Springingtiger's Blog

Steampunkery and Politics


Steampunk Superhero’s Cosplay

I think it is fair to say we live in strange and troubling times, what with the decision by the English to turn their back on Europe and drag their neighbours also into a new parochial rejection of the outside world, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA who appears also to want to turn his back on the world whilst at the same time plundering its resources. I accept this is somewhat of an over simplification, but the political details are not really my concern here, but rather how people respond to them. I think it is fair to say that that feelings are running high not only in The USA and the UK, but in Europe and throughout the Middle East, look further afield to Africa, Asia and Russia and it looks as if the whole world is on the edge of some sort of emotional cataclysm. So what, if anything, has any of this got to do with Steampunk?

I know that Steampunks like other folk hold political opinions, some are guided by political and religious beliefs so why, when countries are bitterly divided within themselves and from their neighbours, are Steampunks from all around the world still bumbling along together cheerfully? The answer is not ‘Gin’…at least not entirely. I would like to postulate that there are several reasons Steampunk is not dragged into the political morass in which the world now wallows. I have to confess at this point that my reasoning is based upon my observations of British Steampunk, it may be that some countries Steampunk differently, however I suspect that what is true for a British Steampunk is as true for others around the world.

fb_img_1464539054462.jpgThose who know my personal political beliefs to be extremely socialist, republican, and nationalist may find it strange to see me including Scottish Steampunks in the umbrella term ‘British Steampunk’. The truth is that apart from some details of expression there is little to distinguish the attitudes of Scottish Steampunks from their southern neighbours…when in Steampunk mode. And I think that is my first point: Steampunk as a way of thinking occupies a place that is meta to ordinary political thinking. Some Steampunks live in a permanent attitude of Steampunkery, for others Steampunk is more of a cosplay that they put on and off. However as I have said, when in Steampunk mode Steampunks relate to the world differently from other people.

DSCF2074I remember being startled when I realised that in a whole weekend at the Asylum in Lincoln I had heard not one swearword nor a raised voice. There is something about being a Steampunk that induces courteous behaviour. A Steampunk uses politeness like a shield to parry the unpleasantness of the world and wit the blade to return the blow. I will not pretend for one moment that Steampunks do not insult each other, but we do so with wit and humour, perhaps some buffoonery so that there is almost as much enjoyment of defeat as pleasure in victory…when the other side scores a try (or a six) we applaud and enjoy the moment for its own intrinsic artistry. What is saddening about politics at the moment is the depths to which people have sunk in their interactions with each other, people have become nastier, xenphobia, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination and abuse have become commonplace. People have no embarrassment at being caught in a lie. Respect for the rights and opinions of others is no longer considered important or even desirable, there is no place for old fashioned courtesy. Except in Steampunkery where old fashioned courtesy lies at its heart (we do like old fashioned or even an Old Fashioned).


One might expect a strong conservative streak in Steampunk because of its embrace of old fashioned courtesy and dress. However Steampunk cherry picks what it takes from any era and so while embracing the virtues of the past it rejects its vices. Strong women are very evident in Steampunk circles, frequently armed to the teeth with customised Nerf guns and they’re not afraid to use them! Steampunk is undoubtedly trans cultural as can be seen in its Facebook groups, but also at major Steampunk gatherings that attract attendees from all over the world. Our Glasgow Ubiquitous E. Steampunk Society is not only associated with the Music City Steampunk Consortium of Nashville, Tennessee, but has scheduled a jolly day out with the North East Steampunk Society from England (now that is true internationalism!). I haven’t noticed religion entering the Steampunk conversation except as a costume, we have Steampunk monks with goggles and Victorian Bishops with gaiters at one end and goggles at the other. Given the international nature of Steampunk, I assume that it contains folk of all faiths, but they don’t let it come between them or get in the way of the fun.

