Change of Theme

I’ve decided for a fresh coat of paint on my blog. Perhaps that is a misleading phrase, as to my mind that implies colour. You can see, my newer design is completely lacking that. I’m sorry for lying, please forgive me.

But I feel that better fits my personal taste – I’d comfortably say 80% of the tops that I own are either black or white. Also, on top of looking nice and clean [read: I HATE MESS], I feel that it leads you to focus more on what I want to put across – that’s why I started writing this blog in the first place.

 

Anyway, just a little explanation as to the change. I knew that unless I did this, my millions of followers would be up in arms, threatening to burn something or other down as an expression of their grief. 

 

 

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Remember

One of the reasons I’ve loved history all my life, is that it is a way for me to understand my past, personally, and collectively as a member of the human race. Today, the 6th of June, is the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. One of the defining moments of the Second World War, and of the 20th Century. Today I find myself thinking of the men that took part on this ‘Day of Days’.

I just cannot imagine how this feat was achieved. The feat of human endeavour, courage, and determination staggers me, and I’m sure it will for the rest of my days. My personal connection to the war, like many others, is through my grandpa. He served from the beginning to the end of the War, serving in France, North Africa, Italy and Germany. While he did not take part in the Normandy landings (being in Italy at the time), 4 years previously, he was on the beaches of France, waiting to be evacuated from Dunkirk, along with tens of thousands of others.

He was 19 when he went over to fight, and 70 years ago, he would have been the same age as me – 23. This is one of the things that I struggle to comprehend. He gave his youth to fight for his country, and I will be forever grateful for his sacrifice, and the sacrifice of millions of others.

My Grandpa, David Rees, around 1941

My Grandpa, David Rees, around 1941

We owe it to the memory of the men and women who fought and died in this conflict.

Watch Band of Brothers – one of the finest pieces of television ever created. It has been universally praised for its realistic depiction of what the men who fought truly went through. After Saving Private Ryan, it was one of the best pieces of mass media that communicated what the war was about, to a generation of people who otherwise may not have known.

Try and read some of the encyclopaedic canon of literature devoted to the war.

Listen to podcasts, listen to the radio, go and visit a museum, go and visit the battle grounds that now lie still.

Most of all, remember them.

Hope

I find it very difficult to put into words how sad the world makes me feel sometimes. I fail to understand that in the year 2014, girls cannot go to school without the danger of being kidnapped. Women in Pakistan cannot marry whom they choose without risking their life at the hands of enraged relatives. The rhetoric of racism, intolerance and hate has once again found a foothold in European countries – is our collective memory so short that we cannot remember what happened the last time this occurred?

For so many wonderful things I have experienced and loved, the darkness of reality always looms in my thoughts. But I have to remind myself that the world will change. It was not 50 years ago that Jim Crow Laws segregated America, and now an African American is the most powerful person in the world. That’s right, Beyoncé. (Sorry Barrack).

Apartheid divided a nation, the Berlin Wall divided a continent, but these things changed. The evil of men passed, and that is what I hold on to.

A lot of you will have heard Paolo Nutini’s most recent (and superb) album, ‘Caustic Love.’ The lead track, and perhaps the song of the year IMO, ‘Iron Sky’, features one of the most moving pieces of oratory I have ever heard.

Around 3 minutes 20 seconds, we hear an excerpt from Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Great Dictator.’ In this film, Chaplin’s character becomes mistaken for the Dictator of a country styled as Nazi Germany. In front of a crowd, he is pushed on stage to speak to his people. What, under the real Dictator would have been a rhetoric of hatred, of exclusion, of fear, is instead turned into one of hope by Chaplin…

“Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost….”

 

That is but a small part from the speech, which as I have mentioned, in an incredibly moving piece. What is so poignant, and also terrifying is how relevant his words are today. This film was a parody of Naziism, one of the darkest movements ever to have existed. Yet, his words to me ring true about a great many things today. The greed of men. The lack of trust. The fear we feel. The distance between us in a world in which we are connected more than ever.

We can educate ourselves. We can educate others. We can choose not to give in to fear and ignorance and hate. We just need to remember that, and we’ll be ok.

Here’s the link to the video of the speech. Give it a watch, and have a think on it.

J.