Sunday, 25 October 2009


The ‘Troops out of Afghanistan’ demonstration yesterday in Trafalgar Square marked the 8th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan. It is a conflict in which tens of thousands of Afghans’ have been killed, as well as 222 British troops. The war has now lasted twice as long as the First World War - and yet there are still no clear objectives; only that of looking after the west’s commercial interests in the region.

I came across this young member of the Labour Party, when I say young, I mean a smartly dressed late 20s early 30s something and wearing I noticed an enamelled pin badge on his overcoat that I instantly recognised as the old logo of the Labour Party, the one which had the symbols of a torch or furnace of fire, a quill pen and a shovel; the hand tools of the labourer, well all in fact symbols of sold labour whether by hand or brain. Just pausing for a moment to think about the quill, the tool used for the first three millennia or so since the invention of paper, the writing instrument of choice in western culture was the quill. One simply found a goose, who could be persuaded to donate a tail feather, harvested the feather, allowed it to dry out then, after softening up the quill under moist heat, one used a pen-knife (of course) to shape the tough, horny shaft into a good writing point and split it to hold a small amount of ink. Then, one dipped the quill in ink and wrote a line, dipped, wrote a line, dipped...

It is really rather surprising, when you stop to think about it, that a portable pen that could carry its own ink supply was not perfected until fairly late in the 19th century. What a marvel is human ingenuity and the power of our creative imagination we recorded and with the aid of technology from the first printing press to newspapers and books through to today’s computers and the relevantly still young phenomenon of the internet, we are able to share thoughts, stories and ideas with literally millions and around the world.

And yet the greed of our society and world-wide too, knows no bounds. Coming back to the encounter with the young member of the Labour Party, the first thing he asked of me was why am I against the war? Didn’t I know that our presence in Afghanistan was necessary to keep us safe and prevent the terrorists from attacking as they did on the London underground. Well I was standing politely listening but at the same time thinking to myself – blimey; you couldn’t make this up even if you tried! I then attempted to put this young man right on a thing or two, whether I succeeded I have no real idea, but I said to him; that I realised he was a member of the Labour Party because of the badge he was sportingly wearing, he pointed out that it had the word ‘Liberty’ written on it. The conversation continued about ‘Liberty’ and about Socialism which I said was a far better description for the society that I sought after, and much better than the vague word ‘Liberty’. I ended the conversation by telling this young man that the Labour Party had taken a ‘Liberty’ during the past 12 years with the lives of thousands; to think that 1.500 British Iraq veterans have been diagnosed with mental health disorders, that 1,100 veterans sleep rough every night in London is nothing short of a ‘Liberty’.

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