Tuesday 27 November 2007

Humbug. Already.

Courtesy of climatecartoons.org.uk
(This hasn't come out very well, click on the image for a clearer version...)

Saturday 17 November 2007

Wiggly Leek

Oh yuck. I've been really ill this weekend with a very nasty tummy bug thing which I'll spare you the gory details of. Suffice to say that my entire digestive system now contains only half a packet of bread sticks and five cups of chamomile tea.

I haven't been able to see any friends or go anywhere for fear of infecting people or falling over with dizzy weirdness, but I did manage to take a bag of fallen leaves to the allotment this afternoon to get myself a change of scenery. The last couple of years my plot has been pretty bare by November, but I've got quite a few things still growing this year which cheered me up a bit.

Although all my pumpkin plants died months ago in sheer disgust at the state of the weather and the slug population, all the onion sets that did nothing all summer are now visible under the frost bitten nasturtiums and have suddenly grown into proper onions, so they might just get me through the winter after all. The rainbow chard is bolting and I'm hoping to collect the seed, and I've got loads of huge purple sprouting broccoli that I'm already eating leaves from here and there.

I've also got my first really good crop of enormous leeks, and I brought a nice fat one home with me this afternoon. For some reason it turned out to be all wiggly on the inside:

I wonder why?

Hoping that by the time I've made leek and potato soup I'll actually be able to eat it...

Sunday 11 November 2007

Some More Thoughts on Armistice

Rather than parading around in uniform and firing cannons (why do they always miss Nicholas bloody Witchell?), remembrance day makes me want to find ways to resist war and support others who resist. Remembrance is hypocritical if we do it while perpetuating the very conditions which cause the loss of life we mourn.
"When an ex-serviceman broke the Armistice Silence at the Cenotaph in 1937, with his loud cry of protest against the hypocrisy of praying for peace while preparing for war, he had made clear what everyone was beginning to realise: the people who shared the Silence were not of one mind about what Remembrance meant." Tales of Two Poppies
Via the very same politicians and officials who laid wreaths at the Cenotaph today, our taxes are used to actively market and sell arms to Indonesia, to Saudi Arabia, to countless despotic regimes which quite openly use them to oppress whole populations, as well as to more "respectable" democracies which might only use them for things like invading Iraq or preventing Palestinians from picking olives.

War cannot happen without funding, and a staggering amount of our money goes to funding the manufacture and distribution of weapons of war. As well as your taxes, if you have a pension then the likelihood is that you personally have your own money invested in war-related industries. Any other investments you have are also likely to be used in this way too, unless you make a personal effort to ensure your money is ethically invested. Last year my housing co-op added a requirement for ethical investment to our financial policy, so that our current account, contingency funds and high-interest account savings are not busy putting guns in people's hands while we're not looking.

There is a campaign for a peace tax to enable taxpayers to conscientiously object to having their taxes spent on war, and in the meantime I know many people who live simply and cheaply, deliberately falling below the tax threshold altogether as the only legal way to avoid paying for bullets.

This form of financial conscientious objection is easy. Far more courageous are those who resist conscription or leave the armed forces, especially as doing so can often be extremely dangerous. Franz Jagerstatter, for example, was beheaded for refusing to fight in Hitler's army, and in many places today objection carries a straightforward prison or death sentence, conscientious or otherwise. Still some people have the courage to choose this rather than participate in war.

Provision still exists in UK law for members of the armed forces to gain the status of conscientious objectors, i.e. to declare that they are unable to carry out their duties because they have ethical objections to doing so. However, they are not told about this provision and it is made very difficult - if you know anyone currently serving then please make sure they know about At Ease. Even if they are never likely to use these services, they have a fundamental right to the information and will not be given it by their employer.

CCCO is a bigger American organisation along the same lines, which I first encountered resisting the presence of the armed forces in American schools. British schools are also targeted by military recruiters, as are colleges, universities and youth clubs. I tear up and throw away any recruitment materials I find, and often have interesting conversations with young people considering joining up. They are recruited before the kind of age at which people often begin to take any real interest in current affairs, and although they may have considered the possibility of dying in action, the idea of giving their lives for the government or for oil rather than for "the country" sometimes sheds a different light on matters.

War is an odd concept. Murder, torture, rape - all kinds of horrors, seen in the context of war, become submerged in the bigger identity of a wider struggle on which people have opinions based on other elements of that identity. Fundamentally, war is simply a series of human rights abuses, and each murder, each incidence of rape or torture is no less significant for being part of a bigger picture. Amnesty International supports conscientious objectors as well as many other prisoners of conscience. As small a thing as writing a letter can give brave people the support and help they deserve. They too make sacrifices for us, they too guard our freedom. So let ritual not become a substitute for action.

Lest we choose to forget.


Saturday 10 November 2007

Remembrance Day

I'll be wearing a white poppy tomorrow, in remembrance of the bravery of war-resisters and conscientious objectors as well as civilians, children and soldiers killed in the name of war. Such a small word to stand for so much murder.

A prize for the first person shown on TV wearing one, and although I'll be keeping the two minutes silence I'll be doing it without uniforms, flags, marching or royalty. Glorifying militarism seems an inappropriate thing to do on such a day.