the end of the cable, Sanders gleefully concluded that US oil companies Exxon-Mobil and Chevron were better shielded from the provisions of the PIB and the violence of the Niger-Delta than Royal Dutch Shell. Most Nigerians were not shocked by these US embassy disclosures. Shell has a very bad reputation in Nigeria. The AngloDutch Oil Company has the worst record when it comes to environmental pollution. In the 1990s, it is widely believed that it supplied some of the weapons and helicopters used by agents of the extremely cruel dictator General Sani Abacha to shoot ethnic Ogoni people demonstrating against the environmental and health havoc wrought on their homeland by gas flaring and oil spillages. The 1995 execution of the Ogoni playwright and environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Abacha regime caused global outrage, most of it focussed on Shell. An international boycott of Shell’s products was called for by environmental campaigners and the government that succeeded the Abacha dictatorship in June
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1998 permanently banned the multinational from drilling oil in the parts of the Niger-Delta inhabited by the Ogoni people. In June 2009, Shell agreed to pay Saro-Wiwa’s relatives and other Ogoni victims $15.5 million to end a New York court battle that began shortly after the execution of the environmentalist and eight other close associates. According to the embassy cable, Ann Pickard was reportedly guarded in her responses to questions put to her by Sanders and repeatedly expressed a fear that ‘bad news about Shell’s Nigerian operations will leak out’ if she spoke candidly to American officials. Pickard’s fears are understandable because Shell has been at the end of a popular local campaign to kick it out of the West African country. There is a fear that more bad news may force the federal government to further curtail Shell’s operations in many of its oil fields. Its recent plan to return to the lucrative oil fields in Ogoni land was met with loud howls of disapproval from many Nigerians. Shell is scared stiff of Nigerian government plans to introduce Chinese companies to the Ogonis and also fears that the Nigerian government may use its unpopularity to ‘snatch’ its natural gas concessions and hand them to Gazprom. It vehemently opposes many provisions on the PIB, claiming that it would render Shell’s continued operations in Nigeria unprofitable. Publicly, Shell has since threatened to pull out all of its investments from Nigeria and leave if the PIB becomes law, but the embassy cable shows that the Anglo-Dutch company would do nothing of the sort. It would rather try to get the PIB re-written. Even before the WikiLeaks disclosures, the Nigerian press, trade unions and some patriotic legislators have been saying that the provisions of the PIB were being watered down to please the oil multinationals. The fact that the present Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke, was Shell’s first female executive director in Nigeria does not help in ensuring that the PIB is not scuttled. Already, there are strong criticisms of government plans to expunge a PIB stipulation that the multinationals pay 10% of their earnings to communities hosting oil fields. Thanks to WikiLeaks, Nigerians have now been alerted to the duplicity of the Federal government. I am sure vigilance on the part of the independent Nigerian press and trade unions will ensure that the Federal government thinks twice about annoying Nigerians by mutilating the PIB to please the multinationals. Another interesting cable on Nigeria centres on the activities of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firm in one of Nigeria’s poorest states. Pfizer was sued for a controversial drug trial carried out on 200 children in 1996 during a meningitis epidemic in the Northern Nigerian state of Kano. Some of the children subsequently died. The Kano State government alleged in its lawsuit that Pfizer did not obtain proper parental consent before they used the children for their experimental drug. In April 2009, Pfizer agreed to pay the state government $ 75 million in compensation for children who died during the drug trial, but refused to pay out to settle a separate lawsuit filed against it by the federal government. The embassy cable story takes a bizarre twist when the Enrico Liggeri, Pfizer’s boss in Nigeria, is alleged to have hired investigators to unearth evidence of graft against the notoriously corrupt Michael Aondoaaka, then Nigeria’s Federal Attorney-General. According to the cable, Liggeri told US diplomats that he used
