The Heroic John Baron

When Robert Aske agreed to lead the northern peasants who had risen in protest at Henry VIII’s self-absorbed tyranny, he did so knowing full well the risk to his own life. The former soldier John Baron is in no such danger, but I believe his motive is of the same caliber. We need a military that is fit for purpose, the government’s foolish, meaningless and object-defeating cuts have sliced our country bloody, and it must stop here.

The Cold War is something that my generation have little comprehension of, we struggle to understand the lurking threat of nuclear devastation that was so work-a-day to our parents. Stalinism was the main threat to democracy, then. Now we are told that the danger has shifted to Islamic terror. Whether we agree on that or not, there are very few sober people who would advocate entirely getting rid of the military. It is generally respected that a deterrent is needed. Western society might prefer not to dwell too long on the practicalities of that, but most agree that we need defense. Which is why the recent government decision to restructure the army has left me puzzled, rattled and strangely emotive.

To the superficial eye, the government’s program of spending cuts could be seen as necessary, and even decent. A pleasing return to monetary restraint and decorum, so at odds with the lavish hypocrisy of New Labour. David Cameron could be seen as ‘making the hard choices’, sacrificing temporary public image for his country’s future. A real statesman. Finally. Needless to say, this view is not one I share. There are simply too many alternate ways to be recouping public funds than through brutal cuts to the living standards of people who work hardest in Britain. The minimum wage workers are those responsible for keeping our economic system on the tracks, not the millionaires who fund and control the Tory party. Rather than a selfless statesman, I view David Cameron as a puppet of the capitalist class that owns his arse.

Scrapping Trident is one of the most obvious ways to recoup our funds. We will never use our nuclear weapons, and their upkeep undermines our ability to properly fund our health system and our  state school system. Not to mention our conventional defense; ordinary soldiers, ships and aircraft will defend us now. Outside of the Cold War arms-race paradigm, nuclear weapons are redundant rather than imperative.

David Cameron plans to reduce the size of the regular army from 102,000 to 82,000:

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This diagram, taken from the BBC website, shows how the army will be reduced by 2020 to a state where it can no longer fight on multiple fronts. We will have to pick and choose our wars more carefully than we are accustomed. The soldier-turned-Tory MP John Baron organized a rebellion against Cameron in an effort to delay the bill. It was defeated by 54 votes, after the government attempted to buy-off several rebels.

Baron’s politics are everything I despise about the Tory party, but I think we agree on this.

Much better qualified to write about these changes are the several hundred ex-marines that I’ve asked to write my next post, including my father. This will be the first time I’ve posted a guest column, and I hope it will be educational for us all.

My experience of China

Going to China this half-term was an excellent opportunity for me, and I really enjoyed myself. I struggled to keep a travel journal for the whole trip (which I had intended to do), but I did manage to take some note of my surroundings. Sunrise on The Great Wall, or visiting a Chinese school, are both experiences I will never forget. It was a school trip, and I went along with 14 other pupils from Bedes.

We met at 1.00 am on Friday 18th October, before getting on the coach that would take us to Heathrow. Upon arrival, we had a few hours to ourselves, mainly spent buying coffees and croissants, as well as sleeping. The flight to Amsterdam was only 45 minutes, but after a six hour wait at Schiphol Airport (the most dull place you can imagine), the Beijing flight was an education in time. It was 10 hours from start to finish; punctuated by occasional attempts at sleep, none of which had much affect.

The crew were fast and efficient, working their way down the aisles with ruthless ferocity. At one point an air hostess picked up my bag, zipped it, and stowed it away above my head without ever looking at me. I found this a welcome change from their British counterparts.

We were too jet lagged to fully enjoy our first day in Beijing, but the subsequent days were filled with discovery and intrigue. Our youth hostel was situated in the ‘Hutong’ area of Beijing. This was a lively, smelly, old-fashioned district filled with people kindly and curious. There was no lack of small tourist shops, selling satchels with beloved Chairman Mao painted on their fronts. Buying souvenirs for the family was never an issue in China.

I opted to wake early for the chance to see Mao’s mausoleum. Mao Zedong was the Communist leader of China for 33 years. He oversaw massive changes to the country, which I’ll discuss further in my next post ‘China’s politics’, where I hope to record my observations about Chinese culture. A combination of food-poisoning and sleep deprivation led to my vomiting in Tiananmen Square, and it took some serious self-control to avoid being sick over the preserved body of the world’s greatest Communist leader. A story for the grandchildren.

Personally, I quickly tired of the Imperial monuments which surrounded Beijing. Old palaces, once used by emperors for strolls of quiet reflection, refurbished and re-painted by the Chinese government to pull in millions of tourists. Alone amongst these, the Summer Palace proved to be a peaceful, if not quite idyllic view of the river and distant mountains. But I now had a hundred photos which all looked the same, and I was ready for something new.

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The night-train to Xi’an was something which I had never experienced before. I didn’t know it was possible for humans to sleep in such small compartments before I slept in that train! There was barely room to breathe, and it was impossible to avoid trampling someone’s possessions at some point. But once you lay down to sleep, it really wasn’t so bad. If not entirely comfortable, at least it was cosy.

