SEPTEMBER - What on Earth?
I'm not going to mention the B word.
The Supreme Court has made its ruling. It's big.
There are other news items which are also of concern to thinking people. Generally, of late, the news has been predictably negative. I felt, on Tuesday, that there is a sense around me this country may be a fair place after all. But yesterday we were back to the aggressive language of power and privilege and superiority - so I can't ignore the propensity for violence here or abroad. There is a lot of bullying - anger - a great deal of blustering - resentment - helplessness - hurt . And this is illustrated just about everywhere. I am bewildered that, in the 21st century, we can still see a possibility of war within and between nations. Education is the key to understanding and yet, with most people in these islands, since the late nineteenth century, having been in school, there doesn't appear to be an improvement in empathy, tolerance or a willingness to address difficult problems by listening, reflecting and projecting. Right now anger is being whipped up. Fear and frustration are rife. We can all see where this is going. Scotland is being prepared for the effects of the B word. Someone's son will be expected to put himself in the way of aggression to protect you and me. Will he be a policeman, a fireman or a soldier?
The Scottish soldier was explained by Andy Stewart in his popular song recorded in the early sixties. The music owes more to Rossini than it does traditional Scottish music but the words really do paint a vivid picture of the courageous fighting man with his roots in the Highlands. It is a classic image and there is a quiet stoicism here in Northern Scotland which allows for loss from these hills and valleys in defence of right. Scots soldiers have taken heavy tolls in conflicts throughout history - not through incompetence or disinclination but because of their numbers. So many were willing.
September 2019. One hundred years since the world, still reeling from the flu pandemic, began to bash its dirty boots and attempt to slip into some semblance of normality after a decade of unrest then absolute horror. There was still conflict. The problems in Ireland were not going very far away. Why would they? Sinn Fein declared Ireland independent of Britain and the Anglo Irish War began. The massacre at Amritsar should never be forgotten. Dear God! The shame. There was a third Anglo Afghan War. Yep - the Brits knew how to open eyes! My great grandfather fought in the second Boer War. He was a bit of a local hero in the Isle of Axholme. Two of his surviving sons fought in the Great War when Great Grandfather was a recruiting sergeant. My grandfather couldn't fight because of a health problem. My dad was born in October 1927 - which meant he was conscripted after the second world war and served in the Middle East. My brother also served in the army. My military men! But how I long for a world where there is zero conflict within and amongst nations. I'm not expecting individuals to stop disagreeing. What I'm looking for is a world where problems are solved without taking up arms.
Are we, in Britain, a peace-loving nation? We have certainly enjoyed some peace in our time - not for those with family members in the armed forces though. If you research the countries across the world where British men and women have physically fought, under orders, since the end of World War Two, you'll come up with a disturbingly long list. Dad missed the war but he was serving, in the RAF, in British-Occupied-Palestine when Jews were fighting both the Brits and the Palestinian Arabs. Everyone who reads this will know someone who knows someone who has been involved in some military conflict since 1945. So - how do we do it? How do we sign up for killing? How do we sleep in our beds when arms deals are signed in our country's favour with no thought for the potential lives lost in foreign killing fields?
When I last checked, Britain was the second biggest weapons supplier, behind Russia, in the world. This is not something I am proud of. Apparently the paraphernalia of war brings in billions to our economy. Personally, I would rather be impoverished than aware that my comfort is created by the death of another human being. I wonder about violence.
I find myself asking who struck the first blow. I know about Cain and Abel from Christian and Jewish scripture and I know about Kabil and Habil, the two sons of Adam, each with a twin sister, in the Palestinian tradition. But what made Cain/Kabil actually take the life of his brother? Was he unable to articulate his grievance? Did he hope for power? Did Abel have something Cain wanted? Was Cain hurt - if so, who told him he may feel pain when God rejected his sacrifice while accepting his brother's?
My dog is never jealous. In fact, I thought that dogs didn't know envy until my daughter's dog stole me away from our Orlando. She quite deliberately nosed her way into the small area which Orlando and I were sharing for the purpose of togetherness. She virtually manoeuvred my petting hand away from Orlando and towards her jet-black shoulder. Her name is Scapa but I call her Black Death. That's not fair really as she is an affectionate pooch. But why does she want to control me in this way? Governments are dogged in their fight for control of disputed areas - and those in power appear to have little or no regard for the lives of their forces. Some refer to them as canon-fodder. I can't bear that. It is crushing to think that human beings can be used in this way. They are tenacious, also, in their battle for minds - and will use distorted truths to achieve their aims. Those in power. Hmmm. Power.
We have a monument on the north shore here to the veterans of war - up to and including the Boer War. Its very existence, from its conception to the present day has been a power struggle. Power to honour those who died in conflict had to be fought for. It was not so difficult to build monuments to the rich and influential.
I'm grateful that some of my ancestors defended others of my ancestors. They did what they did with courage and conviction that it was the right thing to do. However, I wish my descendants will never have to face an enemy in combat for any reason at all. My adult self became a pacifist. On researching my geneaology, I found that a great great uncle - the brother of my soldier great-grandfather - died a pacifist in London in August 1914. I've seen the reason for his death and I can tell you that it is most probably a whitewash. I wonder how many others died in similar circumstances. The search for peace is a collective uphill struggle. One can find an inner peace and enjoy it. One cannot keep it to oneself in a world of turmoil where the innocent suffer because of the power struggles amongst the few. Mine is a tiny, tiny voice but I cannot suppress it. Maybe it will be the equivalent of the butterfly in the Amazon. I will stand up and be counted. I'm not as gifted as Greta Thunberg but I have the ability to articulate my passion for a world without the arms races (plural) which are going on across the world. But not only that - my greater passion is that human beings will use their powers of tolerant debate with compassion to right the profound wrongs in evidence across the globe at present. It is certain that, most surely in Britain, should we continue as we are, there will be insufficient healing of our differences to enable our society to develop and flourish.. I'm not even going to start on the environmental impact of the profound wrongs of conflict and aggression. Greta does that so much better than I ever could.
What hope is there for us when the leader of this country and the leaders of other world powers choose not to pursue peace but to fulfil their own ambitions? It is time to stop selling arms to belligerent governments. It is time to rally round the children of the world in their efforts to right the wrongs of former generations. It is time to come clean and publicly denounce those who have spread lies and have cranked up frustration to achieve their own ends. It is time to take notice or be served notice that there is no insurance against recklessness.