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the evidence of graft to blackmail Aondoaaka into dropping the federal lawsuit against Pfizer. He also boasted that his investigators had already passed some of the evidence to the independent Nigerian press. While there is no proof that what the embassy cables described actually happened, it is highly plausible given the suspicious and abrupt withdrawal of the lawsuit against the pharmaceutical giant in October 2009. At the time, several Nigerian newspapers condemned the withdrawal and a subsequent secret deal signed by the Pfizer and Aondoaaka on behalf of federal government. Without a doubt, the former attorney-general would rather keep quiet the WikiLeaks disclosures to avoid further public opprobrium. By his own admission, Aondoakaa holds the record as Nigeria’s most reviled government official for his open corruption, his
role in the sacking of the country’s popular anti-corruption fighter, Nuhu Ribadu, and his attempts to shield James Ibori, the extremely corrupt ex-governor of the oil-rich Delta State, from graft charges. For the entire lifespan of the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua government, Aondoaaka caused nothing but embarrassment as the Nigerian press published stories about his penchant for demanding bribes from businesses and individuals to subvert the rule of law. Aondoakaa was later fired when Goodluck Jonathan became President following the death of Yar’Adua on 5 May 2010. In addition to the sack, the Nigerian Bar Association stripped Aondoakaa of his rank as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) — a rank of privilege equivalent to Britain’s Queen’s Counsel (QC). As if things couldn’t get worse, a Nigerian Federal High Court barred him from holding any future public office and the US government banned him and his family from visiting America.
On the whole, WikiLeaks has given the world an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at US diplomacy. Over and over again, the cables show world leaders lying to each other, to their citizens and to allies. One comes away with the impression that international diplomacy is nothing more than a profession of duplicitous schemers. It is too early to tell what lasting impact the WikiLeaks exposure will have on US diplomatic relations, but already some of its fallouts are visible. Governments in Turkey, Russia and Libya have reacted with anger to the cables. Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo may spoken for many across the world when he told officials to be less open when speaking to their US counterparts. In my own opinion, Julian Assange and his associates have done the world some good by exposing secret information used by political elites to build and maintain power over their gullible citizens in whose name atrocities are being committed.
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consider how much the England Cricket team has been lauded for their success in retaining the Ashes! On the basis of these two models, Professor Sedmak advised that if we want to be successful in three weeks, it is best not to follow the second model, because it is measured by the reactions of other people. We need also to be careful with the first model because no one is successful in all areas of life. However, one naturally asks whether there is any positive component to competiveness? Professor Sedmak explained that competitiveness can bring out the best in some people, and so in that sense to be competitive to a certain degree can lead to success if it produces better results. A degree of competition establishes references points which may be considered helpful and perhaps in this sense competitiveness should extend to every area of life.
success is it possible to become
successful in three weeks? james osborn reports.
But competitiveness is largely dependent on the personality of an individual. If a person defines success by comparison, or simply only wants to be good at what other people are good at, then competitiveness is not necessarily positive. Competitiveness can therefore prevent agreement if one is too focused on beating another person. Being driven by a greedy or ambitious desire to surpass others only leads to dissatisfaction. Therefore, ultimately, if you want to be unhappy, then compare yourself with others! The conclusion of the talk involved some practical advice on how to be successful in three weeks. According to early Christian writers, Professor Sedmak explained, this is possible because three weeks is a good time in which to change habits and from this can come success. In terms of providing a foundation for success, Professor Sedmak recommended two specific habits linked to how we wake up and how we go to sleep. For example, if we make time for 15 minutes of recollection (for religious believers, this might be prayer) to prepare for the day when we wake up, this can be a first step in changing a bad habit, developing good ones and being more focused on what we are doing. Similarly before going to sleep, if we take 15 minutes to reflect on our day this can be a step towards a development of a more rewarding life. Thus, if a change in habits leads us to think about what matters in our life, then we can be successful.