Conservatives may not be very evident in Steampunk, but conservation is. Steampunks have a respect for history especially, as the name suggests, for its technology. Nothing sets the Steampunk blood racing more assuredly than polished brass, well oiled pistons, smoothly turning gears, and the ecstatic call of a locomotive whistle. “Ah but,” I hear you say, “Steam engines run on fossil fuels and pump carbon into the air!”…don’t expect a clever argument from me, although I would argue for balance and responsibility. However the Steampunk embrace of steam should be interpreted rather as an embrace of the best of contemporary technology, which in Victorian times was steam. I think we should note that Steampunks are equally enamoured of clockwork. The essential thing about the Steampunk attitude is that technology is employed for the good of society. You may object that Steampunk has its evil villains india94-070and mad scientists with their death rays and killer robots, but they only exist as villains in opposition to the positive technological vision of Steampunk…besides they are playing a role (or possibly over playing in the case of Kenneth Brannagh’s Dr. Loveless) we all come together in the bar at the end of the day. In Steampunk science is treated with respect and so is scientific method and evidence, some (many) of our inventions are fanciful, but they can be so because we are aware of the difference between science and superstition and so are free to play with both. More importantly in Steampunk the urge to conservation manifests itself in an abhorrence of waste, or more accurately a love of recycling and up-cycling. Steampunk is not part of a disposable society; where civilians dispose, we reuse and re-purpose.

I think what sets Steampunk apart politically from much of society is that it is cooperative and sharing. In victory there is little inappropriate triumphalism whether in cosplay competitions or a tea duel…okay there may be a little (I’m not sure ‘little’ is entirely the correct word.) triumphalism in tea duelling, but there’s none of the vicious denigration of the losers that has marked the conduct of Trump supporters and Brexiteers, nor the bitter resentment we have seen from the other side. Steampunks are building a better future for all based on the best of the past and that means magnanimity and mutual support. You will rarely find a Steampunk rubbish someone else’s work, but they will be generous with suggestions for improvement. Steampunks help each other, they share their skills and insights, they encourage each other. I think it is safe to say that wherever you observe someone indulging in selfishness, discrimination, misogyny, xenophobia, abuse, or any form of discourtesy the person you are observing is not a Steampunk. Steampunks are building a future on the foundation of the most noble values of the past. To put things more simply: If they ain’t nice, they ain’t Steampunk! Now it’s Time For Gin!


Thoughts On The Gateshead Hustings.


I watched the live stream of today’s Labour leadership hustings from Gateshead. Afterwards I posted a couple of comments from Hootsuite, but I deliberately didn’t go into Twitter because I didn’t want my thoughts to be influenced by anyone until after I had captures them in the raw.

To give credit where credit is due, Owen Smith performed well for the most part. I liked the policies he was putting forward, most of them appear to have originated from the Corbyn left wing of the party, but all the time I had the nagging thought that he is a very recent convert to socialism. I don’t get that there is any consistency in Smith’s position whereas with Corbyn his whole life is in alignment with his policies and stated beliefs. I want to believe Smith, but on his record I find myself suspicious of his conversion to socialism.

Owen Smith and the right claim Corbyn is unelectable, however if –as they claim – the country didn’t elect Labour because their policies were too left wing, why would they vote for Owen Smith who is putting forward the same left wing policies as Jeremy Corbyn? The only difference is that we know Jeremy Corbyn is standing for what he believes, whereas there is a strong suspicion that Owen Smith will quickly ditch his newly adopted socialist policies again in order to make himself electable.

I was a little disappointed at one point by Jeremy Corbyn. When Smith was talking about the importance of opposing the Tories I think Jeremy should have asked him why he just sat on his hands and watched as the Tories passed their Welfare Bill. Corbyn and the left actually did oppose the Bill and voted against it. Sometimes I wonder if Jeremy isn’t too decent and too noble, but he has a strong moral code and he doesn’t hit below the belt.

I have to confess I gave up voting for the Labour Party a long time ago and my last few votes were because I respected the candidate as a person despite them representing Labour. I used to love the Labour Party, I was a very active member, but the day came when it dawned on me that it was pointless to support them because they had become just another party of business. It is small surprise they never sing the Red Flag beyond the first verse and chorus because they might choke on the words of the fourth verse:

It suits today the weak and base

Whose minds are fixed on self and place;

To cringe before the rich man’s frown,

And haul the sacred emblem down.”

