Leni Farrer – afancdogge – a tribute to a veteran Comment is Free Poster

Also at breakfast on the road to Bingzhonglou, Yunnan Province, China. Another Leni appreciated.

Also at breakfast on the road to Bingzhonglou, Yunnan Province, China. Another Leni appreciated.

Leni Farrer – afancdogge – a tribute

Leni Farrer  posted seriously and perceptively on Comment is Free for over five years, as afancdogge. To quote her from a post she made here – an afanc today is a beaver – in welsh mythology – a mysterious being dragged from lake bala – dogge is my rescue mongrel. dogge has love and heart.

She first visited this site on New Years Eve 2012 to send best wishes to  everyone, posted a couple of tunes on New Years Day and then returned again on 23 February to say ” What a sad site – and a sad sight too. To see a group of people all ganging together in this way to attack one person . I thought better of some of those among you I know”.  In this she was only the latest of the Untrusteds to visit here with a view to provoking a row.  Her misconception was politely corrected by those she had accused, although her sympathy with BeautifulBurnout , one of the Untrusted’s more abusive members, was clearly misplaced. (A search of the Guardian’s record fails to show that MrsB at any time replied to even one of Leni’s innumerable posts.)  Likewise her too mild criticism of the racist bully HankScorpio  – “i did pull Hank up on his racist remarks – only did it once as I felt I had made my point”.  

To me, not to condemn the use of the word “nigger” is the worst kind of cultural relativism.  Or to quote the Independent, “Whether the words or behaviour are abusive or insulting is an objective matter; it does not depend on whether the alleged offender intended his words to be abusive or insulting.” Had I made that remark we’d never have heard the end of it.

The exchange of views that went on over the next two days and her defence of some of those who inhabit the Untrusted site showed a flaw in Leni’s politics that should come as a surprise to many of those who came to regard her as a latter day saint of the internet. She returned briefly on 17 March to enquire about Sara’s health, again on the 23rd after being admitted to hospital and on 28th, ” to defend both myself and tx (Turminderxuss) against unwarranted accusations of racism”. She was answered politely by others here and I posted the verbatim account from the Untrusted site. On 16 April she returned to leave a short post for her friends.

There is a lot of sentimentality surrounding Leni, often from people who have read little if any of her extensive posting history. So here are some of her posts to set the record straight.

 On religion

Accept it or reject it – religion has always played a major role in human affairs. It deserves to be be ‘wondered about’.

The biggest problems seem to stem from our inability to understand the internal space which religion – or opposition to it – create in believers and the antireligion brigade.

One cannot understand the other – be they members of another faith or other sects from within the same religion. The gulf between theists and atheists seems unbridgeable.

Humanist universalists who try to see beyond the religious divide come up against belief systems which teach difference both within their faith community and across religious divides.

These differences result in differing and often opposing moral and social codes. Once these become the foundations of political thought and structure we are set on collision course , one against another at both inter and intra religious level.

Much to ponder – outright atheism is no more useful in solving these problems than the ‘inter faith dialogues’ which seem to have become permanent fixtures within both politics and religion.

Carry on pondering – please just stop the vilification and the killing for God which for so long has also been an established fixture.

From the Guardian’s:    I’ve changed my mind about religion.26 Dec 2009 11:59am

 On Sleep

Sleep it is a blessed thing and all that. Sleep, or lack of it, has featured in myth, story and poetry for ever. It is obviously something which has preoccupied us for a long time. We also have the moralising attitude which decries the night owl. “Early to bed…” I am a night owl, something of a free runner now I don’t have to get off to work in the morning at a given time. Self employment has its advantages. I can find myself out of sync with the busy day time world but can’t break myself from my love of the silent hours after midnight. To blame gadgets seems a poor excuse for demanding that we all obey the same rules. There have always been things around to keep ua awake at night. The over riding technological advance was the discovery of lighting. Cave men no doubt welcomed the warm glow of the camp fire, around which they gathered to set the world to rights or hack away at flints. My “best bit” is waking up, the feeling of comfort and just the right temperature. Often I feel so tired that the effort of going to bed is too much. Once I’m over that stage I can generally keep going for several more hours. There is now the additional lure of waiting for CiFers from other times zones

On Culture

‘Great’ works of art , literature or music have universal relevance – if they cannot be updated and placed in other settings then they fail us . Rigoletto is a very simple story – very human and could be set anywhere and at any time .