rom the moment I saw the title of this talk, I was looking forward to finding out whether such a dramatic claim really could be true. At first glance, this seems to be a very short time period in which to make any significant changes. At the same time, I was also quite keen on the idea of becoming successful that quickly! Thankfully, on 13th December, Professor Clemens Sedmak, Professor for Moral and Social Theology at King’s So even if someone has been unsuccessful for some time, it can College, London, came to Netherhall to settle the question. still be possible for that person to become a success in three weeks. This is done simply by: redefining one’s needs, redefining Professor Sedmak began by reflecting on the nature of ‘success’. one’s criteria for having a full life, and different situations can be He used the example of Mahatma Gandhi, who said that man worked out by creating new habits. was the ‘master in the reign of effort but not in success’ and that ‘satisfaction comes not from achievement, but from effort’. For the famous Austrian Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, ‘success In the first week of January, Netherhis none of the names of God’. The idea of ‘success’ was quickly all ran a seminar on the controversial placed in relation to the divine plan, which, so Professor Sed- question of freedom and free will. The mak argued, is not about success. He then analysed two models deterministic nature of the material sciof success. The first model is the idea that there are standards ences might be seen to imply that free that can be set, and that by living up to these standards one is will is an illusion. In an interesting talk successful, i.e. success is to live up to our expectations. The sec- on quantum mechanics, however, course ond model is based on the idea of honour. Honour works like a organiser Antoine Suarez (pictured protective sphere. People look up to other successful people and right) suggested that free will might not be an illusion. A more therefore the more honoured one is by others, the more success- interesting question which he posed concerned sleep: what is ful they are considered. As Professor Sedmak explained, this is a the point of sleep? Does sleep inhibit our freedom? Delegates social model and we can give examples of this model of success: attended from Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Canada, and the UK.
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rules of engagement the ethics of warfare in a changing world. pablo hinojo reports
ar does not determine who is right –only who is left’. With these words, Bertrand Russell condensed the general perception of warfare during the Cold War. Morality, some argued, was something that did not enter the battlefield. But, speaking on 17th January, Professor Mervyn Frost, the Head of the War Studies department at King’s College, London, subtly demonstrated the evolution of ethics in war during his time as an academic since the 1970s. He gave an insightful talk on different developments in warfare and the ethical questions these have raised. Indeed, in outlining the different political and social developments in society, and the importance of freedom and rights, he attempted to show that warfare should be framed by morality. Starting by defending the existence of universal and absolute morality and rights, Professor Frost outlined various clashes which arise between the state and the individual. The current state of world diplomacy and international relations has changed dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union. New political developments have given rise to new challenges well beyond the just war theories developed for and focused on on intra-state wars. The old order has given way to a new international order that has been increasingly challenged by the use of technology (particularly biological weapons and cyber-warfare) and asymmetrical warfare used by insurgent – or terrorist – movements such as Al-Qaida. These new developments must be seen, argued Professor Frost, in light of first principles, specifically, from the point of view of each man’s rights. Most interestingly of all, Professor Frost described a possible scenario in the near future whereby countries begin to genetically modify soldiers in order to make them more resistant to pain. Would these ‘new super men’, he asked, have the same rights as the rest of us? The origins of the values underlying the ethics of warfare remain contentious. Such values, he suggested, are the result of centuries of development as well as different social and political choices developed by the international order. From what Professor Frost suggested, one can deduce that war should be determined and framed by a moral code – a code that should be universal and not reserved to one or other political order. Whether policy makers acting as new social and technological developments emerge decide to follow such a code is another matter. One thing is certain: morality will always be the voice that calls for war against injustice.
