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My father, Lewis Frosh was just 8 years old on 4th October 1936 when he witnessed the Battle of Cable Street – a procession by Oswald Mosley and his antisemitic blackshirts, and the East End and Jewish communities’ counter-protest.
His is a rare eyewitness account of the Battle of Cable Street from the perspective of a child. History has documented the children at the counter-demonstration who threw marbles under the hooves of the charging mounted police. I have not, however, seen any of these children’s personal experiences documented. Until today.
This video video documents the experience of the then young body Lewis Frosh, who joined the counter-protests against the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Now aged 92, he was interviewed by his son, Adam Frosh, who also put the video together to commemorate the 84th anniversary of the protest against fascism.
We remember this important event where workers, socialists and the Irish community stood united, side by side with the Jewish community to stop the march of Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts. The treatment of the protestors by the police was particularly harsh. Despite this, Mosley was forced to stop the march, as the protesters chanted the Spanish civil war slogan “No pasaran” – “They shall not pass“.
Humans are fascinated by power. We seek personal power in many forms, such as in wealth, physical and mental strength. However, we are not just interested in power for our own gain, but we are also fascinated by others who wield it.
When thinking of aliens, one typically envisions a species much more technologically and culturally advanced than our own. We tend to imagine them as the ones who will visit and communicate with us, rather than the converse. We even visualise them as having the power to destroy our species and planet – a fact that both terrifies and intrigues us. Perhaps this explains our attraction to aliens. We see them as beings that can wield power beyond the capabilities of mortal humans.
Our fascination for superheroes and their villainous counterparts therefore comes as no surprise. They can perform feats that we could only dream of, inspiring the imaginations of both children and adults alike. The popularity of Marvel and DC is a testament to this – we never tire of seeing superheroes, new or old, on the big screen.
But I would argue that power is not the main reason we are so attracted to these figures. Instead, it is their humanity that fascinates us most. There is a reason that dei ex machina are frowned upon in literature – an all-powerful intervention by an unseen force for the greater good is not what intrigues us. Instead, it is the villain who is convinced to change sides, the hero who learns the importance of protecting those dear to them. Power is undoubtedly a concept that intrigues us, but it means nothing without the presence of flaws within the characters who wield it.
Humans are social creatures, and we take pleasure in identifying with others. Aliens are fascinating to us because they represent an outer force that we could perhaps relate to and communicate with. Superheroes struggle with problems just as we do, dealing with issues of loss, self-esteem, change and more. We enjoy being reassured that true power comes from inside a person. The hero cannot beat the villain without discovering something important about themselves and others around them, despite all their otherworldly abilities.
By a similar construct, we are also fascinated by ancient religions and stories involving pantheons of gods. In many ways these gods resemble modern superheroes – they are extremely powerful, but flawed just like us, which makes them very human. Gods were laughed at and cheered on by the ancient listeners, as they are to this day by a modern audience. While we find their powers intriguing, we are more interested in how people with human psychologies would use them, perhaps far more fascinating to us than a faceless and all-powerful deity, who will invariably use their powers for good. Instead, we see gods in both modern and ancient stories use their powers for mortal pleasures, such as sex, self-validation, and revenge.
If Achilles put aside his anger and fought in the Trojan war from the beginning, there would be no story to tell. Instead, his human emotions and psychology have immortalised the brilliant tales of the Iliad and its aftermath in the Odyssey. We want to see Achilles succeed in overcoming his emotions and therefore make the right decisions – not make the right choices from the beginning. Of course, his power fascinates us, but it is the withholding of it that is just so intriguing.
Maybe it is this concept of the withholding of inestimable power that we find so intriguing about aliens. Why have they chosen to not make contact with us? If they arrive, will we be able to communicate with them rationally? We imagine that aliens have the capacity to destroy us all, but we would like to think there will be something in their moral system that will stop them from doing so. We typically imagine them as human-like in appearance, and we hope that their personalities are human-like too.