Much of EU structural funding for culture and design has gone in the past to lots of sectors . One of the major criticisms coming from the Commission is that in some countries control of ‘culture’ is too centralised and therefore to an extent controlling .

Morris dancing is an Art form – a means of expression – of self and of community . Years ago the Gulbenkian Foundation funded community groups to make video recordings of their daily lives – there are groups dedicated to the preservation of old pics showing ways of life and long lost crafts . People need to both express themselves and appreciate the striving and accomplishments of others – alive or dead . The tall wobbly buildings in Yemen or the music of India are also part of our cultural heritage – part of human achievement. The struggle for universal education or health care produced writers and artists – the list is endless. Culture is not insular.

Until culture is given a very broad definition and embraces all human activity it will continue to divide through false values . You will see I care a lot about this – across the spectrum. It is about human expression – but also about not allowing one sector to take control of and then misuse history and human creativity as symbols of power or the creation of false histories .

About Comment is Free – where she spent a large amount of her time:

When I first came to CiF long posts and interesting discussions were the norm – I learned a lot in areas I had little experience of and in some cases came to understand why others held views opposed to mine . I might not have come to agree with them but could see why they believed as they did . The aim of the discussion then became to try to bridge the gap .

But – all gone . We seem assailed on all sides by trite nonsense – I say this as someone who values the role of nonsense and silliness in our lives – in addition to the serious and thought arousing . I love the creative and the ponderous both . In short I am disappointed in CiF.

About Twitter , reflecting, on the detrimental effect of its 140 character limit and what she felt was the demise of long posts and interesting discussions. Reflecting was something Leni Farrer did particularly well.

I have more or less given up – I look in here each day to see if anything worth supporting has been suggested . Not that it makes much difference – it seems the agenda is already set. Wanting to read more than than 140 characters about a subject – any subject – is probably connected to the fact that you are a literate thinking being. Still – the cost of education for the masses will be reduced as the workaday vocabulary is reduced to monosyllables, grunts and text speak.

Gove will be pleased . Leni

On Israel and Palestine

In her early days on CiF right up to the election of the current government in 2010, her posts were mainly about the conflict between Israel and Palestine and the wider Middle East.

She was a firm supporter of the Palestinians although this never diverted her from displaying the even handedness and the need for compromise that others remember and have commented on.  Here she is in January 2009:

We need a non partisan peace movement, here,in Israel and Palestine which will attract a broad body of support which actively works towards peace without demonising either peoples, which combats exremism and which recognises the history and culture of both.

That Israel can be a force for good in the region is undeniable — in fact it could be said that her developed economy is necessary if the region as a whole is to flourish, as long as the benefits are shared and the Palestinians given the opportunity to participate .The sharing of natural resources, the how to solve the problems of increasing aridity in the region alone is a reason for bringing people together and starting dialogue.

The peaceful settlement with equal status to both peoples living together would help to heal many of the inter religious violence throughout the world and would hopefully start to build a new consensus based on dialogue and the recognition of a shared heritage. We will either learn to respect each other or we will all founder.

She also posted about religion, from her perspective as a pagan, philosophy, economics and the environment. 

Hello Dawn

On Saturday I posted a SUGGESTION that we talk about small things – invertebrates. Insects, worms etc.

They constitute 80% of species 20% of which are endangered . Earthworms and pollinating insects are vital for agriculture – and our gardens . Their value to humings in monetary terms runs into the billions.

Beautiful in themselves the creepy crawlies need our help – but we need them too.

Even spiders are essential – do you want to be waist deep in flies ? The pretty one such as butterflies and dragon flies have been symbols of liberation for generations – but there are so many more , some so tiny we never see them . Very tiny critters living in soils and leaf litter – and – I do not know how many species – sea and fresh water folk.