Pablo Hinojo is assistant director of Netherhall House, and has just graduated with a Master’s degree in War Studies from King’s College London
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friends reunited T
Neil Pickering was delighted to meet old and new faces in his recent travels across south-east Asia
he first port of call in a recent overseas trip in October and November was Hong Kong, where a Netherhall reunion at the Hong Kong Club was hosted by Denis and Agnes Chang and was attended by some 35 former residents and friends. Everyone was very touched by the Changs’ generosity once again, and even more so when they learned that Agnes had actually travelled from the UK just to be there for that weekend. She and Denis have become grandparents for the first time and, though Agnes has been spending time with her grandchild in England, she wanted to make sure everything went smoothly for the reunion, which it very did. Apart from Denis and myself, Michael Leung and Judge Ian Carlson were other former residents from the 60s. It was fascinating to see the different eras represented. John Wong told us of his retirement earlier in the year, following in the footsteps of Y.S.Lee. Others, like Johnny Chan, were showing us photos of his children, while Brian Zhu came with wife, Daphne, and his little boy who, like last year, stole centre stage. Pianist Alan Chu brought his girlfriend, though they had to leave a little early as Alan was performing later that day with, I believe, the Hong Kong Philarmonic Orchestra. Only a few months after being at Netherhall for the summer course, two ‘youngsters’ were able to come along. Dave Lin, who is still a university student, commented that he had never had the opportunity to be in such auspicious surroundings as the Hong Kong Club. It was very good, also, to see Seen Meng Chew there. He had written to say that – after his doctorate in Chicago and work experience – he was exploring either returning to Malaysia, the country of his birth, or returning to Hong Kong
Hiro Ikemoto (1999) & wife, a couple of days after their wedding; in Tokyo Nov 2010 with Neil & Seizo Inahata 22 netherhall news
to work. It was no doubt useful for him to ask for tips from the likes of George Sun, whose senior role in banking has given him a lot of useful experience. Familiar faces, such as Tony Eccles, Luis Pedruco, Joseph Chan, Jason Hung, Henry Suen, added to many friends of Netherhall like Bill Tam, Chris Tsai (the brother of Eric who is now working in London) and several of Denis’ friends, all worked to making the reunion such a success. For some, a surprise ‘guest’ was Peter Herbert who was Director of Netherhall from 1987 until 1997 when he went to Hong Kong (and then in the early 2000s to Taiwan). Now fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, he was able to address everyone in the local language with great ease. In 2010 he became headmaster of the HK school which is an initiative of the East Asian Educational Association (the Asian counterpart to the Netherhall Educational Association). He gave me a tour of the school which has been operating for about a decade and now boasts over 900 pupils. Most impressive. Because of the preparation needed, it is never possible to organise reunions in all the countries visited. This was the case with Singapore. Moreover, the flexi-plane ticket has the restriction that one can only stay once in any one city. Fortunately, Singapore Airlines adopt a ‘generous’ definition of ‘transit’ which means ‘anything less than 24 hours (after which it becomes a ‘stopover’)’. This was used to good effect, as flying with SIA meant that all routes had to pass through Singapore. This meant getting an early – or overnight – flight, then spending the day meeting old friends, and getting the late – or overnight – flight to the next destination. And Singapore’s efficiency means that one can get a lot done in one day. It enabled me to meet Lay Kok Tan, whose mother had recently died which also in fact prevented him from attending his Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ceremony in London, and also Philip Lim, who had just returned with his family from Hong Kong to Singapore, Terence Siew, and Professor Augustine Chong, with whom, as always, I exchanged notes on China. Another ‘China expert’ – Gregory Pang – was not in Singapore as his wife was expecting their first child in Perth (the birth took place in late November). But it was nice to meet Greg’s father together with Sony Adhiguna, who now has two children (both delivered by Lay Kok). A nice tradition has developed, with breakfast at Raffles with Peter Heng; lunch on the 62nd floor of Republic Plaza with Eugene Lim, Daniel Chia and Luke Peng; a pint of Guinness with Raj Devadas on the East Coast; more traditional seafood fare with Hari Gunasingham and his wife; and then a rather exclusive drinks on the top floor of the Swissotel with Lim Wah Tong. Every year, new buildings spring up in Singapore and I was to meet Kris Tan, who has just set up his own wine business, in a new development which boasts Singapore’s first casino (although entry to the casino itself was free for foreigners, I refrained from venturing inside!).
