Tag Archives: war

WAR’S END

4 Jul

There’s nothing quite like crumbling stones and walls falling into dust,” sighed Ugward as he surveyed the bleak and battered landscape in front of him. They’d come a long way to visit what may have been an inhabited planet, and he was already feeling homesick. “Our home planet will probably go the same way, Slivvik. It seems to be the norm once life-forms get bright enough to make catastrophic bangs.”

Slivvik sighed. Here was Ugward on his favourite topic when all she wanted to do was lie down with him on the piles of dry dust and make glorious love half a dozen times. Or more. Half a dozen wasn’t many when you thought of the enormity of the Universe, and that was something she did quite often.

It’s all you think of,” she murmured, trying to look as seductive as she could, and she was good at looking seductive. She was the best in her group, and that said a lot because her group was probably the best on all of Croesus where the female population took a pride in the almost continual seduction of males.

I have to,” he retorted. Being a typical male he was almost totally indifferent to the charms of Croesian females and had to really be persuaded to satisfy their seemingly endless appetite for love-making and childbirth. At the moment he was convinced that nothing anywhere would make him deviate from his present course of observation and theorising.

Before you could say Pingawinga Croesus itself could end up like this,” he continued, “ … and become a world that to all intents and purposes is dead. Look at that wall over there, and the others joined to it at what was probably once a right-angle. And the remnants of roofing materials lying in a higgledy piggledy heap. Once these would have been cosy homes, places where the natives lived and … if you like, loved.”

I most certainly like!” she giggled. “But look: the place is dead! There’s no life here and probably hasn’t been for a thousand of its planet’s years, or more. If you want my opinion, they didn’t love enough. It’s love that brings folks together, not nuclear explosions!”

They probably didn’t love at all,” he sighed, “Just because you females are constantly on the pull doesn’t mean other species on other worlds are! It’s not that loving and stuff like it is the be all and end all of creation! But just look, Slivvik, try to imagine…”

I can see what you can see and imagine what you can imagine,” she sniffed, “and what I see is a dreary backdrop to a story that lost it’s punch-line so long ago it doesn’t bear thinking about! The place is extinct, Ugward, and that’s all there is to it! Just look around at all the dreariness and dirt!”

It’s far from all,” he remonstrated. “Just think about it, Slivvik, dear lady. Once upon a time, before the bricks and stones crumbled to dust, before whatever it was that destroyed the place exploded in a terrifying end to life, there were people in these buildings, for buildings they were. There were children running around on their three little legs….”

They might have had four…”

That’s not the point! Three or four…”

Or even two?”

Now that’s silly! Whoever heard of a life-form with only two legs? But I’ll take it on if it keeps you quiet for a moment. There were, then, children running around, laughing and joking and playing tag and kicking spheroids about in fun. Before the bricks turned to dust and the skies boiled. Before the world as good as ended.”

It didn’t end, though! We’re standing on it, the air’s good to breathe and the sun’s bright in its sky. The world didn’t die. Maybe it’s just the people who died. Maybe they all got ill. Maybe there was no explosion.”

When I checked up before we landed the meters suggested radiation, so I’d say there was some gigantic leak of radiation, and that probably means bombs. Explosions. Conflict. Extermination that way. It hasn’t been the first such planet I’ve visited, and it won’t be the last. Maybe even Croesus will go that way sooner or later, with different factions arising and trying to convert the rest to some illogical belief like they seem to do far too often.”

Like gods?” asked Slivvik. “There are always gods in the air, escaping from old stories to give us all hope that there’s more to the Universe than what we can see and touch. It seems some folks aren’t happy unless they’ve got a gigantic being somewhere in the skies to believe in. You’d think Croesians would have worked out what’s real and what isn’t by now, but quite a lot of us haven’t.”

