Tag Archives: peace

Can there ever be a “Great” War?

I browsed in a large local museum this weekend and noticed how all the augmented war related items in the shop were one view: heroes. Book titles ranged from “We’re here to win the war for you” (the American airmen’s reply to what they were doing on East of England airbases) to local memories and series on historic war campaigns and vehicles. Even the chocolate was supporting wounded soldier heroes.

There was nothing on the shelves to show the other view of WWI, which seems as controversial as the Middle Eastern conflicts. People are being encouraged to see this centenary one way, that of pride in militancy, in battle driven victory, in uniformed heroes that touched our local lives.

People are encouraged to say, My great granddad fought in the war, but not, my great granddad refused to fight and was a conscientious objector, or: my solider granddad was deeply traumatised and the rest of the family suffered too. Only one book in the museum had anything about peace protesting, and even that was coming from a skewed view. “Are they anti troop?” the author wondered of a group he saw at Parliament Square, who he approached nervously. He defended them by saying (surprise implied) that they were intelligent – what did he expect?

I’m very supportive of No Glory in War, who will be meeting in that same Parliament Square, Westminster next month. Details are found here: london-4-august-event-in-parliament-square

And yes, I filled in a comments card.

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Poppy Day reprised

I wish to post my thoughts on this again. I’ve little to add, except the notable sea of poppies at this week’s “gentle (non) grilling” of Britain’s security chiefs, which will be my next post, unless my crossness at the Greens on obesity bursts out first….

https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/poppyday-controversial-thoughts/

And to say I am supporting the No Glory Campaign and that again, neither of my poppies are red

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The Lady, the Playwright and the Telepath

I have watched three films in short succession on oppressive regimes where freedom has been curtailed. One was a fictional story about a writer in East Germany, being spied on and censored by the secret police – something that happened to some of the cast of the film, one of whom died suddenly. This was the excellent Lives of Others or Die Leiben de Anderen. Then came The Lady, the Luc Besson film on Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent the best part of 20 years under house arrest, unable to take her voted in position of leader because the military rulers did not wish it. Lastly was Salman Rushdie’s novel brought to the screen, Midnight’s Children, about the struggles of India to regain independence from British rule, and then its own battles under Indira Gandhi. In all these, interrogation, torture, imprisonment, death were unleashed upon those who would speak out against the regime.

 

And much of me felt grateful to have never lived in such circumstances, but also great sadness and anger at the injustice – one my country has not faced in living memory.

 

But as much as some of the horrors in these countries and others are things I cannot say are experienced here, I also felt fearful. For some of the issues indeed resounded: bans against public meetings; surveillance (ever easier with the internet) of subversives; people taking power against the people’s wishes and making policies that clash with the values of the country, but are overridden for ideological reasons in the name of the interests of the people; and those who stand up to it being bullied into silence.

 

Just a peek at recent news reveals abuses of growing police powers – infiltrating political groups and having sexual relationship to gain information; and then wanting this to be tried in secret courts – if at all. I don’t feel free and safe in my country, where there are camera on every street corner, police have powers for compulsory stop and search; where the law that is meant to be part of the bedrock of a just and equal society is often not allowing ordinary people to claim that justice; creating poverty and increasing the power and wealth of the rich; forcing people into effective slave labour if they are not working or in a way that the government sanctions; forcing mind and body altering operations without consent. Our votes don’t get us who and what we ask for, and petitions and letters are often ignored or met with standard, disinterested responses. We too encourage fear of certain groups that are deemed a threat to those in authority who can be searched and arrested for vague reasons.

 

Countries like the above might look to those of us who have a supposed developed and running democracy, a freedom of speech, and their hopes and battles are to make their countries more like ours. We should be ashamed that I am not sure any country could really be a model for fairness and liberty. We’ve allowed a global system of greed to take over; we settle conflicts with warfare, and perhaps none of us can really feel we trust our leaders to be doing what they say and doing the best for us. Is anywhere above corruption yet? I cannot say my country is.

 

We should make this the year that we all strive to be the kind of democracy that has and is still being fought for – truly a rule of the people, for the people, without fear of reprisal for speaking out and wanting something different, achieved without the violence that sadly has come with so many other struggles.  We want the world to follow an example of transparency, not be impressed by a veneer of deceit. What is the best kind of family – the one that rules by iron rod, or the one that supports its diverse children to grow, even if that means questioning the parents sometimes? For a true, strong leader can cope with questions; only the insecure and fearful try to quell the queriers.

 

I know what sort of country I’d like to live in, one that we all should strive for – and if even a shadow of this oppression resonates in our leaders, they need to be changing away from these old orders and into the fair, just and peaceful lands we all deserve and desire.

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Poppyday controversial thoughts

Last year, at the start of my Justice/Chickens piece I said I’d missed the day and hadn’t quite formulated my thoughts. This year, I have attempted to marshal them in time.

 

I note what an emotive subject this is, and I sense an expectation to wear poppies and say the “right thing” around Armistice day. Those two minutes of silence always make me uncomfortable as I wonder quite what to think, having been a pacifist for as long as I knew what one was – though I had strongly been drawn to the military as a child.

 

You’ll also note that I opposed to the idea of debt, so this being a day of reflecting on what we owe is also not something I am comfortable with.

 

I realise that for those who have been in war, or their loved ones have, that they believe they have made a brave sacrifice in serving their country in order to keep the rest of us safe.  I am respectful of the sentiment behind this, and most of all, of the trauma and suffering caused for all those concerned.

 

It is that trauma that asks why it is ever suitable to serve in this way. What is being achieved when for everyone involved, there is ongoing pain (either from bereavement, stress, disfigurement…)

 

I am also against the manipulation being used  around poppy day – an unsaid pressure to wear one (as seen in so many photographs of officials this time of year) and I feel, a lack of freedom of expression around the subject. As I learn more about what went on during the war, I am increasingly infuriated by the amount of control exerted by our own side: employing women to give out cowards kisses to men not in uniform; to imprison and even kill your own; some have even been coerced into being assassins for their country, unbidden to share their burden; destroying heritage as well as animals.

 

I never see violence as a way to solve violence. We solve no other conflict in this way, so why between countries? And why is it seen as heroic to have been part of inflicting that violence on others? Saving others and extreme survival are medal worthy – that is not.

 

I am pleased to be part of a service tomorrow to pledge to stop all wars. Though I realise there are many reasons to wear red poppies, but mine will be white, as part of that pledge.

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