Remembering. Not learning.

Six years ago, Remembrance Sunday fell on the 11th of November. Same as today. I was visiting Saagar in Durham that weekend and had the privilege of attending the special Sunday service at the ancient, opulent Durham Cathedral. The music and words were deeply moving. I felt lucky to have found a spot to stand at the back of the cathedral that day. I met up with Saagar afterwards and we went for a long walk, lunch and then we had a hot chocolate at the Railway station before my return.

I was surprised to find that over a million Indian soldiers fought in WW1 at Somme, France. At least 74,187 Indian soldiers died and 67,000 were wounded during the war. We rightly remember and honour those who lost their lives serving their country. But do we learn from history?

Northern Europeans have mass murdered indigenous people of entire continents, now Australia and USA, diminishing their numbers to tiny percentages. Then they funded scholars to write books to justify these acts of violence against innocents. Today, I remember and honour all those people who died defending their right to exist.

India was known as ‘the golden bird’ before the Empire established itself in that country. After years of exploitation and oppression they left behind a shattered subcontinent. A fractured country. 14 million people were displaced and several hundred thousand lost their lives as a result.  I salute all those innocents who died for no fault of their own.

“What do you think of western civilisation?”, someone asked Mahatma Gandhi.

He replied, “That would be a good idea.”

We continue to make war in the name of peace. We spend millions on finding more deadly and cowardly ways of killing people. We never forget the 3000 people who died in America on 9/11 but we don’t remember the 500 that have been dying every week in Syria for the last 7 years and in Yemen for the last four. Before that, in Afghanistan and Iraq. All, for peace and liberty. Today, I remember all people, everywhere who have been traumatised and displaced by war and those who have died violent deaths as a result of war. May humankind learn to be kind.

An excerpt from the hymn ‘Hope for the world’s despair’ by Ally Barrett:

Love for the human heart:
when hate grows from our fears
and inwardly we start
to turn our ploughs to spears.
Help us to sow
love’s precious seed
in word and deed,
that peace may grow.

Day 899

 More Vietnam veterans have died by suicide than were killed in Vietnam. According to the Veterans Administration, one veteran dies by suicide every hour in the USA. 

‘The survivor is a disturber of peace. He is a bearer of ”unspeakable” things. About these he aims to speak, and in so doing he undermines, without intending to, the validity of existing norms. He is a genuine transgressor, and here he is made to feel real guilt. The world to which he appeals does not admit him, and since he has looked to this world as the source of moral order, he begins to doubt himself. And that is not the end, for now his guilt is doubled by betrayal– of himself, of his task, of his vow to the dead. The final guilt is not to bear witness. The survivor’s worst torment is not to be able to speak.’ – Terrence Des Pres in ‘The Survivor’.

”If the thing they were fighting for was important enough to die for then it was also important enough for them to be thinking about it in the last minutes of their lives. That stood to reason. Life is awfully important so if you’ve given it away you’d ought to think with all your mind in the last moments of your life about the thing you traded it for. So, did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and the stars and strips forever? You’re goddamn right they didn’t.” – Dalton Trumbo in ‘Johnny got his gun.’.
Viktor E. Frankl said, ” Suffering ceases to be suffering when it has meaning.” 
Meaningless violence gives birth to more meaningless violence. There are no winners. All sides loose. 

Day 764

paratrooper

He served for 10 years in the Parachute Regiment. He had witnessed and been a part of ‘very severe military activity’ in Afghanistan as a result of his service in the elite Pathfinder Platoon. He left the army in 2010 and started to work in close protection in Iraq. In 2012 he married a Thai woman who commented that 2 years later he ‘wasn’t good’.

He sought help from the Combat Stress charity (http://www.combatstress.org.uk/) in December. A nurse referred him to a Consultant Psychiatrist as she felt he might have PTSD. His father noticed that Pete had started to have a tic and facial problems and that was a clear indication that he was suffering from deep psychological trauma. The psychiatric appointment was available for a date 4 months away, in April. Faced with this long wait, Pete went back to Iraq for 2 months. He returned home briefly before flying to Vietnam for a kite-surfing course. Pete never went on the course and sadly ended his life in Vietnam in February.

The Coroner heard that drugs were found in Pete’s blood and ruled there was insufficient evidence for either suicide or accidental death. His family are hoping that the authorities will recognise Pete’s death as a direct result of PTSD resulting from his service. They want his name to be included at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Another tragic loss of a young life, not getting timely help despite asking for it. Another family lost, not knowing exactly how to help their young man. Another suicide not registered as such, adding to the underestimation of the national scandal that it is. Another charity, offering more assistance than the NHS. Another child not coming home for Christmas.

Preventable? Yes.

RIP Pete. 

 

Day 728

A landscape of musical notes emanated from four musical instruments inspired by movement of people across the globe in search of a land of gold. When I closed my eyes, I could feel the magical textures at my fingertips and sense the turbulent river flowing and a lone vessel struggling to carry a tonne of isolation and desperation across to a place of hope. Vibrant colours could be heard and pathos felt in the core of my heart and every pore on my skin. The conversations and unison between those colours filled the space with absolute empathy for those forced to leave their homes, a cry against injustice of the refugee crisis. Crossing the Rubicon….dissolving boundaries…reunion…last chance…a boat to nowhere…

Land of Gold – an ode to those displaced.

Find the kind heart,
Rest your feet and soul.
May your kind heart
Find the land of gold.
Pay attention, say your name
Listen closely and keep warm.
Gentle hands, you are brave,
Look at me and carry on.
All is good, I love you.
You can hear me, you can call.
Sing your song with ease and pride.
I’ll be there, not far behind.
Tell them I walked
Tell them I walked your way
Tell them I walked
Tell them I walked your way

– By Anoushka Shankar

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MO1Ziql48w)

Day 409

Number of people killed in the recent Paris Attacks:130.
Number of deaths at the Nairobi Massacre: 67
Number of children killed in Syria so far: 12,517.
Number of women killed in Syria: 8,062.
Number of people who died of Ebola in 6 countries: 11,314.
Number of people killed in Afghanistan: 92,000.
Number of civilians among them: 26,000.
Number of casualties in America in 9/11: 2,996
Number of people injured in Afghanistan: 100,000.
(Source: Wikipedia. Other sources quote significantly higher numbers of war casualties.)
War maims countries for generations.

Poverty, malnutrition, no homes or schools, lack of clean drinking water, reduced access to health care, breaking up communities, no law and order, environmental degradation, no infrastructure, no sense of security for self and family members, rape, torture, no protection from extreme weather conditions, constant fear ….

In 2009, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported that two-thirds of Afghans suffer from mental health problems.

Why is a life lost in America or Europe more worthy of mention in mainstream media than anywhere else in the world? What causes western nations to ‘righteously’ impose their values on other countries? How can we justify war again and again and again? Isn’t there enough suffering in the world already? Everyday thousands die of cruel and nasty diseases, of accidents and natural disasters. Why is the human race bent upon self-destruction? Every time one human being uses violence against another, what dies is humanity.

We are a unique race, Homo Sapiens, supposedly the most ‘evolved’ of all.

Really?