AJ Reid

Notes from the Paradise Peninsula

Category: Politics

Visiting Ypres at 13 Years Old

Monday marked the 100th anniversay of the start of the “third battle of Ypres”: Passchendaele.  This poem and piece of music is my tribute to all those who died in the trenches.  Sent over the top as fodder to the Maschinengewehrs, often packed with amphetamines to quell their terror, some as young as 13 years old, raced and palpitated towards a lonely, painful death in the mud and barbed wire of No Man’s Land.

I remember the atmosphere on the coach heading towards the trenches we were due to visit on the first day of our week-long school trip: laughing, play-fighting, general high spirits.  The mood upon our return to the bus was silent shock.  No-one spoke to each other: we just filed back on to the bus and sat in our seats in silence until one boy burst into floods of tears.  No-one laughed at him because most felt the same way, including myself.

It felt as if some kind of shadow had crept into my young bones or gas into my unsullied lungs.  Some of the lungs and hearts were only the same age as ours when they had been stilled by a machine gun round or a cloud of gas.  They had ceased to be people: used only as meat.  I was horrified then and I’m no less horrified now.  Their training, physical condition, intelligence or raw bravery made no difference to their chances of survival once they went over the top.  They might as well have been stepping off the edge of the world, launching themselves into a cold, airless vacuum.

I’m not sure if my History teachers intended the trip to have this effect, but I set about learning why these boys had been hurled into a meat grinder in the way that they were.  What I discovered has led to a lifelong mistrust of hierarchy, a hatred of propaganda and a yearning for meritocracy and diplomacy.  How’s the fight going, you ask?  Turn on the TV, read a newspaper or click on social media.  Depressing, right?  Nodding your head solemnly at remembrance ceremonies doesn’t make you patriotic and is not going to prevent this happening again.   I’ve marched in enough remembrance parades at Hamilton Square to realise this.   Diplomacy, intelligent research/debate and a refusal to be drawn to our basest instincts would be of much more use.  Although, when I posited this to a newspaper editor, he told me that any newspaper selling virtue over scandal would fold within a week.

War is big business.  Don’t ever underestimate how cruel humans can be when they are corrupted by money/power.  Let’s all keep fighting the warmongers, instead of each other.


The Tory Commandments

1. You shall have no other Gods except her nibs.
2. You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it, unless it’s good for the economy.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, unless you’re really desperate during an election campaign.
4. You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.  Be sure to remind any zero-hours, minimum wage plebs working for you that day.
5. Respect your father and mother, especially when the dementia tax comes into effect.
6. You must not commit murder, but selling arms to extremist regimes to bomb kids in schools and hospitals is by proxy, so it’s fine.
7. You must not commit adultery unless it’s with a dead pig’s head.
8. You must not steal, unless you’re stealing from an entire country and it’s really, really worth it.
9. You must not give false evidence against your neighbour, but we’ll always let this one slide if you work for Uncle Rupert.
10. You must not be envious of your neighbour’s goods, but if you are, you can always redistribute publicly owned assets in two-for-one deals for your family and friends.

Oh, Snap. A General Election.

Everyone’s seen for themselves what a polarising and destructive force the media can be. Hopefully, we’re all a bit more savvy this time around and won’t fall into the trap of attacking each other for the sake of appearing dominant on social media (how empty does your life have to be?).  Yeah, right.
I hate New Labour as much as I hate the Tories. It’s not a partisan thing. I have both left and right views on various issues, but I don’t like being lied to, manipulated or controlled so that politicians, bankers, arms dealers, pharmaceutical companies or other major corporations can continue “gaming” the system to line their pockets at the expense of people at home and abroad. We’ve been told that there’s no money for the NHS, yet local councillors are pocketing six-figure salaries for doing piss-all. Even worse, further cuts have been given to corporations who are taking millions from the British public, but paying disproportionately small amounts back into the coffers.
It’s all a big con. We’ve known it for a long time and I think we should encourage radical changes for the well-being of our country. Don’t believe sensationalist crap that you see online, in the newspapers or on the gogglebox. Talk to people around you in good humour, with fairness and humility over a cuppa, and try to examine what you know to be true, moreso than what you speculate to be the case. We all want the same thing: a happy and peaceful future for our loved ones with plenty of opportunity to earn, learn and freedom to pursue the things that make us feel alive.

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