online: 24 march 2003

22 march 2003 a second demonstration against the war

are you going to the anti-war demonstration?
but it's too late to stop it - the war's begun and people are being killed
there are wider considerations - whether America is going to dominate the world... or if the United Nations are, or is (or will the suicide bombers decide everything?)... soon as I found myself saying that, I saw the way, yes... Europe or some other power (could it be the power of huge protests like this?) has first to become a balancing force - until such time as the inner decentral power of each of us becomes active and creatively evident... that is the way, I see it now, as my thoughts rise above that disheartening conversation...

so I went (with some reluctance) to this second demonstration in Hyde Park - and was again put off by the authoritarian manner of some of the speakers, especially those who pointed a finger aggressively at the audience, sometimes jabbing it at each syllable. Ugh!

but then I wandered away from the very-loud-speakers to the outer parts of the crowd where there were people who looked less political, many of whom sat or lay on the ground and didn't seem to be listening. One woman lay face downwards on her man as if he were a bed - while he seemed to be trying to listen to the speakers. Some people sat on their placards. One small boy was engrossed in gathering individual leaves of grass at the feet of the woman who was with him. (Yes, leaves of grass!*)

then I began to notice, on some of the home-made banners and placards, such phrases as

B-52s are weapons of mass destruction

there was a minute of silence for those killed yesterday in Iraq - how strange and impressive it was to hear and even feel the presence of so many people (about half a million I think) ceasing to talk or to shout or to blow on plastic horns... and to become quiet

I noticed a triangular field of paper hands on sticks - on each hand were words written by the hand's maker - I copied some that took my attention:

you put hate into the world you get hate out

Ben, 20, 'I don't want NO war!'

life is more than death

war is expensive
peace is priceless

make peace not war
7 yers old

paradise is possible

Charlie, 17

war is bad

Think B4 U act

Stephanie, 18, (no message)

and then I saw a woman carrying a home made placard saying

not in my name
or my mums

Seeing a Welsh dragon flag I walked towards a group of people singing in Welsh beneath it. A woman told me they'd travelled from the Rhymney Valley. Many had travelled to get here - there were coaches all along Park Lane.

I passed a man carrying the American flag - it was nailed upside down to the flagpole with the stars at the bottom.

At a bookstall I started to read The People's History of the World by Chris Harman. It opened on his account of the defeat of the Aztec empire by a few Spanish invaders - something I've been thinking of for the last two weeks - so I bought it, despite knowing that it is written to support a single theory, that of class warfare, which seems to contradict my own. But I like its frankness and its clarity... he believes that people can change... and it seemed to be waiting for me... perhaps it will make me rethink?

...then I saw a banner saying

moody teenagers against the war

then two or three people dressed as fairies came by - their banner read

peace shouldn't be a fairy tale

I returned to within hearing-distance of the loud-speakers. Well-fed-looking trade unionists and a few members of parliament, mostly men, and some women, and Tariq Ali, Tony Benn and Biancha Jagger. There were others I didn't hear.

Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, wearing a blue tie, told us of how, at the age of was it eleven, he'd made his first political speech - about the invasion of Egypt by Britain, Israel (and was it France?) in 1956. (I read now that it was France and that the invasion of Egypt was stopped by American financial pressure to accept a ceasefire negotiated by the United Nations.) He wanted the schoolchildren who'd run out of school this week (to demonstrate against the war) to continue political action all their lives... he also told us that he has sent a message to every head teacher in London asking them to watch for, and to prevent, any signs of anti-Muslim bullying while the war is going on.

As I listened to these (the more experienced speakers - they knew how to use a microphone without shouting) I looked up and saw on one occasion hundreds of bubbles floating briefly above our heads - and then a pale violet kite flying low, next to the evening sun which was shining and shining so effortlessly in a clear pale blue sky...

By five o'clock it was over and I enjoyed crossing Park Lane with hundreds of others while the traffic lights stayed almost permanently green for us - how nice to experience (in that expensive district) nearly complete priority to pedestrians. Park Lane is one of the streets markinging the edge of the congestion charge zone (the recent innovation of mayor Livingstone). The first building I saw after crossing was a shop selling Daimler and Jaguar cars. The shop was titled

the Jaguar 'R' performance centre of the world

And written in gold on the window was this:

Daimler Cars

as supplied to

H M King George V
H M Queen Mary
H M Queen Alexandra
HRH The Prince of Wales
HRH Princess Mary
H M The Emperor of Japan
H M The King of Spain

It was good to be amongst so many people, of so many kinds and nationalities, all united, so united, against this war imposed by the few against, it seemed, the wishes of the many, not only here but the world over. I am optimistic about the long-term effects - though in the short-term it seems a madness to invade and perhaps a madness to protest...

And those defunct Royals - are their Daimlers still in existence? Quite possibly. But those royal people are dead, as are the people being killed now in Iraq, dead as all of us will be one day - and when the effects of all this our protest may still be evident. Let's hope they are good... But I read somewhere today that most attempts to do good result in unexpected evil... oh dear. So let what we do be as well conceived and as well done as we can manage - the rest is in the hands of our decendants.

*the opening words of Walt Whitman's book and lifework, Leaves of Grass, first (1855) edition, are as follows:
I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
And every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease .... observing a spear of summer grass.

[My edition is edited by Martin Cowley and published by Secker and Warburg, London 1959 - there is a current edition published by Penguin Books.]

We should not forget that Walt Whitman was an American. The world is more complex than our thoughts.

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© 2003 john chris jones

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