Challenge the Creeping Fascism
“How old are you son?” “Seventeen and a half Sir!” “Well come back tomorrow when you are nineteen”*. That was taken from one of many books on the First World War, and I started with it because it illustrates the fact that war wastes young life. Many of the ‘pals’ who lost their lives on the killing fields of that war were unmarried, and many had not had any relationship to speak of. They were kids.
Now think about that. All you fathers with children. All you men with girlfriends. Look what you would have missed had you suffered the same fate as those young, innocent men. Most thought they were going on a big adventure. My Great Uncle Frank survived four years on the battlefields of the ironically named ‘Great War’. His manuscript from that time is entitled ‘The Great Adventure’, but the reality of those four years is that it was spent picking up shattered bodies and parts of bodies during the slaughter of the Somme, Paschendaele, and Ypres.
In comparison what was I doing between the ages of seventeen and twenty one? Well I had two girlfriends during that time, one at University and one before. I witnessed the transformation of popular music from progressive rock to punk rock. I had a number of jobs to supplement my student life. I went to rock festivals at Knebworth, Reading and elsewhere seeing some of the world’s most iconic and enduring bands. I wrote unrepeatable songs. I drank myself silly. I rented my own home. I travelled around the country in safety with my friends and family.
Frank witnessed things that stayed with him until he died. He suffered shell shock and lived in a basement room in my grandparents’ house until he died. He never married, but he did occasionally venture out to the pub in Blackpool with my Uncles and Aunts. He considered himself lucky. He didn’t die a horrific death after all, but as a stretcher bearer he saw suffering like we can only ever imagine. His was the ‘war to end all wars’, yet our politicians continue to incite conflict in our fragile world.
Sadly it wasn’t the last world war. The privations in Europe following the ‘Great War’ fostered the growth of fascism, which grew because people wanted to hear about better times ahead. Fascism promised a lot but delivered hell, by which time it was so entrenched around the world that it took a world war to stop it. Peace in Europe was something my parents’ generation fought for between 1939 and 1945, yet sometime in the 1990s I found a British National Party leaflet on their coffee table, which had been delivered by ‘a nice young man who seemed to think like us’. I became slightly unhinged for a few minutes to remind them they had spent their early lives fighting against bastards like that.
Mum and Dad felt a bit stupid when they realised they had been so duped, but they were in their ‘70s, having spent a lifetime bringing up their nine children with Dad working two jobs and Mum chained to the stove or kitchen sink (metaphorically speaking of course). They were compassionate, loving people who never really stopped working even after Dad retired. They doted on each other, their children, their grandchildren and great grandchildren and had little spare time for thought.
In June 2016, huge numbers of people were cajoled into voting for something they believed would improve their busy lives. The information they were given was disingenuous, and given by people with a right wing political agenda, not too far removed from the fascism that caused the war my parents’ generation lived through. After the severity of the 2008 recession and its prolonged aftermath, those who still had jobs worked endless hours to keep rooves over their heads and food on their dinner tables. The climate was again ripe for unprincipled politicians to exploit both the fears and dreams of people who yearned for a better life. It was a perfect breeding ground.
Brexit empowered right wing movements across the world. Trump was elected in the USA. Right Wing governments have emerged in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy…oh, and the United Kingdom, where the paucity of true Opposition has allowed the weakest Prime Minister and the two worst governments in my 60 years to preside over our exit from the European Union, which was in part put together in the 1950s to bring peace in Europe.
Fight fascism with all your heart, at every level. Give your children the right future.