Mar 222019

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva



Dani Lebo is the wife of Nelson Lebo III, a regular contributor at the Automatic Earth. They are two Americans who have settled in Whanganui on the North Island of New Zealand. Whanganui is over 600 km (400 miles) from Christchurch on the South Island, but that is where Dani found herself last Friday, in the park next to the mosque where most of the victims fell. This is what she wrote about that.

Dani and Nelson named their son after a Neil Diamond song.


Dani Lebo with son Suleiman


Dani Lebo: A week after my son was born, I come across his name in an article in the New York Times. I catch my breath. He is a young man. He is describing the scene after a bomb tore through his village in Afghanistan. He is terrified, he says. He doesn’t know where to sleep. I don’t sleep that night either.

A year and a half later I see my son’s name in our local paper. He arrived six weeks ago from Syria. His brother and sister were killed by a bomb that woke him in the night. He is 5 years old and has already witnessed more tragedy than I will ever see in my lifetime.

Today I say my son’s full name as he giggles and throws himself into my arms. I sing the song that he was named for. He laughs. His shaggy golden hair covers his blue eyes.

“His name means ‘peace’,” I once justified to a Plunket nurse who didn’t even attempt to pronounce it. For some reason I felt the need to explain away her unwillingness to engage in something she saw as “different” or “too hard”. It is uncommon here, but common in the Muslim world. My son shares his name with millions of boys – millions of Muslim boys. Their mothers also named them “peace”.


People gathered to mourn at Hagley Park, Christchurch, last weekend. Photo Michael Craig


And then there I was sitting on the floor of a potting shed in Hagley Park on Friday, March 15, thinking about how relieved I was that my Suleiman, my laughing, smiling, joy of a boy was nowhere near me. Relieved that my Suleiman was safe at home – protected from this scene by 627km and the colour of his skin. And while I was sitting there feeling that relief I was so acutely aware that just a few hundred metres away sat a mother who was, in that very moment, watching her own son die.

In my head I know I was safe that day, but I’m having trouble telling my mind that.

Although I was very close to the shooting, I was never a target. I have run through a few hundred scenarios in my head where the day ends differently – the gunman’s car doesn’t start and he escapes on foot through the park – or he returns to the police cordon after the initial shooting – or his hatred is just slightly less predictable and he decides to spread his terror in a more random direction.

In each of these scenarios he comes to the shed where we were waiting. I try to dismiss these thoughts as quickly as they come, but they are wearing me down. They are wearing me down and I wasn’t even in any real danger. I heard no shots. I saw no blood. My Suleiman was far far away.

I almost didn’t write this column because people are feeling fatigued by this story, by this grief. I am feeling fatigued by my story, by my grief. But I want to let you know how I am feeling. Because you might be feeling this way too one day.

On Friday I spent four hours sitting in a shed in Hagley Park surrounded by uncertainty and fear. Like hundreds of others I waited tensely within blocks of the shooting not knowing exactly where and what was happening.

The fear and sadness and rage I am experiencing this week has given me a glimpse, the smallest tiniest of understanding, of what it would be like to exist in a world of uncertainty and fear.

The world where a man sits near the window when he prays because he is certain that one day he will need to use it as an escape route. And then he does. The world where children are trained in lockdown procedures. The world that our Muslim friends, our black friends, our Chinese friends walk in every day.

My experience that day wasn’t exceptional, and to me that’s an exceptional comment on the state of the world.



• Dani Lebo has a background in international relations and education. She runs The ECO School, an organisation dedicated to accessible sustainability education.





Jan 072015
 January 7, 2015  Posted by at 8:00 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , ,  11 Responses »

French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s website now shows the image above. In French, Je Suis Charlie doesn’t only translate as I Am Charlie, but also as I Follow Charlie. Let’s. And let’s not allow the US and all the other western governments to blemish the memories of those who were killed today by using their deaths to promote empty slogans about liberty. Because that’s not what Charlie Hebdo stood for, empty slogans.

There’s a long-running gag in the Anglo world that claims French people are not very courageous. We can now once and forever erase that claim. The people who were shot and killed today were exceptionally brave. Of course the comparison with the North Korea/Sony hack situation will be made, but it really shouldn’t. It would take away way too much from the staff at Charlie Hebdo, and add way too much undeserved praise to Seth Rogen, Sony and Obama.

One thing is now sure: you can pencil in Marine Le Pen as the next president of France. And I doubt she’ll wait till 2017, when François Hollande’s term is up. Hollande looks done. That means the testosterone suffering idiots who shot two dozen people in the center of Paris today will end up making the lives of Muslims in France a lot harder. Be careful what you wish for. And no, they haven’t avenged any prophet either. No prophet worth his/her stature can be wounded by a cartoon.

The men and women at Charlie Hebdo would have been the first to take the side of French Muslims, and undoubtedly have done so on many occasions. They stood up against any sort of hubris, of which there happens to be a lot in France. A certain interpretation of Islam was just one of many things.

Now the French people, including the Muslim population, are short a whole editorial staff full of people who believed in the idea of fighting anything that’s just plain stupid. And, don’t let’s forget, had the courage to do to engage in that fight. Religion was but a small part of that. In terms of American comedy, I guess you’d have to think along the lines of Lenny Bruce or George Carlin.