Whenever I sing it I see before me Tony Blair’s New Labour and his acolytes in the Parliamentary Party as they try to cling to control of the Party whose values they perverted. I am not saying labour should be some sort of revolutionary Marxist party, But it should be the peoples party, the workers’ party. Labour was built by the trades Unions and their members, its roots lie more in nonconformist Christianity than in Marxist theory and its founding fathers travelled the country with all the zeal of Weslyan preachers. When I look at Jeremy Corbyn I see that zeal, when I look at his supporters I see the vision that brought the labour Party into being and gave us the National Health Service, council housing, education accessible to all. I look and listen to Owen Smith, I want to believe he shares the vision, but I’m not convinced. I see how the establishment has launched a war on Jeremy Corbyn and all he stands for and I see Owen Smith on the wrong side of that war. I want to like him, but I cannot bring myself to trust him.

However much Owen Smith impressed me, and he did impress me, he’s a very good performer, he totally destroyed that on the last question when in his answer he made it clear that regardless of how the party votes in the leadership election, rather than work with Jeremy Corbyn to unite the part and take the fight to the Tories, he would prefer to continue to stay out of the shadow cabinet and undermine Jeremy Corbyn from the back benches. However much I had been willing to see Owen Smith as a possible leader, at that point all his words suddenly rang hollow. It was as if after everything he said he ended with “Oh and by the way I’ve been lying to you all the time and I think you’re stupid enough to let me get away with it!” I have always been inclined to prefer Corbyn, I must admit, but now I am actually opposed to Owen Smith. I don’t want to be, I want to believe he’s a good man, but I have sincere doubts about him. I could well vote for Corbyn’s Labour Party, but it would depend on their position on Scottish Independence.

However I will watch the other debates before I make a final judgement, I hope they will clarify whether they could accept Scottish Independence should the Scots call for it. I can’t help but feel that the final nail in Scottish Labour’s coffin was sharing a platform with the Tories in Better Together, a trap Corbyn didn’t fall into over the EU Referendum. I would also like to hear how they will handle a post Brexit Britain. Owen Smith tonight made it very clear that he will block Brexit if he gets the opportunity whereas Corbyn respects the democratic will of the people, but seems intent on mitigating the damage it might do. Id like to hear their proposals for protecting human rights post Brexit.

This is going to be an interesting summer!

Slow Down You move too Fast!

wpid-27122011232-001.jpgLast night there was an attempted coup in Turkey, the night before that an evil man drove an lorry into crowds of innocent revellers including women and children in Nice. In less than three weeks since the English voted to drag the UK out of the EU events have preceded at a terrifying pace. The Prime Minister resigned, his party had a leadership contest (almost) and appointed a new Prime Minister who then conducted the most ruthless cabinet reshuffle that anyone can remember, certainly since MacMillan. In the meantime a group of careerist MPs in the Labour Party, hoping to protect their elite position in the party mounted a rebellion against their own leader. Now it seems that everyday brings a new attack on democracy from the Blairite wing of the party, not so much New Labour as Neo-Stalinism. I almost forgot that the Chilcot Report has finally been published, but there’s just so much happening so fast it’s easy to miss something. I am sacred that if I fall asleep at night I’ll wake up in a world I don’t recognise and I won’t have seen it happening.

My wife made a remark at one point to the effect that the speed of change has made the print media obsolete. It is certainly true that even the broadcast media seem to be struggling to keep up with events. We seem to have a need for twenty four hour live streaming of news and commentary. Sixty years ago the Six O’ Clock News signalled the end of ‘Children’s Hour’ and that it was time for bed. The News was on at Six and at Nine, but I was in bed long before nine knowing that the next morning things would be much as they were when I went to bed. Nothing was instant, even the television took an eternity for the valves to warm up before the picture appeared, so did the radio although its pictures were painted in words. No email, no internet, no cable, no satellite television. Everything was slower except the traffic, given a good road cars were not tied to a seventy miles per hour upper limit.

