I live in a small Sussex town where most people are neither too poor or too rich. We can expect to live peaceful lives here, without interference, no matter what our opinions or beliefs may be. We have pretty buildings which reflect the town’s history back to that Norman Conquest in 1066 and enough modern ideas to ensure that we do not become prisoners of our past.
It is relatively easy to begin this day with hope in our hearts as the new American President begins a job where so many of us hope that he can bring real change to the World.
Of course, even in cozy East Sussex, the past often told a different story.
Our castle, still sitting pretty on its hill, was built by one of King William I’ s cronies. William, of course was the Norman Conqueror, and his rule was ensured by making his military supporters into English barons and letting them build castles to defend their lands and their wealth. A wealth garnered, let us remember, by military conquest.
Today, that castle is a tourist site, a piece of charming antiquity.
There is also a plaque on our High Street remembering some Protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary I. Of course there are other sites, less well marked maybe, in other parts of Britain where Roman Catholic martyrs were burnt by her Protestant brother and sister, all English monarchs in their turn.
But most of the town, less spectacularly, perhaps, is a record of sensible working people making things and liberal minded intellectuals dreaming dreams and writing books. Most famously, Thomas Paine, as mentioned the other day, with his The Rights of Man and, centuries later, Virginia Woolf, with her novels about, amongst other things, the rights of women.
They were not popular figures amongst the great majority of their English contempories. His intellectual journey sent him to America, her’s to a watery grave just outside our town.
It might just be true that a majority of the current generation of inhabitants would have given them a much warmer welcome and even identified with their questioning, irksome opinions. I suspect that a large part of the population, are now sceptical of big business, international capitalism and its consequent inequalities.
I like to think so any way.
Lets hope that President Obama has some modern equivalalents of these irksome opinions too or, if he doesn’t then lets hope that he listens to those of others and tries to put them into action.
There is much talk these days, naturally, about the credit crunch. The economic recovery of the United States and the rest of the World will be right up there on his to do list. Rather him than me.
I do not understand how international finance works.
I can grasp the kind of international economics that William the Conqueror brought over to this country with his army. The big men won, took over the top jobs and then made loads of money.
That is simple.
What seems more complex are all those men, usually men, in suits who sit at the top of the big international banks and corporations. Some of them have fought their way into those positions, some of them have bullied their way there and others have built modern castles. Others, of course, have been plain dishonest. All of them, however have made loads of money.
They don’t look quite so clever now though. Their decisions and ambitions, beginning in America, spreading to Britain and the rest of the World , have nearly brought us all to the verge of financial collapse. As in the old way though, we do not have to worry about any of them losing their personal wealth.
Also on President Obama’s desk will be the problems in the Middle East. He must feel that here are too many international stories about hatred and instutionalised murder.
Again, I do not understand why this prevails but maybe he could do something about this.
I can understand, the primitive impulse that lead catholic monarchs to kill protestants and protestant monarchs to kill catholics. They were holding on to power and eliminating any threat to it in the name of God.
That, again , is simple to understand but disgusting.
I do not though understand how modern states and terrorist organisations think that murder is a constructive way of changing the World.
In 1993, the IRA, blew up a shopping centre in Warrington, England killing a baby and a 12 year old boy called Tim Parry.
In 2009, the Israeli airforce dropped white phorphous bombs on the Palestinian town of Jabalya injuring a 14 year old boy called Mahmoud Mattar and killing his two friends.
Mahmoud Hattar has been blinded in both eyes and is now lying unconscious in hospital with third-degree burns.
Just two incidents amongst many – what good have they done?
Well, the bankers got richer, the terrorists gained a crazy kind of respect from their minority supporters and the politicians won elections.
Maybe it is our fault. We let them get away with it.
If we have hope in the new American President, is it because we see him as a possible champion of the under-dog? By under-dog I mean all of us who do not choose to live our lives by money and power and who do not want to hold other people’s lives so cheaply.
Our town is now more famous for its bookshops than its bloody past. Maybe that can give us a small voice and some hope for the future.
In Thailand a man has just been sent to prison for three years because he wrote a paragraph in a book which, allegedly, insulted the Thai royal family by refering to its sexual habits. It may not be any good, of course, but lets buy it.
Lets make it a best seller – Verisimilitude by the Australian writer, Harry Nicolaides – and lets try to end the age of the bullies – we might just be helping to spend our way out of the credit crunch too.