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War Never Changes

September 5, 2014

What a great opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow! Having had their hopes for jingoistic pageantry confounded by an arch choreography including dancing teacakes and kissing men, the Forces of Darkness were left with only the closing day to recover some imperial pride. By invoking the dead of the First World War, they ensured that this was done in as morbid a fashion as possible.

A joint closing ceremony and Great War commemoration in Glasgow was attended by Prince Charles (to our disappointment – we’d expected Brenda) as well as the heads of state of the Commonwealth nations (excluding the ones who dropped out early in shame, hounded by pantomime protest). A service at Glasgow Cathedral was the starting-point.

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With friends from the Scottish Peace Network picketing out front of the service, Peace Campers avoided armed police and roadblocks by jumping over a wall. Climbing the Necropolis above the Cathedral, we dropped an enormous banner just under the disapproving gaze of John Knox.

Some kind of plainclothes unit got onto us straight away, complaining that our campaigning was somehow offensive to the dead. When we explained that metaphorically digging up millions to invest current military adventures with misplaced reverence for previous ‘victories’ was offensive to the living, we were threatened with charges of ‘desecration of a sepulchre’.

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Although tempted to acquire convictions for this offence, thereby to become Kings and Queens among Goths, we’d already decided to be non-arrestable, so we slowly and sarcastically complied with direction to the official ‘protest zone’. This meant we were able to again hoist the banner, within metres of the departing motorcade as it set off for George Square.

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We then packed up and rolled on to the main public event at George Square. Some lovely Loyalists were also foaming somewhere abouts, which possibly took the heat off us as we once more set up, spanning North Frederick Street with hand-lettered defiance. We were pleased to see some friendlies picketing nearby, and got practical solidarity from both these, and sympathetic shop-fitters who lent us scaffolding to take the weight from tired arms.

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Being behind a banner meant we couldn’t see the comrades who penetrated the proceedings, unfurling another banner demanding ‘RESIST MILITARISM’ before the dignitaries at the Cenotaph. This peaceful plea was met with illustrative hostility; apparently the Empire’s so shaky these days that such dissent must be crushed, with prejudice. Escaping from the mob to the safer fold of fellow-travellers outside the fencing, this plucky band recovered their breath for a last action.

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As the memorial service closed and the marching bands struck-up, it was abundantly clear what this day was about: falsely invoking our lost people, and revising their meaningless slaughter into a source of pride for Brittania and all who kill, and die, in her name to this day. The offensively inappropriate gala-day atmosphere of the military march-past was successfully tempered, however, as peace people showered the soldiers with white feathers, in memoriam of the conscientious objectors.

Aye, because in all circumstances, even universal conscription at a time of hysterical nationalist fervour, there are those principled few who choose to do the right thing regardless of personal cost, and their example shames the rest of us. That’s what Milgram’s experiment showed: not that it’s easy to direct people to torture one another, but that a minority will always instinctively refuse. By supporting and celebrating that resistance, we can win the cultural war against war, when the minority becomes the majority.

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Meanwhile, back in Glasgow, our day ended with a commemoration of the consequence of current conflict, as we participated in the chalking of two thousand human figures in Kelvingrove Park, representing the dead in besieged Gaza and the West Bank territories. We left tired, but with a renewed sense of purpose: because every day the other side wins, humanity loses.

Almost all pictures stolen, from AF Glasgow and the Scottish Peace Network.

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