Monday, September 22, 2008

Gimme My Country Back!!

When I was at university and brimming with hope of changing the world, I went to a socialist student meeting. I'd joined the group on a whim and the discussion was of interest to me because we would be discussing military rule in the Home Country. It was your typical Welsh rainy September afternoon as I made my way up creaking stairs to a room over a pub, filled with right-on, fairtrade tea drinking, Guardian reading, long haired young socialists all who argued passionately using long words and throwing around the names of socialist icons or theories about the Home Country and I was taken aback, mightily disillusioned by how little they knew.

Naturally, being proper socialists and me being just a pretend one, they weren't having any of my not-based-on-some-dead-bigshot's-theories talk about the Home Country. I kept being told that I didn't understand, which for me was curious as I kept pointing out that actually I had grown up in the Home Country unlike anyone else in the room and so was much better placed to know what I was talking about than any of them. The reason they had taken such offence, argued so passionately with me in big important BBC Radio voices, was that I had said the unsayable in a room full of optimistic bright young things. I had said that marshal law was the best thing that could happen to the Home Country because democracy just didn't work for us.

And still they bandied on about it. They explained it to me patiently, the merits of democracy, ignoring and talking over me when I repeated that democracy didn't work for everyone, like marriage. Me being in the room was some sort of blip in their matrix. They paused, stared for a moment when I said something, and then continued to pick up the conversation where they had left out before Reality Check from the Home Country had butted in.

It was ridiculous. I looked around the room and realised what a sham it all was. Who did these people think they were, sitting above a pub in Wales talking out of their backsides about a country they knew so little about? They didn't have family or friends living there or any genuine reason for concern about what happened to the Home Country. I did.

The meeting was drawn to a 'successful' close with the conclusion that Democracy was the answer to the Home Country's woes. Democracy, just any type of democracy. Golly gosh! How come us silly people in the third world never thought of that before? Pick a tyrant and elect him and it'll all be good and proper. I never went to another meeting.

Naturally, that's what the people of the Home Country have just done and demonstrated very clearly why democracy doesn't work for them, because they kicked out a general who was the best of a bad lot and at least stabilised the country a little, and elected a man who has been thrown into jail many times for digging his grubby finger's into the nation's pockets and bought million pound mansions in the UK with the cash of ordinary people.

So you have to then wonder if my fellow Home Countryers don't deserve what they get if they're going to show that they have such appallingly short memories about how badly the same batch of politicians have treated them decade after decade.

And yet... I feel sometimes like I'm watching a country disappearing before my eyes, going up in flames like the iconic buildings of my childhood.

I don't feel sorry for the building. I feel sorry for the ordinary people who worked there, who were just trying to make a humble living. I feel sick at the thought of my friend's fiance being thrown three feet against a wall while he worked in a nearby building. I feel angry when I see the size of the crater and think that someone sat and calculated that level of raw violence, especially in the Holy Month and knowing full well that it would be a busy evening of families out with their children. What kind of sick people are these? I feel impotent because all I can do is watch the news.

In the end, I did find that bag of soil from my village and it now stands in a bottle on a shelf. Just as well because the way things are going, maybe that's the closest my own children will ever get to the Home Country.

I can say that things were never great when I lived in the Home Country but they were never this bad. It all makes me feel very strongly that it's outside hands that are stirring up trouble there, because whatever was wrong with the uneducated and easily influenced people of the Home Country, repeatedly blowing up your own countryfolk was considered a hideous, cowardly thing to do and now it happens all the time. But if you offer a poor person guaranteed financial security for his family with some religious guilt thrown in, his own life seems like a small price to pay.

I bet those socialists above a pub would love to hear my latest theory.

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