They also have the right to exist for themselves – same as us .

Please Dawn – can CiF help to raise awareness ?

If you don’t like the creepies – have a look at some macro-pics and see how wonderful they are .

On the Welfare State

Neither was she a sentimental, uncritical, supporter of the Welfare State and the benefits system as she demonstrated in her response to Joseph Harker’s plea for the continuation of the principle of universality, when Osborne announced the end of child benefit for all:

Just over three months ago on cif I – and others – asked for articles looking at the breadth and depth of the fall out from these cuts. It was evident from the start that the sick, the disabled and the unemployed were only the first to be targetted.

The lack of response and support for the impoverished from those who felt secure in their own comfort zone was not unexpected – many of them joined in the finger pointing and scapegoating – but was disappointing as it proved we live in a harsh and uncaring society.

Do you expect me to sympathise with you because you cannot pay for swimming lesons for your children despite earning in excess of £40.,000 pa ? 
Yur child benefit for 5 children must be the eqivalent to or more than unemployment benefit.

Perhaps you can take comfort fom the fact that some childen here in Britain are in receipt of food parcels from charity to ensure their well being whilst many will be forced to move out of their current rented home as HB is cut . Cild pverty – in real terms – is on the increase. I hope you will speak out on behalf of the poorest families and the millions of children who can oy dream of dancing or swimming lessons.

Your selfish response to your own perceived ‘loss’ has made me very angry – but has confirmed my view that those who are happy to scapegoat the sick and unemployed have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the meaningof poverty and deprivation.

She did post later on the same thread to indicate that maybe her initial reaction was not quite as definite as she’d intended, with the following:

Looking beyond this particular article I agree that are anomolies in this policy – those without dependant children earning in excess of k40 will not be touched at all by it. it also moves some families competely from the benefit system thereby removing their support for benefits for poorer families. Taxation is clearly the better option. From an electoral point of view this would antagonise even more tory voters . Targetting CB gives the impression of ‘sharing’ the pain whilst cushioning the majority of the higher income earners. There is a basic dishonesty being employed here. There is still time to backtrack between now and October 20.

And on the  National Health Service here she is responding to another legend of Comment is Free, princesschipchops about tuberculosis and the short memory or lack of research of those who now take the NHS for granted:

Hello Princess

TB took a terrible toll as we know. Reading some of these threads it seems that many commenters know very little social history – many seem unaware of their own roots and the conditions their parents or grandparents suffered under.

As you say the long , hard battle to improve the lot of and to enshrine their right to life for all in our thinking had a very short success. It is as though it never happened.

Centuries of struggle, a long slow groping towards the light of compassion and the simple recognition of a shared humanity being wiped out. It is terrifying to see how an ideology which discounts human need and dignity can so quickly take root in a society.

On George Galloway

Also agree about Galloway. Nasty- publicity seeking character . Does lots of harm.

On Pessimism

We see so many divisions and they seem to be widening – people forced apart by prejudice and hatred . Divisions perpetuated – be it differences in colour, religion, sexual orientation, abilities (both cognitive and physical ) wage levels and whether in or out of employment . This to name but some of the gulfs being exploited for the gain and advantage of the few .

Having been one of many who campaigned with and behalf of disabled children and adults over many years i survey the wreckage around us . We believed that as disability crosses all boundaries – can strike anyone at any time – winning the fight for equality and recognition of the needs of disabled people would help to build a society in which people were seen simply as people . Part of our campaign was to eliminate all discrimination based on difference . We failed .

On Leaving religion, ethnicity and nationalism out of it

I would like to believe that we can , someday, separate politics and development from religion and ethnicity . But for as long as ‘success’ is measured by the riches of the few , while ignoring the poverty of many , ethnic/class and religious difference will be used to scapegoat and marginalise into poverty and rejection .

40%+ of children under 3 are underweight and 55% of women suffer from anaemia in Gujarat . – there is hunger in the midst of plenty.

