Sunday, 13 February 2011

On Revolution

This post started as a quick reply to a contributor on a discussion board who, quite rightly, castigated another contributor for comparing the need for protest here with the situation of Algeria. Like I said, "a quick reply". It sort of got longer so I'm reposting it here (with a couple of minor corrections of spelling and grammar and a few additions which are italicised) because it poured from my heart...

You're correct in that the situation here does not compare to Algeria's current or recent experience. Our last official civil war was hundreds of years ago. But the oppression of vast swathes of the population continued and the struggles, protests and conflicts we've had since The Civil War have just never been officially called Civil War. But people died or were beaten and imprisoned and starved. Brother set against brother, sister against sister, parents, families, neighbours all divided and torn asunder.

Some rights and freedoms were granted 160 years ago because those in power here were terrified that we'd launch a revolution like the French were having just across The Channel  - it's only 26 miles to France by sea... we can see it on a clear day and the refugees and the instigators and the exiles all alike came here and told their stories. And some encouraged the (massive) underclasses here to rebel against the land- and factory- and mine-owners. And some warned the ruling class that they'd better make some improvements and quickly...

It is less than a hundred years since ALL men over the age of 21 were given the right to vote and women over the age of 30... women over 21 didn't get the vote until 1928. My grandparents and great-grandparents took part in the campaigns that helped achieve those rights. They, and then my parents, campaigned and marched and demonstrated for workers' rights. Life as a pacifist during the first and second world wars was hardly a stroll in the park! Then for a proper National Health Service and welfare system. I was taken as a babe-in-arms and then in a push-chair to protest against nuclear weapons and have since joined campaigns and marches against erosions of civil liberties and against wars and discrimination and racism and religious intolerance and so many other wrongs and short-sighted government policies.

We have laws now on equal rights and equal pay but there is still inequality and discrimination. And we see the things that were fought for in our own lifetimes, even very recently, being eroded, smashed, removed. We are being set one-against-the-other, yet again, to try to protect the things that make this country civilised, a safe and secure place to live.

A government 30 years ago took away many of our rights to protest, to congregate! We got those rights back - watered down but back. The freedoms our forebears risked their lives for still have to be protected and fought for again and again and again. Many of the assets and institutions that had been created through struggle were dismantled, sold off, industries decimated, jobs lost. Some few, through struggle and a change of political colour and policy, were revived but most? Lost. Seemingly forever. Many, many people thrown on the scrapheap remained there. Their scrapheap was cushioned, slightly; but many continued to argue, to protest to campaign whether for themselves or for their compatriots.

This continuing struggle for fair and equal treatment and opportunity is why so many of us support and hope for the peoples of Algeria, of Egypt, of Palestine, of Russia yesterday, of everywhere that people are standing up and saying, "WE matter. WE have a right to freedom. WE have a right to self-determination."

We don't know what it's like to live under a "State of Emergency" for thirty years. Under curfews, martial law etc., But we DO know that freedoms and rights won ALWAYS have then to be defended against encroachment. Always have to be protected against those who rise to power. Because even freely-elected representatives of the people STILL lose touch with the 'ordinary' lives and experience of the people they're supposed to represent. ALL the people. Not just their friends. Or people 'like them'.

And because the peoples of so many countries are standing up against MUCH more oppression than we feel, it gives us the strength and the will to remember that it is only when we unite, rather than fracture over save-the-NHS vs. protect the pensions of disabled people vs. save-the-libraries vs. no-university-tuition-fee-rises vs. everything else that is currently being 'reformed' and cut in such heedless, mindless haste, that we will TRULY succeed in saving or rescuing ANY of them.


Edits to correct MORE 'misspronts' - blame the medication ;-)

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