Democracy

Last night I came across a page on Facebook that made me think a little deeper about what democracy – and freedom specifically – mean.  The page in question is ‘Make it illegal to burn flags or poppies’.

I knew what would greet me when I clicked onto the page and was unsurprised to see a list of racist, right-wing comments from a variety of people.  Many of them had flags and EDL/BNP logos as their avatars.  One person I clicked on had a photo of a map emblazoned in the St George’s cross, with the words ‘fuck off were [sic] full’.  This angered me, being the bleeding-heart liberal that I am, but it forced me to confront some of the ideas behind why I was angry.  As someone who has war veterans in my family, and as someone who is patriotic about my country, Britain, shouldn’t I be in favour of their proposal?

I’m not narrow-minded enough to assume that all people in that group are nationalists, or racists.  The girl who joined the group, which led to my discovery of the page, is not, to my knowledge, either of those things.  Clearly, and rightly so, there is deep offence at such an insensitive act such as the burning of a poppy, which has become a national symbol of honouring and remembering those who have laid down their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today.

But there lies the irony of this group.  Wars have been fought in the name of our freedom; the freedom to vote, the freedom to live in a liberal democracy, the freedom not to be treated as inferiors because of our different races and religions.  The freedom to live in a society where we can be whoever we choose to be, not that this is always a good thing.   We must accept and respect the right of groups like the EDL and BNP to exist, as much as it pains us.  Countless people laid down their lives to protect these freedoms, and we cannot pick and choose which freedoms we want and discard the others.

I find flag burning and poppy burning offensive myself.  But ban it?  No.  Never.  I do not agree with the desecration of such symbols, the same way I did not agree with Pastor Terry Jones’ Qu’ran burning.  But to make such acts illegal is against the very core of what a free, democratic society means.  If you make such acts illegal, where does it end?  Ban all flags that aren’t British or English flags?  Ban dissent?  Ban criticism of political parties?  Ban any questioning of why we are in Afghanistan?  The slippery slope leads us to an authoritarian, dictating end where free and critical thinking is illegal.

Love of country must be about more than a symbol; it must be an idea, an idea of Britain that does not discriminate, an idea that includes and unites the best of all religions and cultures and races that make up our society.  Respect for veterans is about more than just a poppy on your lapel.  It’s about gratitude for what they have sacrificed for us and the free lives they have allowed us to lead.  Just as burning a flag is a meaningless, albeit insulting, gesture, to outlaw flag burning and poppy burning is much the same.  Using coercion and the strong arm of the law to counterattack these people gets us nowhere – rather it pushes the anger underground and makes a mockery of our democracy.  We must use argument against such extremists, just as I have tried, hopefully, to use it here against the extremist elements of that Facebook page, and deconstruct their hate.

Going underground

Blogging from my desk at work.  How rebellious am I?!

Well it’s been quite some time since I posted.  It’s been a fairly difficult few weeks personally.  Work has, thankfully, quietened down, but I’ve still found my stress and patience levels being tested.  However, I am venturing back to the homeland on Thursday evening for a few days & nights in Wigan.  I think I desperately need it.  I never thought I’d desperately need Wigan.

I had an idea in my head this morning about doing a few posts about London and the little things I’ve noticed since moving here.  This idea came to me whilst I was on the Tube, listening to Madonna and generally watching all the madness that goes on on a Tube train during morning rush hour.  It goes so far beyond just ‘people watching’. 

It’s kind of cliche to talk about Tube etiquette.  Everyone in London has an opinion about it, whether you’re a resident or a visitor.  A few things I have noticed:

– Anarchy: there is no authority on the Tube.  Every man for himself.  Free for all.  Except when a pregnant person or oldie boards, and you feel that sort of awkward guilt for waiting to see if anyone else gives up their seat.  And when they don’t, you have to stumble over to said expectant mother/OAP and ask them to take your seat.  But what if someone steams in behind you and takes the seat?  Do you stand up and fight for that seat?  Do you say “I ACTUALLY VACATED THAT SEAT FOR THIS PREGNANT LADY / ELDERLY MAN” ?  Oh the dilemmas.