You’re right,” he nodded, “but if you want I’ll be cynical and say it’s all down to money. The preachers need wealth and there are those who give it to them quite willingly even though what they’re preaching is arrant nonsense. Encouraging intelligent beings to believe in something irrational to the point they feel they’ve got to continue believing or feel stupid encourages them to hand over big slabs of their wealth to the preachers or whatever you want to call them when they get their begging bowls out. I reckon they’re all con men, plain and simple, each and every one of them. It’s always been true on Croesus that gods rear their ugly heads, and it’s the same on half the rest of the civilisations we’ve visited, too. The other half have blown themselves up quarrelling about which deity is real and which isn’t. Which is probably what happened here.”

I used to think there might be something in it,” murmured Slivvik. “You know, we live our span of time and grow old, and then die. I used to think that maybe there’s somewhere else, some other dimension, some father to look after us when we die….”

You never did!”

I did, and so what! I can believe in what I want to believe in and it’s nothing to do with you! Belief is personal, surely? Anyway, you were telling me about beings walking on two legs, as if that was possible.”

There have been programs designed to prove that it’s possible, and one or two groups of students have build models,” suggested Ugward, “though nobody takes it at all seriously. Can you imagine making love when you’ve only got two legs?”

Don’t start talking dirty or I’ll get the wriggles inside me and spread my id all over you, and you don’t like having a female’s id anywhere near you!”

I can take it!” he joked, then he paused. “Shush a moment! What was that?”

Slivvik cut her reply short and listened.

From not far away, in one of the more intact crumbling buildings came the most unusual of sounds. What was it? They didn’t know, but it rose and fell like a Croesian on heat. And despite the fact that it was made of the sort of sound none of their people could possibly make however they contorted their vocal chords, in a spooky way they almost understood it.

It’s singing…” whispered Slivvik, “in a language I don’t understand, but it’s singing.”

Look!” gasped Ugward, pointing his hoof towards the building, “what in the name of goodness is that?”

Two … it’s got two legs…” stammered Slivvik.

And hair. Hair all over it. I’d love a head of hair like that…” breathed Ugward, “I’ve always wanted hair.”

They stared at the apparition as it teetered towards them. Then it paused and adjusted the collar that ran round what must have been its neck.

Welcome brothers,” it said, though neither Ugward nor Slivvik could possibly properly understand a single syllable of its uncouth speech, “Welcome to Earth! Now let is pray….”