Xi’an was an amazing place, more culturally vibrant than Beijing, and more characterful as well. Situated in the South West of China, its name means ‘Western Capital’, as opposed to Beijing which translates as ‘Northern Capital’. There’s a Muslim quarter, a Great Mosque, a Bell Tower, Drum Tower and City Wall. We visited all of those apart from the Drum Tower. Cycling along the city wall would have been far better if my helmet and bike had fitted me, but the views were nonetheless stunning. At one point I saw a gathering of bongo-drum players, beating out a rhythm on someone’s roof.

From Xi’an we visited a mountain farm in the Qingling Mountains, and spent the night there. The scenery surrounding the farm was just amazing, full of dips and hollows and soaring mountains, all covered by woodland:

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They had the most lovely orange fruit, which you split open and ate the middle of, leaving the skin. I don’t remember the English name for this, if there was one, but they were similar in flavour and texture to apricots.

Throughout the trip, I really enjoyed the food. Chinese cuisine is very flavoursome, but would be sickly without their staple food; rice. Apart from being good for you, rice goes with anything, and this explains why it is eaten so much in the East, despite its being awkward to grow.

My impression of the country was altogether quite positive. I had never ventured that far from Britain before, but the trip has awakened in me a desire to travel more, and see the world. I hope to see Eastern Europe, Nepal, India and New Zealand at some point. But I had a lovely time, and would recommend China to anyone.

The Islamic Question

On 11th September 2001, 4 airliners were hijacked by the militant extremist group, Al-Qaeda, and flown directly into the heart of the American Empire. 2 of those planes were flown into the World Trade Centre, where they caused 2,753 deaths. Another was flown into the Pentagon, and another was aimed at Washington DC.

The fact that 19 Islamic terrorists could strike such a massive blow, right at the nerve-centre of US power, was a terrifying and de-railing thought. US dominance over land, air and sea had been established since the end of the Second World War, the thought of it being challenged when they had felt so secure was unnerving, to say the least.

I maintain that the invasion of Afghanistan was and is justified. But the war to topple Saddam Hussein remains a token of destructive idiocy which achieved nothing. We set an entire nation against us, on the basis of self-preservation from WMDs that have still not been found. There have been 461,000 deaths in Iraq since we arrived in 2003, directly attributed to the violence.

The 9/11 attacks inspired a culture of fear, paranoia and intolerance. The terrorists attacks that have come since then have painted the Islamic community of Britain as a rotten apple, filled to the brim with murderers, extremists and child traffickers. I have never believed this to be the case. Owing to a multitude of factors, social, economic, historical and cultural, the Islamic community has perhaps found it the hardest of all to assimilate into British culture. Due to differences in wealth between adherent nations of Christianity and Islam, there is more reluctance to deviate from scripture.

Tommy Robinson and EDL represent a solid core of resentment and ignorance about Muslims, which is spreading through the British working class with dangerous speed. It developed after 9/11, and the twelve years of ‘The War on Terror’ have seen it grow into a cancer. Tommy’s recent decision to jump ship to Quilliam has left many puzzled, not least myself. That man continues to be an enigma to the world.

Tommy Robinson accuses the Qur’an itself of condoning sex-trafficking, FGM and the killing of infidels and homosexuals. But both the Bible and the Qur’an were written for a different age. The question remains one of dogmatism. Most Christians are taught to screen out pieces of scripture which condone awful things, and most Muslim do as well. The only difference between us is that dogmatism is slightly higher within Muslim ranks, that is all. And as I’ve said before, that small difference is owing to the fact that most Muslim countries are less developed than the West.

This problem is only solved by patience and guidance. It will not be fixed by singling out the Muslim community, or by discrimination of any kind. That is the exact opposite of what we must be doing. We must have a blanket policy. Never be afraid to challenge an abuse of the law, because it is carried out under the disguise of religion. Things like FGM are unacceptable, and should be so under UK law. Only by enforcing the law strongly can we iron out our differences, and make our position clear:

You can stay in our country, but you will follow our law.

A Culture of Climate Indifference

Reluctance to act conclusively to avert Climate Change is an interesting topic, especially because it is something with the power to seriously hurt us. Scientific research into the question has gone far enough now to make sceptics no longer credible to the vast body of people. And yet still there is very little action by governments or by people, except by those middle class do-gooders of whom even I complain.

Those 28 Greenpeace activists deserve a lot of respect from us all, because they have been detained by the Russians unjustly, in light of actions that were designed to highlight the errors of our society. They are being moved to St Petersburg from Murmansk, and should be there by Saturday. They come from 28 countries, and they represent an increasing body of resistance to the harmful way we live our lives.

The greatest irony of the Climate Change question is this: The cosmopolitan hipsters who most often complain of it are the very people so harmful to the movement. Their ‘modern’ and ‘enlightened’ attitudes of superficial freedom and mindless individualism have led to a culture dependant on consumerism, waste and fossil fuels. To fight Climate Change, and to kerb its terrible consequences, we must act responsibly. We will be required to review and to correct our behaviour in a way that won’t be fun or enjoyable.

Consumer austerity will be a chore, like the comedian David Mitchell says: it won’t be fun or enjoyable in any way. But the rewards of cutting our consumption will be healthy in the long run. I don’t view it as healthy that children should be pampered the moment they leave the womb. I don’t want to live in a society were an advert is even allowed to read: “Tablets for all the family.”

Of course, these youngsters are not even in the same league of blame for our problems as the gas and oil giants that dominate our governments, our environment and our world. I didn’t mention them, as I feel my natural loathing of them would be assumed by any reader who had even skimmed through my blog.