Left hand side, left to right, Seated: Harushige Nakakoji, Sam Yoshiura, Neil pickering. Standing: Edward Wijaya, Go Kobayashi, Masayasu Maki, Takahiro Sekine, Hideaki Nagashima, friend of Haruo, Hiroshi Takahashi (seated: student of Haruo) Right hand side seated, right to left: Michael Teague, Nao Tashiro, Toshi Ozawa, Yutaka Kikugawa, Haruo Tohmatsu. Standing right to left: Seizo Inahata + friend of Haruo. After visiting other countries, the next ‘transit’ enabled me to link up with Tim Watkin, Edward Lam and Mark Yeo, who spends one week a month in Singapore from his normal Dubai work place. Interspersed with former residents, it was good to catch up with others associated with Netherhall such as Peter Lim, Ronnie Chong, Louis de Souza and Adrian Villanueva. On the very last afternoon, I met Joe Pillay, who had spoken at Netherhall when he was High Commissioner in UK. Finally, I also met Alex Ling who – believe it or not – was the Deputy Head Boy of the de la Salle School in Kuching when Denis Chang was Head Boy! During brief stopovers in Thailand, I met with Panuchat Tongudai, who was, as always, most hospitable in showing me famous sites which I never thought I would see, and Kanit Muntarbhorn, who gave a signed copy of his latest book , Thai Food and Cuisine: Original, Traditional, Authentic, for Netherhall. En route to Kuala Lumpur, I was able to drop in to see Freddie Long (he, Pan and myself were all contemporaries in Netherhall), who has now retired from being State Legislative Member of Johor Bahru to spend more time with his golf clubs – and also increasing the number of his fine restaurants in both Johor Bahru and Malacca.
In the one night spent in Kuala Lumpur, the young and ‘young at heart’ got together for a meal: Joseph Poh (recently married) and Heng listened as Danny Tan and Leow Chai Fah explained what life was like in Netherhall in the 1960s. A few spare hours allowed me to meet others who had passed through the doors of Netherhall: Jo Fonseka, Andrew Solomon, who very kindly took me everywhere in his car, and Joe Khoo. The second ‘reunion’ was held in Tokyo. Since Japan is larger than Hong Kong, it is not so easy to gather everyone together. Former residents are dispersed all over the country. So it was great to see over a dozen attending a dinner in the centre of Tokyo, organised by Go Kobayashi, who has now moved from the Japan Foundation to a post in international relations in Waseda University. Haruo Tohmatsu has also moved universities and is now Professor of Diplomacy and War History at the National Defense Academy of Japan. He brought with him a colleague and also two students who may well be future Netherhall residents. Hiroshi Takahashi, who had introduced Haruo to Netherhall, was there too, as was Yutaka Kikugawa, who has now settled back in Japan after his stint in Eritrea with UNESCO. Those who re-
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member Takahiro Sekine will be glad to know that he has not lost his strong Scottish accent. Edward Wijaya is now increasing his family to five children. Nao Tashiro had just celebrated his 3rd wedding anniversary. And Harushige Nakakoji rushed into the dinner from work as a teacher in Tokyo. The oldest Netherhall resident on this occasion was Toshi Ozawa from the mid 1970s (though a friend, Sam Yoshiura, is somewhat ‘senior’). A really nice surprise was that we were joined by Masayasu Maki. who had flown all the way from Nagasaki to be with us. We all had so much to relate that it was difficult to say goodbye. As always, not everyone could make the reunion but could meet elsewhere. Soichi Suzuki, who was in Netherhall with Takahiro and Masayasu), is one of the few men I know who has changed his name. His surname is now Hatoyama as he has married into the well-known political family. After a coffee at a rather nice cafeteria, in which we sat alongside Ken Watanabe of The Last Samurai fame, we went to pick up Soichi’s five year old boy, who surprised his father by speaking perfect English (he is at an international school but obviously speaks Japanese at home). We were also really lucky because Hiro Ikemoto was in town because he had just got married in Tokyo and had flown over from the Philippines where he works for the Asian Development Bank. So,