© Peter Rogerson 04.07.17

BLOOD AND A BLAST

7 Jun

The roar of the explosion sent a thumping ache through the man’s head as it reverberated in the summer air, and he crouched, shaking, under a table he thought might be there, but wasn’t.
“That was close,” gasped his friend.
“It bloody was, God help us,” he replied, and his own voice made the shaken ache in his head vibrate painfully.
“What have we done?” whispered his friend, not understanding.
“You mean, to bring this anger down on us?” he asked, ignoring the pain. “Who are our enemies? Who are those throwing bombs at us, blasting our homes to smithereens, killing our women and children so indiscriminately? Who are they?”
“I thought they were our brothers,” whispered his friend “Did not God make them like he made us? In the same image, in the same mould, out of the same clay?”
“They were our brothers once,” sighed the man. “I knew them and called them that.”
“Then why?” asked the other.
“No man knows,” was his mournful reply, and his words were punctuated by the sudden blast of another explosion, closer this time, shaking the ground where they knelt shivering, and shattering the few remaining pains of glass in the windows. Dust flew up, dust and a half brick, a half brick and a garden.
“That was close,” gasped the man.
“The smell…” gasped his friend, and he knew what he meant. The smell was vile, the scorching of fabrics mixed with the more sinister stench of burning flesh … was it his woman or his pet dog? Or both? Maybe both were burning in the other room, the one that probably wasn’t there any more. And there was gas. He could smell that, too, and half wished it would join the war and explode close enough to take him to his God before the sadness or the next bomb got him. But it didn’t. It drifted away through the vacant windows on a sultry summer breeze.
“All I wanted was a peaceful life,” he whispered, “all I wanted was to pray and sing and laugh and love … yes, love… and then the bombs started coming, and I don’t know why.”
“Nor me,” sighed his friend, “and, like you, I wanted a good life with harmony and a kindly woman to cuddle and kiss with, to love, to join with at God’s will, to spend my life like that, children at my feet, stories being told of the fine things on the world, ice cream under a summer sun. But…”
“…but the fine things are all gone,” he whispered. “And instead we are targets, you and me, something for our erstwhile brothers to aim at and destroy…”
Another explosion, further away this time but loud like the devil’s trumpet, split the air and both men shook. Maybe, they thought, maybe the next one would be for them. Maybe the next blast would grab them and tear their flesh and solve the problems of a painful life for them, by ending it.
“When I pray,” he whispered, “when I turn to my God and pray and tell Him he is good I expect to be able to smile in return, to feel his blessing on me, to kiss my lovely woman, to hold her by the hand, to take her walking where the sun shines and where the sounds of children playing are like a wonderful promise of tomorrow…”
“I know,” nodded his friend, and he scrabbled onto his knees and made for the door leading to the next room.
Which wasn’t there.
“My love!” his friend screamed, “My darling love!”
“What is it?” he called, and scrambled after him.
The room was gone. Practically all of it. The walls, the windows, the doors. Scraps of curtain and chair-cover clung to broken bricks and shattered glass, a family picture in a twisted picture frame. But that wasn’t what drew anguished tears from the two men.
Lying in their own blood and clinging together as if that was all they needed to do in order to be saved were two women. Their two women. Their loves. Their hopes for tomorrow. Their future. And one look told the two men they must be dead, to be twisted and smashed like that, to have their faces torn to shreds.
“Oh my God, why have you done this?” spluttered his friend,
“It wasn’t God,” grated the man, and he picked a fragment of torn steel from where the blast had forced it, and turned it over in his hands.
“This is part of the bomb,” he wept.
His friend wept also. “That killed my love,” his strangled voice managed to force out.
“That killed our loves,” he nodded, “and look,”
He held it up and pointed at some markings, still legible, on its scarred surface.
MADE IN ENGLAND, he read.
MADE IN ENGLAND…
“When the bombs stop falling,” he swore, “when all this death is over, I know where I’m going! And I’ll take death with me! For God! For my own sweet love! For everything their blasted weapons have stolen from me…”
“And I’ll be there by your side,” added his friend, grimly.

