Stand up and get marching
It’s turning out to be a sad summer, isn’t it? The confirmation of the massive, institutional betrayal of Hillsborough was swiftly followed by the nastiest, most dishonest national campaign I have ever seen, resulting in a hugely divisive referendum.
Whilst it’s a good thing that people were engaged, almost as never before, in politics, it’s sad that there’s so much polarisation, distortion and personal ambition shaping our world.
And it doesn’t seem to end: just now, the Chilcot report has been published, and what an extraordinary and sorry story it tells. Not that we didn’t know already, but to have it confirmed is an additional blow.
When I was at college, the miners were on strike and marching; friends of mine demonstrated in favour of this, and against that, and I always held back. Having once practically drowned in a massive press of people leaving Wembley Stadium, I had an aversion to crowds. Besides, I thought that marches were anathema to individual expression – the banners declared your position and obliterated subtle differences.
But over the years I have changed, and now I do pitch up for causes I feel passionately about; I have demonstrated at power stations, marched on parliament, chanted, shouted, embraced immigrants who have lined up asking for hugs and reassurances that we don’t want them to leave. And rather than worrying that I am losing my individuality, I feel that I am exercising a fundamental right. If I can’t influence anything at the ballot box, which sadly seems my fate – is it me or is it our voting system? – then I can lift up my voice, physically and emotionally, and call out that I don’t agree, and that I want something different.
Many people can say that they did just that, when they turned up in their droves and a million people – phenomenal! – marched against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. My daughter was a month old so we didn’t go, and I will always regret it. The people who did, who stood up to make their voices heard, who took to the streets in protest against an illegal war, should be proud. You may say that it didn’t make any difference, and certainly it didn’t stop our country taking up arms, but it signals true defeat and apathy when we no longer get off the sofa, put on some comfortable shoes, and march.