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together with, Seizo Inahata, who was my pupil when I worked in Japan in the early 70s, met with Hiro and his wife. Since the flight back through Singapore left from Osaka, it allowed a stopover there and I was able to meet Daisuke Yokoyama, Hiro Ohnaka and Koichi Joe, who took us to his NHK, the Japanese broadcasting corporation, and showed us Osaka from the top of a very high building. After three hours it was back on the bullet train to Okayama where Toshi Takahara has moved for extra work experience after heading Suzuki in Vietnam. Tt was lovely meeting his two little children together with his wife. There was enough time to spend the night at the Seido Language Institute where Andrew Hegarty, Fr. Phil Crossey and I had taught many moons ago, and tell them all about Netherhall and those who had passed through its doors (Seido is just starting a small residence in nearby Ashiya). As a kind of tangent to the trip, it was wonderful meeting up again with the Ta brothers, who had emigrated from Vietnam in the 1960s. Louis had been in Netherhall in the first half of the 1970s and in 1974/75 his brother arrived. I still recall the day that Felix asked if he could stay in the room where his brother had lived. Room 405 duly became the Ta room for the whole of the decade. Now, both married, Louis’ children are coming to
the end of their school years while Felix’s twins are just starting school. The ticket enabled a route through Colombo, where I met Mohan Ranaweera and his family as well as Maithra, an old friend from the 1980s. And then, finally, travelling very briefly through Delhi, I met Vibhor Singh, who brought me up to date on his professional plans and treated me to photos of his one year old baby. Eventually back in London, the lack of sleep paled in the background as old friendships were renewed and the Netherhall family grows stronger and bigger. Jeffrey Phang put it brilliantly, expressing his surprise at the thought that residents from ‘our’ days were now grandfathers! Time passes but, to quote the Queen Mother on 1st November 1966, for so very many Netherhall remains ‘a home away from home’.
above: Felix & Louis Ta (straddled 1970-1980 in Nh) with Neil pickering left: at the reuinion in hong kong Kneeling (left to right): friend of Denis Chang; Lawrence, Henry Suen; Dave Lin Standing (left to right): Two friends of Denis Chang, Joseph Chan, John Wong, Michael Leung, Bill Tam, Jonathan Lau, Shirley Lau, Vincent Lau, Chris Tsai, Tony Eccles, Agens Chang, Johnny Chan (above Agnes), Denis Chang, Brian Zhu & son & wife, Anthony Chan, Chew Seen Meng, Ian Carlson, Neil, William Liu, Luiz Pedruco, George Sun, Peter Herbert.
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From Voyeur to Auteur W
As video games evolve, they will not only number among recognised art forms, writes Andrei Serban, but may even go beyond them.
ith the release of more and more video games incorporating cinematic techniques, one can only wonder when the notion of auteurism (or individual authorship) will emerge in the industry. In cinema, the auteur is the film director as an individual unifying force, whose personal vision permeates the film. The concept of auteurism is particularly important because it opens up to related notions of artistic merits, trademarks, motifs, continuity, styles – all of which were ultimately crucial in defining cinema as the youngest art in the early twentieth century. In cinema, the moment when such notions were clarified and reached mainstream audiences marked the time of its elevation into an art form. Official recognition as the youngest art by more demanding audiences ended the harsh criticism and false predictions of cinema’s detractors, who had insisted until the early 1910s that films would never be art and could never match, let alone surpass, theatre and other earlier art forms in their merits. A pattern emerges when we compare this moment from the early history of cinema to the situation of video games nowadays (or at least until a decade ago) when more conservative yet well-respected film critics like the world renowned Roger Ebert insisted that ‘in principle, video games can never be art’. Before the 1910s, most films were short in length, mostly limited to a single reel and a corresponding structure (if one could call it that since most films consisted of a one-reel formula where everything was connected by one event, such as a long chase, extended to the level of caricature). They were mainly exhibited for entertainment and were appreciated for the technological advancement they represented and not necessarily for their content or any deep artistic merit. However, cinema quickly announced its groundbreaking possibilities and means of expression unpar-
alleled by any other art form. This became most evident when American filmmaker Edwin S. Porter began to experiment properly with editing and thus began to discover these possibilities, experiments further developed by Georges Melies in his fantasy/ early surreal films, most notably A Trip to the Moon (1902), which was also the first film to include animation. However, in order for cinema to be accepted by more demanding and conservative audiences, several changes were needed – in content, themes, structure, length and even venues. Most films at the time were shown in nickelodeons, which were small neighborhood movie theatres considered very unattractive by higher class audiences. In order for cinema to prove its detractors wrong and attain