THE GODS OF WAR

5 Sep

The Dimwids were slowly sleep-walking into chaos.
It was like this.
They lived on Dimwid, a lovely green little planet that encircled its beautiful sun in just the right amount of time for days to be days and weeks to be weeks and months (yes, they had a moon so they had months) to be months.
So you would have thought they would be happy. You would have thought they would have lain back and basked in the health-giving rays from their sun and yet had the sense to shelter before it burnt them. And you would have thought they would have tossed good white wine down their throats in just the right quantities to make them mellow without turning them stupid.
But they did no such things.
Instead they argued and quarrelled and invented deities by the score in order to have something to worship that wasn’t beautiful, like their world was beautiful. And those deities divided them because each little Dimwid group wanted one of its own. They wanted their own little fabricated god to be the only true one, the only real one, and they wove stories around them to prove it. And after the way of Dimwids they knew two things: they knew that the stories were totally fabricated and they knew that they believed them.
And in many lands they built mighty towers to the skies from which they could bawl hideous pleasantries to as many of those deities as they called their own, from the sunny centre of things and out to the cooler poles, and then, as if it had a strange inevitability about it, they divided amongst themselves because gods do that when they get fixed into brains as if they were real.
And each enclave of Dimwids became a threat to other enclaves of Dimwids, and the people became so divided that hatred was born, and all from the absolute adherence to a belief in their multitude of deities. Indeed, they wove the most glorious tales about castles in the skies, way beyond mortal reach yet accessible if you died with a brave and believing heart and they sang mighty verses re-enforcing the power of their gods.
It became so clear that even a fool could see it, that weapons were needed for there would be war because that’s what the gods wanted.
So the Dimwids raped their world for ores and materials and wrought powerful weapons which cost them so much in coin and effort that they became poor. But there were enemies just about everywhere. Their leaders told them. Their leaders said that weapons needed to be stockpiled against the day when they would be needed to blast their foes and their false beliefs to smithereens. Their leaders told them to stick by them and in the end all would be well.
The future would be glorious, but first there must be austerity in order to pay for the power of what was the most right of right things.
And so, in hunger and poverty, the Dimwids shivered together in underground places where there was a chance they might be safe, and they prostrated themselves onto the cold stone of those places and prayed extra hard to their deities so that their world would return to being the happy, sunny place it once had been even though no living soul had seen it like that.
But when they went above ground, out of their underground places, the air was turgid and made them cough and splutter, for the missile factories belched forth great quantities of toxic fumes and the once-green fields were withered and brown, and all was awry.
The Dimwids were at their wit’s ending. Even their food, mass-produced from slimy stuff in even more factories, was foul to the taste and the air that reached to their dark underground refuges was tainted like acid. Slowly their very being became utter misery and the only place they could find memories of what things had once been like was in books and magazines where pictures showed them.
But they looked at the pictures and called them lies. “Propaganda,” they said, “by our enemies!”
So an army of them went forth into the world, went by air and sea and land, and searched for those enemies. Every land-mass was populated and every land-mass was the same: a haven of misery where pale Dimwids were dying of a decayed and corrupt environment. And on every land-mass, where once there had been knowledge and hope and even love, there was ignorance and despair and damnable hatred.
“What must we do?” they cried to each other, and the wrong answer came forth.
“Fight to the death for glory!” it screeched from the tops of the tall towers that still rose into the turgid skies. “Fight to the death! For glory and for all our gods!”
There were some who were surprised that those voices still existed, for there had been many a quiet movement over the years, to silence them, to render them obsolete. But they still existed. They still ruled the hearts of a few, and it was that few that had the power of words. It was that few that stirred the passions in miserable hearts. It was that few with ancient manuscripts and the poisons of words.
And it was in the minds of the leaders that it would be wise for their Dimwids to rally around something rather than just an abstract idea called “memory”, so they rallied round their gods and their venomous words.
And those vast storehouses of weaponry, the mighty arsenals that had been forged over generations, came in very useful.
“It is time to end our misery!” was the cry, loud in everyone’s ears and echoed around the once-green and beautiful planet. “We will fight and destroy our foes and once again we will bask in happiness and contentment under a beautiful sun, and children’s voices will sound their trilling laughter, and all will be well.”
And they did.
In a gigantic, wonderful, awesome bang that resonated through their corner of the Universe for almost a day before, clearly, there was a brand new vacuum where once hearts had beaten and gods had somehow shone like coal-dust in the hearts of men, and peace at last ruled throughout eternity.
© Peter Rogerson 05.09.16

On the Brink

24 Nov

Despite the worst efforts of the Murdoch news empire to suggest the opposite (via the Sun in the UK) I believe it is true that the vast majority of Muslims are as peace-loving as I am, which is very peace-loving. So, incidentally, are most Christians, Jews and adherents of other monotheistic religions.

But there are minorities. And at the moment it looks as though our governments are playing the minority’s games and walking us all, step by step and horror by horror, towards a major war.

Didn’t anyone learn anything from the disaster that was Iraq? Bombing other countries doesn’t make friends. It makes the most bitter of enemies and stirs the poison pus of resentment for decades, the sort that in a mean and cruel way will emerge in the future and create yet more conflicts – if there is to be any sort of future, that is.

War destroys futures, scars the present and eventually, when it is the past and over and done with, gets misrepresented by the victors.

