I first remember engaging with the world of ideas in 1971 in a very dull RAF station in Wales.
Having drawn my regular service wages, after two years on engineering apprentice pocket money, I experienced the delights of getting drunk in the NAAFI bar or falling out of the first floor window of the camp disco (I use the word ‘camp’ in its military context) into the rubbish bins at ground level.
This new sophisticated lifestyle soon lost its poetic appeal, and I found myself in Cardiff library on Saturday mornings studying dinosaurs or in the RAF StAthan library on weekday evenings studying the Spanish Civil War.
By a curious serendipity I was discovered in the latter activity by an RAF education officer who was one of those British establishment spooks with a sideline in recruitment for more interesting secretive work. And so it was that I was groomed to play my part in saving the country from the communist foe, working in the dull post-stalinist Morning Star newspaper office in London while taking my orders from a Special Branch chief inspector in Scotland Yard.
That’s all water under the bridge. I have written about it before on this blog. Since then, in various times and in different groups and organisations, I have played my part and engaged with the times – so to speak – and I have been keen to explore ideas and put them into practice. It is just depressing to find that Downing Street is now being run by a trotskyist wrecker (Dominic Cummings) whose background is in the very establishment that once put me to work against the trots like Corbyn in the 1970s to “save the realm” from nihilist nutters…
Along the way, I have played my part in democracy and I have been engaged in social action, community theatre, and with the Church (East End AIDS work, Liverpool Hillsborough counselling, action with rural itinerant homeless in Dorset). As a Franciscan friar I have preached in churches – and a few cathedrals – all over England.
I have been shut away in more contemplative monasteries: up till three in the morning in choir under frosty gothic vaults with the moonlight through high pointed arch windows warming our chilled fingers in those creaky stalls. That too is spiritual engagement with a world that needs healing: a fight between angels and demons.
As a Catholic I have flirted with social action and base communities, then spent much time trying to genuinely explore the more traditional Catholic values (I still think Benedict XVI is the real Pope!) But many of the good Catholic people I allied myself with a decade ago have now sadly become Trump supporters and Brexiters and stand against everything that makes an open and balanced community.
I wrote about this on the blog a few months ago. Yesterday, a Catholic website I helped found ten years ago had an extremely equivocal article with clear support for US gun freedom. How is that possible, in the wake of the killing of many Mexican Catholics in the El Paso white supremacy atrocity?
My response? I had copyright of the website’s header image: a photograph of the crucified Christ in the snow in a monastery cemetery. I told them to take it down as I had no wish to see my work at the top of a page advocating guns. They didn’t reply.
I took out a DMCA copyright infringement order and – impressively – WordPress removed that site’s banner within two hours!
Finally there was the Brexit fight: the struggle against a force funded by millions of pounds of dark money (from God-knows-where) and deeply criminal forces using anti-democratic methods. I’ve played my part in the Remain movement. Flew to London twice, just to be counted among millions marching through Whitehall to register our objection to the right-wing project that will strip so many people and a future generation of their democratic rights and freedoms.
In the end, I can look back and say – without any smugness (honestly) – that I have done my bit all the way. I’m 67. I am worn out with the bickering of the Remain movement: the Corbynistas versus the Blairites; the environmentalists versus the pro-Europeans; the Peoples Popular Front of Judaea versus the Judaean Peoples Popular Front. I wrote my last lobbying letter a few days ago, and that was the end of my activism. Over to you now: the new generation.
YOU FIGHT FOR YOUR FUTURE NOW.
I have some donkeys to feed and some trees that need trimming. I don’t need to wake up tomorrow thinking I’m going to save the world. On reflection, I didn’t. But I have made some bloody good marmalade for my breakfast. And in the end my final and most serious engagement in this life has been my full dedication to four donkeys who take up all the remaining time I have to offer. I think that is quite enough.
I am happy to announce my disengagement from all else and have just signed out from various groups. Good luck with your Brexit and all the rest. If you are between 21 and 60 you should be engaged with all your might. As I was – on various fronts – for all my life.
I’ll watch with interest, when I have a moment to spare.
Please don’t ask me for any advice now because I would only suggest one remedy: it is time to burn Parliament down and set up a People’s Commission in a large enough Fullers pub in central London. The Admiralty pub in Trafalgar Square would work very well and its beer, sausages and pies are recommended.
So, good luck.
Just now, Aitana needs combing.
Update: Thursday 8 August
Those writing on right-wing Catholic websites (see above) from the security of an England in which even sports pistols are no longer allowed in UK law, and who make glib comments against US gun control – while watching the funerals of innocents shot in an El Paso supermarket – should heed the remarks of ex-president Clinton, who actually lives in the USA, which you don’t!
Why the hell would anyone need to own a military grade assault rifle? There was legislation in place in the 1990s to stop this, but the US gun lobby ensured it was not renewed. It is evil when people are given the right – by law – to assault their own citizens with military weapons. I’ll go one stage further and say it is more evil for a Catholic website to condone this.
That’s why I stood on principle and enforced the copyright to refuse catholicismpure.wordpress.com to use my photography in their header image.
I see the Catholicism “Pure” website now has a photo of trees as a temporary header image. Good. Learn from the trees, folks. They stand as silent witnesses to your blasphemy and your twisted theology, which is a crime against God’s creation. Forget your nasty alt.right politics which have taken you to a new moral low point and learn from the God of Abraham and the God of Saint Francis: learn to have peace in your hearts.