I have had three occasions recently, each of which gave me pause for thought about vanity, motive and human stupidity.
One was a petty dispute at a “grand” London club. It was and is a power struggle. A thwacking of dicks and an exercise for giant egos. In that case it really doesn’t matter – let them have their foolish dispute. Keep out of it. Sod ’em.
The other, equally “grand”, was an evening service in a grand abbey attended by the “great and the good”. It was an old school “do”. I slipped in unnoticed, a mere grain of sand, invited to put bum on seat in the hope that I would contribute money.
One of the speeches annoyed me considerably. We have become a society of individuals he said, whereas apparently we should be joined as one; willing and perhaps submissive members of society.
Well I have news for that gentleman. My time at that noble school taught me to be an individual and I am glad of it. It taught me not to accept the slavish notion that all was for the greater good when patently it is not. Some are more equal than others, as George Orwell once wrote.
Many politicians were once schoolboys there and I fear that the only aim of most of that breed is not the benefit of society but their own personal glory and power.
So Mr Schoolmaster, I fear we have always been a society of individuals and always will be. It is simply a question of getting individuals to contribute to the common good rather than seeking their own.
The other quite severe irritation was being asked to wear a poppy at a concert I sang in. The annual pomp and circumstance at the Cenotaph always strikes me as absurd nonsense and a glorification of war, not a homage for the deaths of the millions who lost their lives in pursuit of orders from above.
It is the Great and the Good who through millennia have sent the young to their deaths in endless pointless conflicts. They may not always have done so deliberately or without good reason. But quite often the motive has been clouded, dubious at best.
I am very torn in my attitude to World War II. A vicious thug had to be stopped but somehow even there I wonder if mass slaughter was in fact inevitable. As for World War I, there really was no excuse.
It is the participation of the military and the politicians which gives me great unease in such ceremonies. Last posts are played, parades are paraded, uniforms are in evidence everywhere. The very people who cause such deaths are perhaps trying to atone for the sins of their fore-bearers.
Slaughter, cruelty, unspeakable abomination should never be forgotten. The picture of the concentration camps and the killing fields must remain in the very center of our vision as a reminder to prevent it happening again.
But we need compassionate and wise leadership, not the same tired old types who have dominated human history, to make a difference.
We need a re-think of capitalism, a better economic model. We need a rethink of politics it is all too often an arena dominated by those who…..surprise surprise….like to “dominate”.
We need a re-boot , a rethink. A tabula rasa.