As a species we ought to consider growing up. It isn’t Muslims or the members of any faith that are causing the trouble at the moment but a large and brutal handful of self-serving thugs who are hiding behind a cloud of religious confusion to justify their psychopathic insanities. And that’s how we should see them. They’re not a nation, have no real claim to so much as a sod of Mother Earth but are merely thugs hiding behind long-dead prophets.

Here’s an idea.

Take away the faith – and I mean exterminate all religious faiths that have a deity to pretend to defend – (none of them have any basis in reality anyway) and you take away the cloud the thugs hide behind. You demolish their assumed raison d’être.

It might seem simple, and I suppose it is, but it’s worth a try, isn’t it? Before it’s too late? Before the bombs fall on us?

THE BOOMING VOICE

9 Nov

creation photo: Creation BV_1989_creation.jpg

“There’s one good thing about growing old,” twittered the Very Reverend Vincent Pugh to himself as he carefully plucked a longish hair out of a mole from the chin in his mirror, “and that’s that hairs like this don’t really matter any more. Why, this one must have been here for a month if it’s been here a day, and I wouldn’t have noticed it had not Mercy Fairbright not mentioned it to me after the service on Sunday. She saw it and she was sitting ten rows back!”

He held the tweezers with the offending and freshly plucked hair in front of his eyes. It was really quite long, and dark. Not the jet black he remembered his teenage hair being back in the good old days, but darker than the white hair that grew sparsely on his head these days.

“That’s quite an achievement,” he whispered. “This fellow growing there for goodness knows how long, and me not noticing until dear Mercy told me! And even then I didn’t really care about it being there. It wasn’t until she offered to pluck it out herself that I promised I’d get my tweezers to it! I can’t have old ladies plucking hairs from my face, not with me being a Man of God and all that. I mean, what would people say?”

He poured himself a whisky from a decanter he found himself refilling remarkably frequently these days.

“I wonder who’s been helping themselves to this?” he asked himself irritably. “I seem to be providing the substance for someone else’s alcoholic habit! I only have the odd little drop myself and the decanter’s nearly empty again! I must check on the verger!”

Then a suggestion formed into words inside his head in the irritating way that suggestions sometimes did. “The verger never comes in here,” it said. “He wouldn’t know the way! He barely comes into the kitchen and this is my study, half a dozen rooms away from there!”

“It must be someone else then,” he muttered, audibly, though he didn’t know why.

“It’s me,” said a voice, also audibly. At least, he thought it was audibly, though these days he couldn’t always be sure.

“Who’s me?” he asked, again irritably.

“Ho, you know me all right,” exclaimed the voice, a booming affair that made the curtains waft about. “You’ve studied my words all your life! You interpret what I say and explain it to your congregation, though I must say you get some of it quite wrong.”

This was clearly going to be a booming session because he boomed back, “who are you to say I get things quite wrong? I’m a man of faith, I am, and I get things quite right, thank you very much!”

“But you’re mad,” boomed the voice, a little more gently. “You must have guessed that you’re insane! It’s just got to be clear to you! After all, you let hairs grow on facial moles until sensible old ladies offer to tweezer them out for you! And you drink too much. A great deal too much.”

“I never touch the stuff!” boomed the Right Reverend Vincent Pugh, taking an extraordinarily large sip from his glass, and consequently emptying it. Then: “Who are you anyway?” he asked again, refilling his glass and emptying the decanter.

The curtains rattled for a moment and the decanter refilled all by itself, making the Right Reverend Vincent Pugh swallow his extraordinarily large sip in one gulp.

“I’m God,” said the voice, “and I’ll thank you for stop spreading fanciful tales about me. “I’ve only ever done one exceptional thing in my life and yet you go around booming about how I was born of a virgin, allowed myself to be crucified, did all manner of unnatural things like turning water into wine in a trice when everyone knows it takes an age of fermentation, cured the sick and did all manner of impossible things like making lame men walk. They’re all fanciful but not the one exceptional thing in my repertoire.”