There are between 5 and 7 million Muslims living in France, perhaps some 10% of the population (in the US, it’s less than 1%). There is a long history of Muslims living in the country. But if you’ve ever been to Paris, and seen the banlieues, the slumps, you know how these people are still being treated. France, as I said, is a country full of hubris, hiding under banners like ‘tradition’. That’s where France has been wrong for many decades now, and the price will be paid for that. You can’t create ghettos and expect to be just left alone forever to enjoy yet another good vintage.

The French political class are all, left or right, educated at the same handful of schools. Just like they are in the US and Britain. They know nothing about ghettos, and they don’t care. They just want to play their little games and enjoy the attention and the money that come with the job.

But even more than the ignorance and hubris of the French themselves, things like the attack today are the result of US-induced and executed politics in the Middle East and North Africa over the past decades -at least -, politics today forced upon allies through such organizations, way past their best before date, like NATO and the IMF. And the EU.

There are many reasons why the EU should cease to exist, and ironically today’s bloodshed will bring its end closer, since Marine Le Pen wants nothing to do with it. What’s more important, though, is that the increasing centralization of power in Brussels takes away from that in Paris and Berlin. There is now one voice that speaks for Europe when it comes to international politics, and it’s fully dictated by Washington.

We’ve seen where that can lead last year in Ukraine. The diplomatic relationships that historically existed, and took many years to build, between separate European nations and the ‘outside world’, for instance between Germany and Russia, or France and North Africa, don’t mean much anymore now that Brussels determines diplomacy – and the lack thereof -, and simply parrots the US.

That is an unintended consequence of establishing the already horribly failed pan-European model that we will all pay for dearly. What happened in Paris is just the beginning. These diplomatic channels still exist today, but before long the people who are pivotal to maintaining them will be gone.

Then it will be just Brussels talking to Putin, and to Assad, and all these other people who we don’t have to fight as long as we keep talking to them, and point to what our ancestors on both sides said and did in days of old. Brussels and Washington today stand for a scorched earth strategy in diplomacy, and that does not bode well. France wouldn’t have instigated the current Russian sanctions, nor would Germany; they would have used their long-established and cherished diplomatic channels. These are now going to waste. A very scary development indeed. It’s like the whole world is losing an entire dimension.

Perhaps we should feel fortunate that this is not the only reason to blow up – figuratively speaking – Brussels. Obviously, the Greek elections in 18 days are on many people’s minds when it comes to threats to Brussels, but it’s certainly not the only one. Two separate Bloomberg headlines today make that clear:

German Unemployment Falls to Record Low on Strengthening Economic Recovery

German unemployment fell for a third month in December to a record low, signaling that growth in Europe’s largest economy will accelerate in 2015. The number of people out of work fell a seasonally adjusted 27,000 to 2.841 million in December, the Federal Labor Agency in Nuremberg said today. The adjusted jobless rate dropped to 6.5%, the lowest level in records going back more than two decades.

The rest of the article is just a whole load of nonsense, hubris and whale blubber. But then you contrast it with this:

Italy Jobless Rate Rises to Record Amid Growth Outlook Concerns

Italy’s unemployment rate increased more than forecast to a new high of 13.4% in November as companies failed to hire on concern the country’s longest recession on record isn’t about to end. The jobless rate rose from a revised 13.3% in October, the Rome-based national statistics office Istat said in a preliminary report today. The November reading is the highest since the quarterly series began in 1977.

It doesn’t need much explaining, does it? Europe’s north continues to squeeze its south, and there’s no end in sight. The eurozone as a whole fell into deflation in December, the first time since September 2009, even if the media don’t call it that. Where is this going to end? There’s only one answer, isn’t there? If the European economy doesn’t magically recover, the north will – continue to – save its economies by strangling the south. With France squeezed in an unenviable position somewhere in between. That’s not going anywhere good.

So what to do? First, the EU needs to be dismantled, starting with the eurozone. European countries can work wonderfully together as long as they can make their own economic and fiscal decisions, without having their monetary policies – increasingly – dictated by a Brussels politburo. There are far too many people operating in Brussels who can’t be held accountable for their actions, as there are in Washington. Never a good thing.

Then, France has to treat it Muslims better. All European countries need to. And they need to treat their relationships with Muslim countries better. If you want Muslims to stay where they are, instead of coming to Europe, something many people clamor for, give them the tools to do that with. Give them a future in Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Libya.

The first step towards achieving that is to tell the US to stop interfering in all these countries, or at least to stop supporting its actions (dismantle NATO as well as the EU). And to let France use its ties with that part of the world to a mutual benefit, and for Germany, Italy, Britain to do the same.

It’s frankly sickening to see all these leaders, the American and British ones loudest of all, use today’s attack to once again promote their empty messages about liberty and freedom, over the dead bodies of a group of people who certainly wouldn’t have liked them doing that.

There are far too many people in the world who only have been granted – by us – the liberty to be dirt poor, to be shot by drones, and to have their resources exploited by western businesses and governments and their local cronies, without ever seeing a penny in return.

That is not how you build a peaceful world. The guys who shot Charlie Hedbo to bits today are just banal idiots, but they didn’t come from nowhere. We in the west have built our wealth on the suppression of other people, and on taking their resources away without paying anything near a fair price. It’s known as colonialism, and it is really not that complicated a model. It takes but a few seconds to understand.