We can’t go back to those times. To be honest I don’t think I would want to. However painful the pace of modern life, the technological innovations that make that pace possible have brought great benefits and scientific advances. In many ways all our lives have improved. I do worry about the urgency that drives us though. I can appreciate that up to date information is essential in business and military decision making. For the most part we do not need to rush. Facebook and Twitter feed into the immediacy of our lives, but most of what they feed us we don’t need and most of what we do need we don’t need immediately. I know people who are addicted to immediate information and spend an inordinate amount of time glued to a screen. We need to learn to filter our information better. I use the BBC Parliament Channel to review information that is often days old, I never watch PMQs live. When it comes to Question Time I tend to wait until I see the comments it has provoked before deciding whether to watch it. I love ‘catch up’ services like I Player, my wife downloads podcasts of radio programs. Obtaining most of the information we need in our lives can be fitted in to suit our schedules and yet too many of us instead try to accommodate our lives to the constant barrage of information.

I don’t believe my mind nor anyone else’s mind is designed to process a constant stream of fast moving information, that way lies madness, at least for me. If information is a constantly flowing river rather than swim in it and risk drowning, I prefer to sit on the bank and periodically dip my beaker into the flow and sample it. Most of the time I only need a little taste to know whether I need to try more. One thing I have learned is that it is inadvisable to just swallow anything one pulls from the stream.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ Corbyn Says So (and Corbyn doesn’t lie)


I watched Jeremy Corbyn politely and courteously knocking all Andrew Marr’s questions for six while remaining relaxed and casual. One thing he said particularly made me prick up my ears and that was, “The times they are a changing”, which is of course, a Bob Dylan song. Andrew Marr who had just been made to look somewhat shallow after admitting that all his opinions were formed from reading newspapers, needless to say, did not pick up on the implications of the remark. In that one line Corbyn demonstrated why he commands a huge following among ordinary people and the young, many of whom have probably never heard the song and certainly weren’t born when it was written. However the words of the song speak directly to the world we live in now.

What the song said back in the Sixties and Corbyn is saying now is that the world has changed and the old certainties no longer apply. There are many among Tony Blair’s disciples like Angela Eagle who think that by dishonestly manipulating rules the status quo can be preserved. Recent events around the world show they are wrong. Unlike many of his opponents Jeremy Corbyn has been an active participant in the movements that transformed society in the second half of the Twentieth Century, unlike the ‘critics who prophesize’ with their pens Corbyn’s eyes are open and he is picking up on the signs of change. The song is not only a song of revolution, but of hope and vision. Corbyn is declaring that he, of all politicians is offering hope because he has a vision that a better future is possible a vision that Angela Eagle’s campaign launch shows she is utterly lacking.

The Brexit vote has revealed that the division between generations so much remarked upon in the Sixties is greater than ever with a very real resentment from the young of an older generation who after dismantling the welfare state, devaluing education, wrecking the economy and destroying employment prospects and rights have now taken the country out of the EU. The younger generation felt European, they felt at home in Europe and now something that they saw as full of promise has been stolen from them. Alone among senior politicians, Corbyn reaches out to the young. Mothers and fathers throughout the land criticise and can’t understand that their interests, aspirations and beliefs are not those of their children, but Corbyn realises that the young demand a voice and a politics that comes from a better future rather than the ‘business as usual’ promised by Eagle and the establishment. The young and disenfranchised look at the Blairites and the Tories and fail to distinguish any difference between them, whereas in Corbyn they see a man who stands, as he has for decades, like a bulwark against a corrupt and oppressive establishment. Whereas the right insist on adhering to the same practices that have allowed the rich to get richer at the expense of the majority, Corbyn is prepared to try something different, to hand power over their own lives back to ordinary people.