“And what’s that?” demanded the Right Reverend gentleman irritably. “I need to know so that I can keep my flock up to date, if you see what I mean.”

“Think of hat hair you plucked out,” said the voice in B-flat. “The one you gazed so lovingly at before you swallowed half a dozen units of intoxicant! Think of it growing from something so small you didn’t know it was there and then proceeding to develop day by day, week by week, until it was so huge even you could see it!”

“Like on oak tree from an acorn?” suggested the partly-inebriated Right Reverend.

“Exactly!” The booming voice sounded as though its speaker was beaming. “Like that! Well, in the beginning was my one big trick….”

“Creation?” muttered the cleric.

The boom shook its booming head. “Nothing as magnificent as that,” it said, “nothing as splendid and all-embracing as creation! No. In the beginning was the word. My word, sown sweetly amongst idiots where it would grow and divide and create opposing forces and eventually cause a catastrophic and humongous collapse of everything as fires raged where bombs fell! Bombs in my name thrown at people who retaliated in my name! You see, mine wasn’t the Creation…” The boom paused.

“It was the destruction!” it raged.

© Peter Rogerson 09.11.15

WAR AND JUSTICE

12 Oct

There appears to be more than one breed of human beings and this piece is about a minority group.

I call it the Tony Blair Sub-species (with the accent on “sub”)

There are those who assume control via the gift of power and who make up their own laws as they go along. Like Tony Blair did when he downloaded a student’s thesis and published it as a dossier proving that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had, at his command, a hoard of weapons of mass destruction. Then this same Tony Blair used that academic thesis it to prove to the American President, a man not noted for his mental agility, that Iraq needed to be invaded, that there should be a war.

There was, and people died. Lots of people. Innocent people. People with no power to change things.

But the Tony Blair legal system, based on lies, exonerated him. He was free to pursue a career involving the Middle East once the war was over and he left the UK Government, and although the odd thinking person has questioned what he did nobody has actually moved into the spotlight and demanded that he be made to answer the sort of questions that you or I would have to answer straight away if we did something as self-serving as invent evidence that causes a bloody war. Especially one against a virtually disarmed country.

All this would be quite well and good but for the fact that Tony Blair did it all in my name. In your name. In the name of everyone in our country. In the name of every Welsh person, Scot, Ulster resident and English man or woman. He did it for us. He was defending us against the horrors of a man who had no weapons.

And the dead? The widows and orphans? The maimed and mutilated? Have they no rights? Don’t they need an answer to the questions of why they are as they are? I just hope that the thesis their misery was based on was a good piece of academic work and worth all the pain.

But I’ll bet it wasn’t.

No thesis is that good.

So why isn’t he answering important questions before he dies? History, of course, will either praise him or condemn him, but that will be according to the way he is considered now, and right now he’s still getting away with it.

© Peter Rogerson 12.10.15

THE PAGES OF HISTORY

21 Jul

THE PAGES OF HISTORY

history photo:  db_82-751.jpg
Many will be aware how excited I get when I let my mind wander across the extreme corners of human history. I’m particularly fond of the bits that describe the slow and probably painful evolution of our dimmest ancestors until they could stand on two feet and think a few thoughts.

This happened, according to archaeological evidence, on the plains of Africa, and Owongo the First (my name for him) had to battle for survival against a whole host of hungry predators. Life will have been tough back then, and consequently life expectancy short.

It will have been as a consequence of the hardships he found as he teetered along that he (and his progeny) started to look elsewhere for peace, harmony and a decent place to bring up their kids. And they slowly wandered off, hoping to leave the angry and hungry big cats behind.

This was the beginning of mankind’s conquest of his planet, and it was almost certainly inspired by the need to find somewhere better. There’s an instinct in just about all of us to hold a metaphoric umbrella over the heads of our offspring, and protect them, and put down roots in solid ground so they can have a stable future.