the status of art form, films had to present a clear narrative structure, lead to a moral message or outcome and, of course, connect in a certain manner to earlier art forms. This happened when American filmmaker D. W. Griffith made the transition from short to feature length films, forging the path to the classical period in cinema by creating the canonical narrative structure still used in most mainstream films nowadays. Griffith’s structure far exceeded the old one-reel single event formula, instead showing characteristics reminiscent of the classical narrative in literature – a five-level story structure expanding the conflict and further developing the plot beyond its intrigue. This was only possible by consecrating himself as an auteur, as a film author who thereafter shaped the notion of the film director as the sole unifying creative force. Video games have undergone a similar process – from arcades into our homes on several available platforms; from 2D to 3D graphics; from fantasy-themed to dealing with more realistic issues and orientated at several different markets. Pacman was the first game to incorporate a protagonist and thus make possible the same process of identification cinema requires from its audience. Later on, the Mario franchise succeeded in creating a primitive narrative structure that offered continuity, again very much similar to the early structure of most films in the early period. But there is a long way from these early days to the current ‘seventh generation’ of video games. The advent of all the Half Lifes and Grand Theft Autos raises some interesting questions regarding themes and motifs, questions which go beyond simple technological improvements and gaming possibilities. Most interestingly, the notion of authorship, the video game auteur, has recently begun to gain ground in the video game industry in a manner reminiscent of the pre-classical period of cinema. French game designer David Cage (real name De Grutolla) is most notable for bringing such notions to the mainstream of the game industry, almost reaching the status of auteur in a similar way that Griffith did in the mid to late 1910s. This is especially
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above: a still from david cage’s most recent video game, heavy rain evident in the way Cage’s games are promoted, with most of the marketing strategy relying on his image as ‘game director’, and not on the production company or distributor’s name, as is the case with most game releases. The latest entry into his gameography, Heavy Rain, was marketed as an interactive movie, a drama and thriller with neo-noir characteristics and no fantasy, sci-fi or supernatural elements whatsoever. It was aimed mostly at a mature audience. From the very first trailer, the game also announced itself as being part of the David Cage universe, especially since he is present in the video, taking on the role of the film/game director during the casting session of Heavy Rain. Furthermore, his previous cinematic game, Fahrenheit (a psychological thriller in which the player takes the form of several characters in order to unravel a mystery, and in which every decision and action is interconnected and has drastic consequences for the final ending) included so-called ‘Easter eggs’ or hidden references to his previous works which could be properly understood and appreciated by his fans or hardcore gamers – an aspect which personally reminded me of Hitchcock’s cameo appearances or Tarantino’s hidden references to his own films. In this manner, David Cage has constructed a universe of his own, where he is the unifying force, defining himself as author in an industry that is otherwise based on collaborative effort and heavy teamwork. While it is still somehow blurred and in its early stages, it is more and more obvious that the concept of the individual author is beginning to gain ground in the game industry. In the future, this could mark the elevation of video games into an independent art form, not merely as an extension to the possibilities of cinema,
as ‘interactive films’. If D. W. Griffith adapted notions and techniques from previously established art forms to elevate cinema as an independent art form in the 1910s, so too can game designers such as David Cage resort to similar techniques in order to create a universally-accepted, independent language and structure for the video games. While there will be detractors for a long time to come, games have proven themselves to offer something unique and previously not possible in any other art form. Even if most of them still incorporate cinematic techniques, they go beyond the passive voyeuristic nature of cinema, allowing the gamer not only identification with a character, but active involvement and even complete control – a possibility previously unoffered by any other art form and, perhaps, the mark of the newest art form.