The politicians in Westminster and the money grubbers in the city have been so busy feathering their own nests that they have failed to see that outside a battle is raging. Where they do notice protest they either ignore it or use the forces of the state to suppress it. They ban demonstrations from Westminster bridge, put gates on Downing Street, outlaw Trades Union activities, baton charge and ‘kettle’ protestors without regard to their safety, allow the security services unfettered access to citizens private communications, employ venal journalists to propagate the establishment’s claims rather than investigate and challenge them. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, ultimately apply to much pressure on society and it will explode. When that day comes it is the politicians and businessmen and their allies who will be swept away by the flood.

What Corbyn offers is a real alternative. Not only a kinder politics, but a participative politics. It is no accident that he has built the Labour Party into the largest popular political party Britain has ever seen. Unlike his enemies in the Parliamentary Labour Party, Corbyn is offering ordinary people the chance to participate in the government of their country. Millions of Leave voters voted ‘to get their country back’ and now the Conservative Parliamentary Party, mostly Remain voters, have appointed a Prime Minister without any input from the electorate, a Prime Minister who campaigned to remain in the EU. We know from research that much of the Leave vote was motivated by a sense that Westminster ignored ordinary people. It is to this discontent with the establishment that Corbyn speaks. One of the PLPs criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn is that he was not unquestioning in his support of the EU. His stance was clearly that the EU requires radical reform and it is best to stay in and fight for them, it is a stance that many Leave supporters share. Corbyn’s vision for Europe was one based on social justice rather than greed. However the British people have spoken and unlike other politicians Corbyn puts the will of the people above the interests of career politicians or the profits of financiers. The economic problems caused by Brexit are already leading the establishment to demand further austerity, and let’s not forget Angela Eagle and most of the Labour rebels refused to vote against austerity measures, Jeremy defiantly voted against. If Brexit does cause economic damage, under Corbyn Labour would fight to share the burdens equitably rather than accept disproportionate austerity, whereas Angela Eagle’s record suggest she might complain, but would than abstain and allow the Tories to do what they liked. Since Corbyn became leader Labour has been actively opposing the government and the establishment for the first time in years.

Look around the world, we’ve had a rise in peoples movements, even in the USA socialism is no longer a dirty word. Ordinary people are demanding a voice everywhere and in Britain only Corbyn (and in Scotland, Sturgeon) is prepared to give them that voice.

“Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside ragin’

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’” (Bob Dylan)

Who Do You Think You Are?

Oh dear when it comes to the Bible’s boring bits the early bits of Chronicles take some beating! I don’t find long lists of the generations of the tribes of Israel from Adam onwards particularly interesting, although if we took the Bible as a historical account I suppose it means that all the violence in the Middle East is nothing more than a nasty family squabble. Personally I find these lists as boring as all the begetting and begotting at the start of some gospels intent on proving Jesus to be descended from David, and I take those with a pinch of salt as well, a big pinch.

Genealogy is a source of fascination to some people. I suppose everyone wants to know who they are and how they fit into the overall scheme of things, why else would the BBC program ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ be so popular. It feeds ordinary people’s fascination with celebrity and fantasies of possibly being special, if not in themselves then by heredity. Many Indian families like my wives have family records kept by hereditary priests in Haridwar or Rishikesh in the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganga which help to preserve people’s place in society.

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints are very assiduous about genealogy because of their belief (which is found in the letters of St Paul) that the living can participate in ceremonies like baptism on behalf of their ancestors.

Genealogy has a role in health care as so many conditions or the tendency to contract them can be hereditary and it helps to be aware of ones ancestors health problems. It can be vital in matters of inheritance, kingdoms have been lost over disputed ancestry. In time gone by it was not unusual for kings to have constructed genealogies to demonstrate their right to the throne.

I have never been excessively concerned about my own heredity. However it still came as a slight disappointment to learn from my cousin that I was a descendant of the Dublin gunsmith Richard Guinness and not, as I had always believed the brewer Arthur Guinness. I can still say that two sorts of Guinness flow through my veins.