Power is something that endlessly intrigues us, but it means little to us when not considered in conjunction with the human psyche. A perfectly good and moral person with limitless power would not make for a great story that we can relate to and look forward to. Instead, we want to see flawed beings that are similar to us. We want to see how they struggle against emotional and physical torments despite their great power. It comforts us to know that true power is found within ourselves – and that if we keep on trying, good will eventually prevail.
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It’s not an easy task to spend time studying the newly colourised photographs on the Faces of Auschwitz website, let alone read the stories from the Holocaust. Maybe it’s easier for me than many. Being a descendant of Polish Jews, when I read the string of tragic stories, I can identify with the suffering through a form of ancestral relationship to it. That doesn’t mean I can experience it more than anyone else, but it does give me a sense of connection to it.
The Faces of Auschwitz post about Prisoner 7675 haunted me in a special way. We know what she looked like, we know she was Jewish and we know she was murdered in Auschwitz on June 19th, 1942. There are many posts that provide considerable detail into the names and lives of Auschwitz’s victims. It’s fairly natural that the more we know about an individual, the more we can relate to them. Prisoner 7675 falls within a separate category, where the observer is left to use their imagination to fill in the unanswered questions. What was her name? Where did she come from? Did she, and does she have any family?
One of the things they don’t tell you as a first time novelist is the joy and excitement when you finally see your book in print. The first proof of Space Taxis, soon to be published sci-fi novel, has finally arrived. Have a look at our reaction in the video. There’s even a cameo performance of our dog!
Battlestar Galactica had me riveted from start to finish. The quest was clear and the stakes for humanity were high. The characterisations were developed at an early stage, and the director had clear visions as to how the characters would play out. I look back on them fondly. Edward James Olmos’ William Adama was a refreshing new type of captain – quietly intelligent, battle-hardened and reflective and comparatively older than his counterparts in previous space operas. His mature reflections and deep loyalty to humanity’s sole survivors rank him as my all-time favourite science fiction ship’s captain.
I have so far watched three episodes of The Expanse and therefore, you may argue, I’m not yet in a position to make a reasonable comparison between the series. However, the first three episodes are make-or-break for any viewers and is the most defining time as to whether the viewers will choose to invest hours of their free time watching it.
The Expanse is without a doubt ambitious. The effects are stunning. The premise is strong. We have an understanding of unrest between Earth and Mars, and there’s a space station on the asteroid belt where the nations of each planet derive their resources. The people who live there are called Belters and we develop an understanding that they are treated scornfully by the planet dwellers. A fedora-wearing detective is investigating the disappearance of a daughter from a wealthy family on Earth and at the same time seems to be involved in the space station politics, even, whilst in a bad mood, threatening a political demonstrator. I have had my hearing checked and it’s thankfully normal, but I’m finding the mumbling of this detective hard to follow.
In another arc, a space mission replete with crew with stereotypical space ship, high testosterone persona on a mission to retrieve ice from Saturn responds to a distress signal. They find a dead ship and send five crew in a shuttle to investigate it. Their mother ship is attacked leaving just the five crew on the shuttle as survivors.
In another arc, a terrorist is being investigated by the administration on Earth.
Without a doubt, the story is going to unfold and delight its fans with plot twists and great effects. Where I’m struggling with it, is in its failure to present the stakes in its early episodes, instead relying on world-building as the initial hook. The intense and macho acting of the male actors is a put off for me, but I’m sure there are many who appreciate it. I imagine if I knew The Expanse characters personally, I’d become exhausted in their presence within minutes. I know many soldiers, truly hardened from seeing action, who don’t exhibit such in-the-face personas. In my experience of many years of studying martial arts, the most deadly of its exponents are often humble people.
Maybe it’s a modern phenomenon from Hollywood, but mumbling dialogue seems to be on the rise. It was never present on Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek or great space opera movies such as Star Wars or Alien. Maybe I’m just behind the times.
In essence, I’m finding The Expanse a struggle to watch, which is a great shame because I’m told it will unfold into something excellent.
Can somebody persuade me to carry on watching it?