many of you, like me, have been having bad dreams lately? How can people whom
we call ‘the older generation’ not have bad dreams? Medical scientists, bless
them, have made it possible for even those of us with shocking arrays of genes
and heedless habits, to survive beyond the three score years and ten promised.
For those of you in parts of the world which have not heard this promise, it’s
a promise given to the people of the book(Jews, Christians, and Muslims)and
passed on through Abraham,the great patriarch, that we will survive for
threescore years and ten. Everything more than that is a gift and everything
less is a disappointment to be accompanied by comments such as ‘It’s no age is
It?’ The greatest shame is that whilever
I have been on this earth, the aforesaid people of the book, themselves, seem
to have gone out of their way to obliterate populations of their fellow people
of the book. Is it any wonder that they
find themselves targetted by the ROW (Rest of the world) sometimes?
Well no, it isn’t. Leaving out the section of the world to which I do belong, let me say from the start that I am living right now where I do not belong, but I must say I am happy to be where I supposedly do not belong and feel comfortable inside my heart and soul and kuirey face! In fact I’m wiser now than I would have been had I stayed back where I started, which now seems like a galaxy far far away.
The only thing that disturbs me is that people in our neck of the woods will become embedded in the ‘them and us ‘ game that for decades and even centuries justified the colonisation of others’ lands and the enslavement of their peoples to benefit from the resources that were not for ‘us’ to take.
Last month a BBC documentary shown on the occasion of the release of government archives gave us all an eye-opening run down of Britain’s role in slavery. You can now look up the role your ancestors in slavery.The labour of countless men, women and children paid for the adornment of the stately homes of England. They were fed, but never paid and at the end of each month they didn’t get apaypacket and the chance of anig ht on the town but rather were shoved back in the huts provied as dwellings by quite often cruel masters.
When a slave woman had a baby, it became the property of the master, later to work for him or be sold on and the money kept by him.
It was trafficking in people at the lowest level and greed of the highest order. The justification was that the black races were less evolved than the white which, of course is a load of bunkum. The most asstounding thing about this whole period of European history- because enslaving the colonised was not confined to the British- was that when colonial countries gradually freed the slaves, after arduous campaigners placed bill after bill through their countries’ legistures, in Britain for example the price for ending slavery was financial compensation. Not to the slaves of course but to the owners. A very interesting file on Internet lists all the slave-owners of Britain and how much compensation they received for freeing their slaves. Some were widows who regarded their late husband’s slaves as their rightful’pension’ and copious amounts of petitions were received at the office for settlement. It is to the credit of the abolitionists and those assigned to carry out the settlement that they proved as retractable in carrying out this duty as in carrying out any other.
Then of course followed the horrors of war, which today provide plenty of fodder for films.Trudging through the devastation of WW1 and the high promise of it being the war to end all wars but then, however, coming to WW2 and the Holocaust which neofascists claim never took place. Many of us, however, were born 2/3rds of the way through and watched owl-eyed as children, not unlike ourselves, were accomodated in huts with corrugated roofing; but which did have some washing facilities away from the living quarters. For some they were unwelcome, for the rest of us a curiousity to absorb within our neighbourhoods and schools. We forged friendships then that at this point is lasting as long as we are.
But wars and disagreements haven’t ended. My student years were filled with China attacking India, the Cuba crisis ,the fear of the supreme Soviet and Stalinism. Those were grim days indeed although we filled them with the forced happiness of protest songs and rock and roll. The biggest fear and unknown was alwaysthe ‘bomb’ , who would start the nuclear war and how would we survive it? During the Cuban missile crisis ,Americans built fall-out shelters: others had their old bomb shelters in backyards. Behind all this was the fear of what nuclear radiation could do. Behind all the blithe British jokes about papering the pantry with newspapers or ‘ If you haven’t understood all the civil defence instructions just jumpt into a brown paper bag and hope long to your local civil defence officer and he will tell you exactly what to do!’**
As we watch Iraq and Syria fall apart on our television screens; as we see Yemeni children suffering from Kwashiakor and starvation symptoms reminiscent of Belsen and Buchenwald; as we watch Rohingya babies being carried strapped to their parents from Myanmar; and as we watch cinema depict the lives of slum children in South Asia; or the sad painful lives of daughters enslaved into prostitution;or small boys neutered to provide incomes to the lowest,mean minds on earth, isn’t it time we all came together in the names of our many gods and promise ourselves, in our thousands, millions, and billions------- no more, no more,NO MORE. Let’s bring that far away galaxy to earth at last!
** A famous recording made by David Frost and his Beyond the Fringe team in the 1950s.