At the moment there are many people anxious to establish their Irish descent so that they can remain citizens of the European Union despite the English decision to drag the United Kingdom out the EU. Last week the main Post Office in Belfast ran out of Irish Passport application forms so great was the demand. I know there are many people who prefer not to call themselves British at the moment because of its negative connotations and who are seeking to attach anchors to alternative nationalities to which they may be entitled because they no longer feel secure in a post Brexit UK.

In India when a person decides to dedicate themselves to the life of a sunyasin they not only put off their possessions but also their family and their name. Other cultures have similar practices. Hereditary, family, and name are like any other possession, merely ties to bind a person into society. Genealogy is both a tool for placing oneself in society and a chain to bind oneself into that place. Curiously enough although the renunciant may no longer find themselves in that place and may disappear from the recognition of all who knew them, who they were will always remain in that genealogy and in the memories and records of the family. Whether one passes through a symbolic funeral at renunciation or a real one at death they retain a place for the members of their family within their family. They may no more leave a mark on the world, but they have left an indelible mark behind them.wpid-S5000634_1.jpg

Interesting Times (in the UK)


I have not yet read the Chilcot Report , but we live in interesting times as the old Chinese would have cursed and we are cursed to live in interesting times. We are governed by political elites that have nothing but contempt for the ordinary citizens who elected them. One of the exceptions, of course, is Jeremy Corbyn a man of principle who preferred to oppose an unjust war than seek personal gain. Today he tried to pay his respects to the dead of the Iraq War and those MPs who colluded with Tony Blair to send an ill equipped to die in Iraq barked like jackals as he spoke. Let us be clear those Labour plotters like Angela Eagle who are seeking to displace Jeremy Corbyn as party leader are the same people who not only voted to go to war in Iraq even though the evidence did not support it, but they are also the same MPs who knowing their guilt voted against the holding of an inquiry into the Iraq War.

Even though Chilcot was expressly forbidden to investigate the legality of the decision to go to war he does say that “The circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory” which is as close as he could get to saying ‘probably illegal’. More importantly is his pointing out that Blair’s dodgy dossier was not challenged by his ministers who have, let’s be honest, consistently supported the use of military force regardless of the threat to civilian lives. It is little wonder they hate a man who stands without compromise for Peace and justice like Jeremy Corbyn.

People today have been talking about learning lessons from Chilcot. It is very apparent that the case for war presented both to parliament and the country was founded upon utter duplicity. What lessons have Tony Blair’s disciples learned? None, the voting figures in every election in England since last September show Corbyn to be successful at winning votes in elections, yet they still present an utterly dishonest picture of his performance. Rather than doing the job for which they were elected they are more interest in promoting their own careers than opposing the government. They show utter disregard for their members some attacking Corbyn despite their Constituencies calling for the leader to be supported. Angela Eagle’s CLP has indicated it has no confidence in her, however her contempt for ordinary members is such she just ignores their wishes.

It is interesting in these interesting times that Corbyn managed to secure the votes of two thirds of his party to oppose Brexit whereas many of his detractors who claim he did not enough saw the votes of Labour supporters in their areas going the other way. The only logical conclusion is that it was they who were not pulling their weight, worse some may suggest they were deliberately undermining the Remain campaign so they could attack Corbyn. Would the Blairites sacrifice the good of their country for narrow personal and political gain? You may think that, I could not possibly comment.

And it is interesting to see the fallout from Brexit. With Leave campaigners admitting they didn’t produce a plan for post Brexit because when the Scottish Government presented their plans for Scotland post independence Better Together used it as a means to attack the Yes Campaign. Fair enough, but one might have thought they would have at least considered the consequences of their actions. Are they repentant? No they are blaming those who fought to remain in the EU for not having an Exit Plan, while saying that no one who supported Remain should negotiate an exit anyway. I see that English newspapers like the Express are complaining that the Scottish Government is trying to protect Scotland from the economic consequences of Brexit, the basic position seems to be ‘ We have destroyed ourselves, but we want to drag the rest of the UK down with us.”