So the adventure began. Hills and mountains, rivers and streams, deserts and pastures were crossed. It was slow, though. Maybe they’d pause and rest until Owongo 3rd replaced Owongo 2nd who had already buried Owongo 1st beneath African sods. Temporary homesteads that lasted for generations would have been built. That’s the way people under the kind of pressure that involves escaping from a savage lion’s territory move: a few dozen miles until everything seems okay … for the time being. And if you want to gainsay me remember that you weren’t there to check my facts. And yes, I know I wasn’t, either.

As various tribes spread they found themselves occasionally feeling in need of planting their tents on the same lump of soil as each other. It was bound to happen: the human race breeds at an absurd rate as a consequence of having evolved a broadly beautiful sexuality. Anything that feels so overwhelmingly good as sexual contact is going to work out just fine, isn’t it?

I dared say that if we tried to assess the number of hearts that were stopped violently in this or that skirmish for a nice piece of real estate we’d be horrified at the enormity of the number. It’s how wars were invented, of course. We might be led to believe that ideology and principles drove the impetus for battle, but it was probably a pastoral knoll and tempting passing brook rather than a philosophical treatise.

Eventually all but a few acres of desert were called “home” by somebody (though not necessarily in the English language) and if there was an impetus to move on then the movers had to cast greedy eyes on someone else’s turf.

It would be about then that homo sapiens (our lot) finally dispatched Neanderthal Man to the happy hunting grounds (probably over a disagreement regarding territorial rights) and started on each other.

But it’s time to narrow the vision I have and concentrate purely on the turf I’m most familiar with: the UK. Not that it was called that back then. It was home, purely and simply, and became the target of many attempts to wrest it from those who considered themselves native (though, of course, go back far enough in time and nobody inhabited these islands so there were no natives capable of tracing their line back to the start of things. We are all, in fact, rooted in Africa if anywhere). But occupation being nine-tenths of the law, there were tribes that accounted themselves as native to the islands we so love.

And there were other tribes, some of them in the next valley and others across the sundering seas. And there were inevitable conquests. In fact, floods of them, across the English Channel from the bulk of continental Europe (which wasn’t called that, of course) and the North Sea (from northern Europe). Some of them were probably quite peaceable. Others would have involved violence. And the net result was that our country became a kind of repository for those hardy enough to come and conquer. Natural selection on a grand scale!

The last successful attempt at pinching the grass from beneath our feet was in 1066 AD when the Normans came and conquered. After then invaders have come by invitation only.

And there have been invitations over the centuries. The Huguenots came in the seventeenth century (from France, trying to escape from religious persecution – I guess that rings a bell) and there are ethnic enclaves all over the place.

That’s what has marked our country as different from some. Those in need of shelter have been welcomed peaceably, probably because the opposite to peace is war, and there’s always been too much of that). And by welcoming those in need we have strengthened ourselves. We have absorbed the good and tended to reject that which is less than good.

When I was growing up there was, just round the corner from where I lived, a huge complex of temporary-looking buildings that constituted a camp for Polish refugees following the second world war, and that was part of the story. The camp’s gone now but some of those who lived there have stayed, have become us.

And now we live in very uncertain times. Remember the Huguenots and the religious persecution they fled from? There’s a great deal more of that going on in far reaches of our planet. Back in the seventeenth century it was persecution, in France, of protestant Calvinists. Now it’s Islamic persecution using weird interpretations of an ancient text that would be best placed into a bonfire and consumed in flames. It’s not ideology because there’s nothing ideal in religions that disenfranchise those who disagree with them, but it is very much the same old story, and those in greatest need should be welcomed in our midst like they long have been.

Maybe the future will mark our names with respect for so doing. And maybe our nation will become all the stronger for the wisdom of strangers.

© Peter Rogerson 21.07.15