"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 31 August 2013

History Lessons or Isn't Napalm a chemical weapon?

If we don't learn the lessons which history teaches, just how civilised can we claim to be?

Study the 'causes' of the First World War, ask a handful of travellers on the Clapham Omnibus, and the answer will probably along the lines of 'wasn't some aristo in Sarajevo shot or something?' But in reality a complicated chain of alliances between foreign powers which were hustling for supreme power saw the result of european countries' militaries rushing into battles in which over 37 million deaths and wounded totalled amongst military and civilians world wide. Meanwhile the ordinary volunteer/conscript believed s/he was fighting for the honour of his/her country. Was s/he? Or was s/he in fact just fighting to keep the word of some Minister given over 'talks' in another country many years before, which may have been given as much for trade agreements as anything else?

And for what? Many say the the seeds of World War Two were planted in the 'peace' treaty and reparation deals of World War One. At least 60 million people were killed worldwide in what many describe as the deadliest military conflict in history with innumberable injuries. [For a breakdown - world wide - of casualties click here ]

All the major 'campaigns' since WW2 have called for similar alliances from the major powers. Harold Wilson refused to support President Johnson in Vietnam - the US government 'took over' that conflict from the French when the latter pulled out in 1965 - for a really good lesson in the history of Indo China/Vietnam this link as taught in GCSE is a great help. Tony Blair rushed to the aid of President Bush over Iraq. 'Historic alliances' are still quoted - yet how many really understand why and for what reason/benefit this alliances are quoted. How many in power question whether war of any kind is just and right?

This is a very roundabout way of discussing the debate in the House of Commons on Thursday evenings which resulted in the decision not to take immediate military action in Syria. Last weekend William Hague seemed ready to rush into Syria behind the US without any cautions such as UN intervention/inspectors. Hague suggested it was 'clear' that the Syrian regime was behind an alleged chemical attack on its people without any hard evidence. Did the electorate support his assertions?

David Cameron did at least recall parliament to vote on Syria And The Use of Chemical Weapons [text of the debate available on that link] on Thursday 29th August. Ed Milliband posted an amendment and of course there were many recriminations from speakers from both sides. Cameron's final remarks when his motion fell were: 

It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not passed a motion, the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the Government will act accordingly.

were a huge relief to so many of us who campaign for peace. William Hague looked extremely angry and it was said the Michael Gove had a tantrum and shouted at his colleagues who had not voted with the government. Oh well.

Just a few thoughts:

War is wrong in any context
Chemical weapons kill indiscriminately but so do bombs and other weapons
Isn't Napalm - as developed and used by the US -a chemical weapon?
How does any army really know that they have God on their side?*

*Bob Dylan: With God on Our Side

The photograph above is a WW1 Australian soldier, http://www.awm.gov.au/visit/first-world-war-galleries/ 

Friday, 2 August 2013

I may be a bit of a Curmudgeon*

I may be a bit of a Curmudgeon* when it comes to all things royal - but here's the thing. When it comes to all things historic, I am a sucker, even if they bear the 'royal' tag. And I really like birth, marriage and death certificates because of what they can tell us. Really interesting things, like whether parents were married before or after a certain person was born/conceived. Or - as in the case with some of my more disreputable ancestors - whether the certain person's parents were married to other people completely at the time.

Sometimes these certificates show that a person one might have known for years under a certain name was ever actually registered with that name at all. I had to sign all sorts of extra forms when dealing with my late mother's affairs because she hated her given name and used a different one, an 'aka' as the solicitor put it [also known as] Whilst I sighed at the extra this would add to the eventual legal bill I also made a mental note to tell my children that this process would have to be gone through when tidying up my legal affairs as I too am not known by the name by which I was registered.

My naughty great great grandfather had two women claim to be his widow on their death certificates [or rather the informants of their death claimed the women were his widow] although neither of them in fact were. His legal wife - whom he had left around thirty years earlier, eloping with her niece - died before him but still claimed to be his widow, a story she had probably told to her friends and neighbours to cover his absence. ['Yes he popped out for some bread and died on the way back'] The niece with whom he eloped - and who became my great great grandmother - outlived him and claimed to be his widow but wasn't because they never married. [It would have been illegal in both state and church law at the time due to the relationship between the two women] And both women used his incorrect given name, as the name he was known by not being the name with which he was registered.

And trying to trace the history of someone through tracing occupations of birth and marriage certificates or census returns is also fraught with pitfalls. Many fathers want to 'big themselves up' on their daughters' marriage certificates and have described themselves as farmers instead of agricultural labourers and shopkeepers instead of shopworkers. We never did find the Public House to which one of my great grandfathers claimed to have been the licensee although I did find one which employed him as a general servant and occasional barman. I am told that certain occupations on census returns denote that women of so called certain employments are really no better than they should be. Suffice to say, not in my family laddie and move on smartly to other things!

So although I really am not that interested in the new addition to the Royal Family I did think I would have a quick look at his birth certificate, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph [above]. Should have known better. Because I have come all over extra Curmudgeonly* [I am loving that word and think I will make it my word of the week]

So here are my moans. Does 'His Royal Highness Prince' really constitute part of the baby's name? Can anyone add it to their offspring's list of names? Is 'Prince/Princess of the United Kingdom' really an occupation?  - or does that just show one's perceived status rather than occupation? 

As used as I am to perusing such certificates, the one above really does tell me something new. It tells me that although all little babies are born in roughly the same way and have the same basic needs, they will not all be viewed equally right from the very start. They will never be addressed equally if one starts out on his very first piece of paperwork as 'His Royal Highness Prince'. They can never be equal if one has parents whose occupations are unachievable by his peers parents.

Baby George does not have a surname, as shown by his father on this piece of paper. Other children in history who have not had a father's surname on their birth certificates have not usually had the sobriquet 'Prince' attached to their name. Often their parent[s] went to great lengths to hide that missing surname and children suffered inequality all their lives.

So lets have a bit more equality, shall we. If we don't start off equal even in the paper work, we are a long way from being equal in real life aren't we? And all the excitement about the Cambridges being a modern, forward thinking family will be shown to be spin, won't it?

*Noun1.curmudgeon - a crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas
Now does that sound like me?      Elizannie xx