I made a small child cry this morning. I told them to hang onto their childhood for as long as they can. Pretty soon they will realise that the world is a bit of a horrible place to exist in, consisting of various mishaps and ultimately the crushing of their ambition and dreams. They will struggle to have any basic understanding of their own life and soon come to realise that anything they do know is made up of snippets of snatched conversation, ill-understood ideas and concepts. To these, they will then employ their own basic understanding and then go on to form their limited world view. One to which they will probably cling to come hell or high water. Even progressive learning later in life as they mature will still be infected by these early notions and largely misunderstood early interactions and, at best, half-comprehended theories.
Well, in reality, what happened was that I smiled at them. The reaction I received was true through. A wee look of confusion appeared across the face of the child, then slowly but surely morphed in to a scowl, followed soon by tears and a whimper. And all because I was simply trying to be nice. Ah well, good preparation for what is to come.
Interaction with others has been a bit more successful. I like a wee blether as I am interested in people, their opinions and what makes them tick. Much to my embarrassment, however, it has been said in the past that: 'I prefer the sound of my own voice and the theories behind my own opinions'. But I like to think that applied to my younger self and not so much the person I am today. Others may hold contrasting views on this subject and who am I to disagree?
I do feel as I get older that my passions run shallower. In my late teens and early 20s, whilst not so much desperate for an argument or some cause to get behind, myself and my group of friends from the local branch of the Labour Party Young Socialists, resplendent with our red star badges, were out to change the world as we wrestled with big political issues of the day. Be it The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Anti Trident, Right to Work, or Rock Against Racism ( though I never really got over The Clash being a no show at the big rally in Craigmillar in the late 70s), we were there and we were heard.
One of my favourite times was when Mrs Thatcher came to open the General Assembly on The Mound. We had a diverse number of protests all going on in the same wee space. There was Pastor Jack Glass and his reformation movement, telling us we were all destined for hell if we did not repent. To be fair to the man, he did engage with each of us individually to help save our souls, though we were having none of it. I recall there was a group waving union flags but I think they were just Thatcher fan boys. Skinheads, Doc Marten boots, tattoos and permanent scowls: thinking about it, they may have been a bit more sinister than my first recollection.
There was another smallish group calling for the reunification of Ireland and a host of SWP members, infiltrating all the groups I suspect. We were there under the CND banner and not just any CND banner, but that of the West Calder branch, as seen on the early evening news bulletin that Saturday. From our small village in east central Scotland, we were going to be the difference.
Sadly, apart from a recent demo in support of the people of Palestine, which I felt inclined to leave when the key speaker started throwing out unwarranted comments about someone close, I have not felt motivated lately to get up on my feet and protest on the bigger issues. Nowadays, I find my anger or concern is directed more to things happening on my doorstep, such as the tragedy of seeing homeless people on the street and observing the lack of concern shown by passers-by to these poor souls, exhibiting obvious and visible signs of neglect.
If we observe the wider canvas, we soon realise that this uncaring attitude is endemic in our society, particularly as driven by the current elected leadership of this country (UK). They discourage us from looking up, but instead to look inwardly to ourselves, our own business and our own needs. Which brings me back to the great architect of self-interest: Thatcher.
Thinking back to that day on the Mound, I wish we had shouted louder.
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