"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/

Friday 31 October 2014

What does Freedom of Speech really mean?

Breaking news does not - almost by definition - always give the full or entirely correct facts of a situation. Yesterday morning the wonderful organisation Hope not Hate posted on facebook that postal workers in Rochester had refused to deliver election leaflets on behalf of the far right Britain First party. I re-posted this link and it started up a lively debate. Looking at the Hope not Hate website later in the day it transpired that in fact it was Royal Mail who had in fact decided that the communications from BF did not comply with the law and refused to deliver.

However some commentators in the press and elsewhere still seem to think that organisations like Britain First should be allowed to say what they like without censorship under the 'Freedom of Speech' banner. I am - as you may have noticed - a passionate advocate of freedom and the right to say whatever one likes WITHIN REASON.

And that's the thing. Freedom cannot be had without responsibility. And surely that word 'responsibility' encompasses legal and moral obligations. The legal obligations are to keep the laws and if one considers the laws to be wrong, to campaign to change these. The moral obligations are to treat one's fellow citizens as one would wish to be treated oneself. Most major religions have tenets to cover this but 'Mrs DoAsYouWouldBeDoneBy' in Kingsley's The Water Babies sums it up pretty succinctly just by her name.

And as a btw, I understand that postal workers have the right to refuse to deliver any leaflets that they consider to be offensive, although it is illegal for them to refuse to deliver anything that has a stamp on it. The BF leaflets in question were just that, leaflets. In the past postal workers have refused to deliver BNP leaflets. And as one commented, 'if we did deliver them we would have had to put up with the offensive comments from the customers who didn't want to receive them'.

Thursday 2 October 2014

On Writing a Blog Commemorating 1914 - 1918

I started my  bit o' writing and got on with it. Did my research and tried to be fair to all sides. I am a pacifist, I reasoned, I prepared myself for the nay-sayers. I practised all my rhetorical skills against theirs. 

And then I put my head down on the table and wept. I wept for all those who died in all conflicts anytime or anywhere, whatever side or nationality. Rich or poor, young or old, native or foreign. I wept for all those who should have been and never had the chance. I wept for the children who didn't meet fathers and the mothers who never had children.

I cried for one of my grandfather's, badly injured in the Balkans. I cried for his comrades who never returned at all. I cried for my other grandfather drunk with his brothers because they could never speak of 'Wipers' or the Somme. I cried for my grandfather-in-law whose war experience turned the smart, intelligent 18 year old into a miserable - but still intelligent - old man. 

I thought about all those babies born during WW1 whose mothers' thought they were growing up into a war free world. I thought especially of the ones who did not make it through WW11. I thought about the displaced persons, refugees, homeless and sick that all conflicts leave behind. I thought about all the many who in times of war carry on but never look for thanks; those who cared for children not their own and any sick who needed help.

I wondered about books not written, pictures not painted, music not composed because their artists had died. Games not played, songs not sung, cheer not shouted and laughter not heard as the audiences had been lost. Love not made and words not spoken.

And so, although this maybe written another day, mere words can never tell how much I feel and how passionately I hope that we can manage to find a way forward, together, in peace.