Wealth creation is not development – the concentration of wealth and opportunity in the hands of the few is not wealth distribution and does little to ease suffering .

Rural development needs to be taken seriously – the provision of food, water and education among all citizens are the proper activities of the politicians and leaders . Greed and corruption – identity politics which marginalise and deprive through fear and intimidation are growing trends around the world .

Shame on Cameron’s gvt. – and any other – which ignores cruelty by national or State leaders in the name of economic investment which seeks only to further enrich a small minority in both Gujarat and here in Britain .

Leave religion, ethnicity and nationalism out of it – feed the people – build a society in which wealth and opportunity are fairly distributed among all . Simply – respect your own humanity and recognise that of others .


On  paganism and agnosticism – if you want to treasure her memory don’t sully it with religious mumbo jumbo.

On (some) Christians and love.

When my husband died the local vicar refused to officiate at his funeral service – on the grounds that D and I were Pagans.  His grounds for refusal ? D had carved a large dragon for the local school – this in Wales. The children still love the dragon.



On Human Rights and the Religious

The idea of Goddess worshippers falling into poverty seems more like a statement of intent than anything else. This tactic still exists – worship the wrong god/goddess and you will have fewer rights – this will lead to your impoverishment or possible banishment from society and therefore your livelihood.

Promises of Justice to follow in the after life may comfort some but does not alleviate suffering in this one . Worse than that it enables believers and those who control them to avoid completely inequalities and injustice. They are enabled to avoid responsibility for cruel and repressive behaviour – because ‘God said ‘.

I am not suggesting that all believers deny their human responsibilities – many are aware that any expression of the Divine – however understood – can only be expressed through human activity and attitudes to ‘other’ – all other.


On the problems of being all things to all people

I wish people would stop arguing the merits or otherwise of different religions and start to think in human terms.

The Rohingya people have been persecuted for decades. They are stateless refugees – driven back across an unwelcoming border by Bangladesh. Thousands live in refugee camps – often without proper facilities or medical aid. MSF has been ordered to stop helping the people. As a long time supporter of the Pro Democracy movement I am very angry that my support for all the people of Burma/Myanmar* will possibly turn out to have been unwitting support for an ethnic nationalist state. If Suu Kyi will not speak out in support of all the people she does not represent Democracy as I understand it. The rush to gain control of Burma’s rich resources by other countries is preventing them from openly criticising both the present gvt. and those who oppose it – this is ethno killing on a grand scale. Stateless refugees need our support – whoever and wherever they are. To deny them is to deny our own humanity. A Muslim child feels hunger and fear in exactly the same way as any other child – Muslim parents grieve the loss pf their children just as you or I .

* Is it Burma or Myanmar – and is it significant? For Burmese refugees living in camps in Thailand it is and it’s Burma.

On Belief

So far neither theist nor atheist has proved their beliefs “beyond a reasonable” doubt. Each side quotes their own sources and their many leaders. Healthy, questioning doubt, whilst persuing a positive creative life (for those lucky enough to have the opportunity) and respecting the deeply felt convictions of others is a contribution. It may take a long time for this contribution to be recognised. Too much axe grinding going on.

History shows us that once conviction based on faith, be it theist or atheist, goes beyond the personal and becomes a system to be forced onto populations trouble will ensue. To simply divide the human race into believers and nonbelievers is nonsense , there is no *evidence* to support either view. Feel free to believe; don’t dimiss those of us who are still sufficiently aware to
question many things and who doubt that we have yet found the answer. Looking around me, following news stories from around the world makes me wonder if we have yet found the right question.
afancdogge, 17 March 2008 2:28am

Leni Farrer on Remembrance

Although it is natural to remember our own suffering and that of our people I remember the words of my great grand father.

He remembered early troubles in Ireland – the ‘guns in the thatch’ and had met older relatives who had survived the famines. He told me the stories, passed on the names of those who died of starvation all those years before and told me how anger and hatred can travel through the generations. He told me to understand the tragedies and remember them – to speak in defence of all people everywhere and to counter hatred.

A lesson I have remembered from early childhood.

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