Experts did warn us about the economic consequences of Brexit, but Michael Gove said that people should ignore the experts. Yesterday the Governor of the Bank of England somehow managed to avoid sticking out his tongue while saying ‘I told you so!’ and Michael Gove carried on his campaign to become Prime Minister. Were he to become Prime Minister would he discount the advice of experts? Well Chilcot has shown us that Tony Blair set a precedent for ignoring the advice of experts, Gove shows no sign of having learned a thing. One wonders into what further disasters he might lead us after Brexit. Blair ignored advisers who warned him that an invasion of Iraq would play into the hands of Al Qaeda and the direct consequence was the rise of ISIS or Daesh. Now we could get another PM equally contemptuous of anyone who actually knows what they are talking about. Would the Blairites be prepared not to oppose a Tory like Gove just as they failed to oppose the austerity measures of David Cameron? You may think that, again I couldn’t possibly comment.

Known To God


Yestereven I watched a documentary about the Battle of the Somme, whose Centenary begins next month. The documentary, drawing on accounts by some of the participants, focused on just the first couple of days of the battle. The Battle of the Somme lasted into November and had implications for the Battle of Verdun and the Russian Brusilov offensive by tying up vast numbers of German troops. However the program just looked at the first offensive and the nearly sixty thousand British casualties incurred, many within the first few hours. The men who died were buried largely close to where they fell and today their graves are marked by long rows of white markers. Thousands of graves in each of several grave yards and among those thousands many hundreds of graves without a name merely the inscription ‘A Soldier of The Great War: Known To God’.

A couple of years after the Great War ended the Paris Peace Conference established The League of Nations to preserve world peace, but it had no real powers and no means to bind its members into any sort of union. It depended upon the goodwill of the Great Powers to preserve peace and the Powers had their own prorities. The Great War was ended by the German surrender and their humiliation in the Treaty of Versailles. It left Germany not only resentful of the allies but in economic chaos. Adolf Hitler directly blamed the Treaty for the state of the German economy and we all know what followed.

After the Second World War with its millions of dead, not only combatants, but civilians some politicians sought to bind European nations particularly France and Germany into alliances of mutual interest beginning in 1951 by another Treaty of Paris that established the European Coal and Steel Community which had been proposed by the French Foreign Minister specifically as a means to prevent war between France and Germany to “make war not only unthinkable, but materially impossible”. The ECSC was followed by other institutions each designed to bind Europe more closely. The primary purpose of the ECSC and its development ultimately into the European Union has always been to preserve peace in Europe and to avoid the sort of economic conditions in any nation that brought about the rise of Hitler and the Second World War.

It has been sad seeing the glee with which politicians of the Right like Liam Fox and Marine Le Pen have welcomed the possibility that Britain’s leaving the EU may cause other nations to follow suit and bring about the end of the EU. We know from the collapse of Yugoslavia that there are historic grudges within Europe that can easily lead to violence, even war. Drawing into the Union the countries that had been satellites of the former Soviet Union gave them stability and aspiration and a new identity as European countries. Within the EU it is true that some nations subsidised others however it generally has prevented the sort of economic collapse seen in the Weimar Republic. Yes there have been serious problems such as the treatment of Greece, but the overall impetus has been to contain crises and prevent the circumstances that cause war.

The Brexit vote in the UK has encouraged the extreme right with their racist thugs to come crawling out of their holes and make their presence felt once more. I take no comfort in the argument that they are a small minority, so were the Nazis in Germany, the Fascists in Italy and the Falangists in Spain. Given a collapsing economy and suitable scapegoats like foreigners, Jews (or Muslims), Socialists, and Trades Unions a previously ridiculed minority political party can rise to power. It has happened before. Without a shared vision of peace it could happen again. I hope that those negotiating for the UK in the Brexit negotiations are not driven by jingoism and that the EU negotiators do not decide to make an example of the UK to discourage others from leaving. The times are sensitive and I hope before anyone decides to rattle a sabre they take a long hard look at those rows of white grave markers and remember the millions of men some known only to God and realise that nothing in the EU is as bad as war.