George melies’ 1902 film, a trip to the moon, was the first to include animation
netherhall news 27
desert island discs
james osborn relates curious facts about netherhall residents gleaned from sunday evening interviews
Desert Island Discs continues to entertain the House every Sunday evening. Based on the well-known BBC Radio 4 show, residents are interviewed about their lives and also asked to select three pieces of music to play. Finally, the interviewee has the choice of a book along with the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, together with a luxury item. First, Clement Augier was interviewed by Ricard Rovirosa. Clement worked as an intern in the finance department of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessey group, the luxury goods company, though he said that he would much rather be working with people. In the summer, he works for the French Gendarmerie. When asked three adjectives to describe Netherhall, he pushed the definition of adjectives and went for ‘multicultural’,’ friendship’ and ‘football’. It was fitting that during Clement’s time in London, France comfortably beat England 2-1 at Wembley. For the desert island luxury, Clement appropriately chose to take a bottle of champagne and, curiously enough, two glasses. Arnil Paras, interviewed by Pablo Hinojo, was interesting not least because of his dramatic first-hand account of a volcanic eruption near his home city in the Philippines, which was so significant that it ended up featuring in Time magazine. Arnil comes from a very orthodontic family, where everyone (it seems) except him is up to their teeth in teeth! However, Arnil’s brother did work at Burger King for a while. Arnil’s music choices included Here comes the sun by George Harrison and Better together by Jack Johnson. The book he chose for the desert island was David McCullough’s Founding brothers. Next to be interviewed was Barry Solaiman, who was quizzed by Vincent Karyadinata. Barry was born in Damascus and lived in Syria until he was six years old. Even more exotically, Barry once worked in the Walkers crisp factory in Peterleigh. So he’ll be able to answer any questions on crisp manufacturing when he is not busy with his barrister course here in London. Asked what he would do if he were the king of the world, Barry plumped for sorting out the Israel and Palestine situation, and also occupying other planets. His three ideal dinner guests would be Stan Laurel, Sir Alex Ferguson and Michael Palin. An unusual choice of cheesecake was Barry’s luxury item for the island, presumably one that was large enough to see him through his time on it! In a reversal of roles Barry then interviewed Mon Chu Su. Mon Chu is from Hong Kong. In childhood, he explained, he was forced to learn a musical instrument at a tough school. Despite this, he clearly developed a gift for the piano and he accordingly played his three pieces of music for us. Mon Chu recounted a dramatic encounter with a black bear in Canada, an encounter which at one point featured a stand-off between himself and the grizzly (unfortunately for the bear, the rather more intimidating Mon Chu lived to tell the tale). For his luxury item Mon Chu requested a sofa, and a book on legal philosophy was his favoured reading material. James Osborn is in his second year studying Theology at King’s College London. He is in his first year of Netherhall domicility.
news from down under sergio maresca reports on the recent floods
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an you believe it?!! – just heard that someone saw a bull shark in the river now flowing through the main street of a town a couple of hours by car from Brisbane today!! – someone else saw a crocodile in a city park – I’m deadly serious - I’m not joking - snakes are appearing out of nowhere as they obviously seek to escape – people are therefore being warned to stay clear of the water - the Brisbane Central Business District has closed down as they expect The Brisbane River to flood the city tomorrow Thursday morning early @ about 4 .00 a.m. – the missing people’s toll has now risen close to about a hundred – they are looking for the bodies that they know are out there under all the debris, trapped in cars, in homes and under fallen trees – very sad - the tv and radio stations are broadcasting nothing else but flood updates – I notice that it is headline news all around the world – I repeat that we are absolutely ok because we are on higher ground and so there is absolutely no need to be concerned about us – the supermarket shelves are almost empty in places as people are panic buying in the worst affected areas – the weather has gone completely mad – many people have lost absolutely everything, homes, personal belongings, horses and cattle, cars – to add to their pain, most insurance companies only cover storm damage (i.e. water coming from ABOVE) – not flood damage (water coming from BELOW) – businesses have been crippled – it’s an unfolding disaster – absolutely unbelievable – I repeat we are absolutely Ok and absolutely no need to worry about us.