– Idiots who don’t move down the train.  We’re on a train from zone 3 to zone 1, which goes through Finsbury Park and King’s Cross St Pancras, both of which are interchanges for other Tube services and National Rail.  But no.  We’re all going to congregate around the doors, which both blocks other passengers’ exits and the ability of people to board.  What happened to common sense?  A hilarious example of this happened last week.  Well of course it was hilarious to me, as I actually had a seat.  Morning rush hour.  The trains for some reason are packed… I mean, sardine-style packed.  In typical style, cretinous passengers started to board at various stops and loiter around the doors.  When we pulled up at King’s Cross St Pancras, there was total mania.  People breaking their own ribs to ensure they could get off at their stop, bags getting tripped over, people refusing to budge.  Onto the public address system comes the driver to bellow “WOULD PEOPLE PLEASE MOVE RIGHT DOWN INSIDE THE CARRIAGE.  IF YOU CANNOT FIT ONTO THE TRAIN, PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PUSH ON WHEN THERE’S ANOTHER TRAIN ARRIVING AT THE STATION IN THE NEXT  2 MINUTES”.  Hilarious for privileged, seated onlookers like myself.

– Seat wars: this morning I boarded the Tube as normal.  At Turnpike Lane, a woman and a man boarded and stood, like me, and waited for that tense moment at Finsbury Park when you look to see who makes a move.  As we pull into Finsbury, said woman decides to come stand next to me, and motion as if she’s leaving the train.  I thus go to move down into the train where 2 other women have just vacated seats.  So what does this bushy-haired moron do?  Sees my move for the seats, spins back around and pretty much sprints to take one of the seats.  A) Do you really need a seat that badly?  B) Why did you motion to get off the train?  C) Fuck you, I got the seat next to you anyway. 

And there is my almost-4pm rant for the day.

10.31pm.

Most people probably hate the sound of airplanes over their house.  It doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  When I lived in Manchester, I hated the silence of my street.  I found it hard to sleep, especially when I had the back bedroom, where the quiet was almost eerie.  Thankfully I got to move to the front room in my 3rd university year, which was better.

But where I live in London is fairly noisy.  Not in an obnoxious or overbearing way.  Just the way I like it.  I sleep better with background noise.  And for some odd reason, hearing the planes overhead comforts me.  Makes me really feel like I’m part of ‘the city’.  I guess they’re from Luton or Stansted airport.  Heathrow and Gatwick are the other side of London.  Who knows.  But it reassures me.

London Calling.

I’ve wanted to move to London for about 5 or 6 years.  I first visited London proper in 2004 on a college trip and it was love at first sight.  I’ve been back and forth ever since then, staying for as little as 12 hours and as long as 4 days.  For me, there is very little I dislike about London.  That’ll probably change now I live here and have to cope with its mood swings every day.  But for now I’m happily in my little London-is-still-a-novelty bubble.

Talking about moving to London and moving to London are clearly two enormously different things.  But in the last 2 years, since I met some of my best friends down here, the pull towards moving here permanently became stronger.  Every time my train pulled out of Euston I felt like I had left a piece of me behind [insert melodrama].  So I decided in late 2010 that 2011 would be the year to finally bite the bullet.  I didn’t realise how quickly things would move.  Not that I haven’t had my doubts.  When my mum took ill with pneumonia in March, I went back and forth over my decision.  Thankfully she made a fine recovery.  And London was back on.

I made numerous applications, most of which were rejected.  I had one telephone interview that didn’t progress beyond that stage.  But when I applied to work at University of London, it felt different.  I felt I had a very strong application – a feeling that proved true.  And on May 4th 2011 I came down to London, interviewed, and found out I had the job the very next day.

And so here I am.  After an intense and stressful weekend of house hunting in north London in May 2011, I find myself in a little town called Wood Green.  I have a nice house.  A lovely room.  And a job I still enjoy, but I’m only 3 weeks in… so come back in a few months and I may have changed my mind.  As a Libran, this indecision and to-ing and fro-ing is a terrible flaw of mine.

I have created this blog as a place where anyone who gives a fuck can come and see what I’m up to here in the capital city now I finally live here.  I suspect it may turn into a blog of ranting, complaining and/or fangirling over the many musical/film/sporting loves of my life.  Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy it.  I have no intentions of becoming the next Carrie Bradshaw but I’d like to give it a shot.  Without the interesting love life, I fear this goal is just a tad unrealistic…