These are difficult times. These are the times Yeats spoke of in The Second Coming, when:

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre

 The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

 Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

 Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

 The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

 The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

 The best lack all convictions, while the worst

 Are full of passionate intensity.

I have two friends who admit to feeling very depressed, and indeed I feel sure none of us is immune from the sad idea that our modern world is descended into bloody chaos.  Protest helps us personally.  To be silent in the face of stupid decisions and gratuitous murder is not an option that can be safely taken, if one wishes to retain some self-respect.  From a purely selfish point of view, being in the peace movement, acting with others, protesting by writing to MPs, to the press, taking part in demonstrations, all these activities release some of the tensions, act as a personal safety valve perhaps, and so help to preserve peace of mind. 

But despite all we can do, the world remorselessly favours death and destruction when the choice of peace and prosperity seems an open and obvious path. The gigantic street protests against the looming war in Iraq were unable to alter policy.  Despite all the exposure of dirty tricks, despite Noam Chomsky’s writings, despite the coalitions of the great and the good, the leading intellectuals appealing directly to government to change course, the blunt discredited instrument of war is still the choice of elected leaders.  And despite all this, George W. Bush is re-elected as president of the United States: an endorsement by the people of state terrorism– or so it seems to us.

Protest is made easy in a democracy.  Demonstrators are not arrested, taken to cells, and shot in the back of the head.   But, of present relevance, if protest is allowed, and then is shown to make no difference, isn’t that somehow worse?  There is no obvious military junta in control, as there is for instance in Burma.  We are free to protest, but such freedom is a two-edged sword: if protest is allowed, and it alters policy not one whit, if leaders are shown to be insulated from public opinion and contemptuous of it, protestors are bound to feel very discouraged. Herman Goering once said, ‘After all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along’.  What if he was right?

But ignore our lack of apparent success.  Be like our redoubtable Welsh member Lib Rowlands-Hughes, and keep on battering at the great steel gates of contumelaceous power.   Think what the world would be like, if there were no protest.   Imagine a junta being able to do whatever juntas appear to like doing, safe from any public reaction at all.  They appear to be safe anyway, but in the longer term they are not.  The political balance of power has been changed in Europe by people power as a result of the war in Iraq, and we may be able to throw out Tony Blair.  With such a prospect before us, take heart.

Merry Christmas!  

Harry Davis