chasing the monkey, a long way from the party… bemoaning the loss, searching for reason in lonely suburbs, up one way down the next, a blur of easy joggers, washing lines, sparkling homes and crewcut lawns… he made it through to the outskirts, only to see his primate friend, on the other side of the road, disappear down a narrow path through some thicket and into the jungle. Taking breath, he blundered on, fighting and kicking at the undergrowth, keeping apace until he stumbled, sweat drenched and browbeaten, upon a small clearing amid the dense and shaded forest floor. With the shriek of the monkey out of reach, unstuck, alone, in need of rest and a safer distance from any predators that might be lurking, he scrambled up toward the canopy. Halfway to the top, tired to the bone, he settled on a grand old bed… two massive branches, nestled and entwined together through centuries of weather… the strong arm, reaching out from the gigantic girth, of a magnificent kapok tree.
Laying still, head resting on another’s pillow, gazing up at a leafy ceiling, weaving sun drenched, kaleidoscopic, patterns that sparkle and dance across the underbelly of green… a subtle kindness sweeps the contours of his face… fixated by the throws of light piercing the vegetation above, caressed by the soft warm breeze, swaying to rhythms of the interior, heartfelt in paradise, his eyes closed, turning the cacophony to an incantation… within seconds… he was drifting in a sea of dreams.
Past, present and future, no matter who or what he conquered, whatever the distance, by foul means or fair, however high he climbed, unless he crossed the track to embrace the all-encompassing, almighty, vastness, a mass of conflict followed wherever he laid his head.
Like the firecracker shock of a hard slap, a Jack suddenly leapt out of nowhere, screeching and shouting… you’re an imbecile, a buffoon, good for nothing, lazy and in the wrong place… so unexpected he stood straight to attention, smacked the mosquito and fell out of his tree!
Back in the world… dazed, a little concussed perhaps, certainly confused, but by no means clueless, he drew breath. Primed and in place, fact, fiction, head cracked, or not, he felt the ground beneath his feet to be alive, bore witness to the ebb and flow of nature’s fluctuations. He knew this to be true, yet the adult’s realm, favouring one category over the other, remained as ever, relentless and unforgiving… felled and felled again, in merciless succession, until he’d taken enough hits, enough to replicate and inflict the same tyranny of division.
Corporal punishment and playground punch-ups played a central part in the life of a schoolboy growing up in post war Britain. If a severe caning didn’t catch you unawares, a fist was bound to smack you off guard sooner or later. When it came around to his turn in a brawl he’d invariably end up missing the target by miles, a tear driven snot ball of rage, surrounded by overexcited boys, braying like spectators, hungry for blood, at a gladiatorial arena… fight, fight, fight… kill, kill, kill him… His only compensation was to skulk off, vying for some mean fisted payback… of which, the torment and pent-up fury, saw little or no respite till the deed was done.
On the backend of a sleepless night, revenge seemed sweet in repose… restless by a mile, pacing the floor, the thought of a dagger, thrust into the scoundrel’s back when least expecting it, was nothing less than a just and practical measure… and given the ethics of the curriculum and rigorous school policies, hardly surprising.
Survival of the fittest saw playground bullies and sadistic teachers having the last word. Along with the relentless schoolboy one-upmanship, he and his class mates were officially taught that the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life, was exemplified in British imperialism taking civilisation, ethnicity and governance, across uncharted waters, to untamed continents and the wild beyond. In certain pride, they learnt that their fellow compatriots, backed up by missionary elders, implicit in conquering the native inhabitants, with a sense of justice and moral authority, seized enough landmass, heaped their lawful and religious ways on enough of the world’s population, to make Britain the largest empire in the history of humankind.
From classrooms to living-rooms, canteens, lecture halls, bus shelters, studios and factory floors… with the voice of reason ringing in their ears… animated billboards and digital highways, spewing out daily doses of media, diverting, dividing them, on the hour, by the minute, every second… it was all too easy to forget, to lose sight of the child’s lament, fuelling the heart of an adult’s war.
At home, away, in school or out, the underlying conviction of those formative years, the ethos of that Darwinian theory, becomes a legacy for life, set in stone, hard to shake off, and for the best part impossible to live down. Any clarity and innocence the infant may have retained, is thwarted, separated, twisted, and indelibly linked, into the same imperialistic plan that set out to override, deploy and in most cases, destroy the indigenous lifeline across the globe.
Marauding ants, hungry lions, saltwater crocodiles, a grizzly bear defending her young, a disturbed black mamba, rabid dogs, mosquitoes, bull sharks, all known to be predatory, lethal even…. but why are we supposed to take our cue from the most feared creatures, when horses, dogs, pandas, quokkas, rabbits, gorillas, cats, basking shark, giraffe, pig, sheep, budgerigars, capybaras, cicadas, dolphins, whale, to name some, show us another way?
Ok, some of the latter will retaliate if provoked, or treated cruelly, but none of them sit around etiquette tables, over wine and dine, planning unprecedented genocide, for millions and millions of neighbours, as a great many ruling countries have done.
By 1878 European empires and their former colonies, through military might and cunning diplomacy, claimed control of 67% of the world’s landmass; in 1914 that imperial stake, driven hard into the ground, secured 84% of the cake. By the 1890s Europeans had sliced up 90% of Africa; the lion share made by Belgium, Britain, France and Germany.
We speak of evolving, building higher walls, better roads, longer bridges, but nothing it seems in the human sphere shifts that much. Our campaigning and tactics swing left to right, while we thrash about in offensive and defensive ruts, trying to outmanoeuvre, outsmart our neighbouring countries. Forcing their hand, toward our own social and economic gain, we barter innocent lives, for a secure place in the history books, with a perfunctory salute to those lessons of antiquity that tally up the consequences.
After generations of controlling the other’s birthplace, reigning the waves, sucking the mother dry on route, governing and tenure have become untenable and the repercussions inevitable.
In July 2016, the UK government release a statistical report that proudly declares Britain as the second biggest arms dealer in the world, with most sales driven by war in the Middle East. In September, of that same year, UNICEF publish a document, “Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children”, stating that some 50 million children worldwide are forced to take terrifying journeys, fleeing their homes in frantic search of survival, thousands from war torn countries in the Middle East. Seeking refuge, swimming in poverty, they become victims of human smuggling, trafficking, and other extreme forms of abuse… bought and sold, as you would a piece of furniture, anything to get to the haven, of that same said country, that coincidently upholds the arms trade.
Orphans from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Kosovo, to name some, are crossed off the map, destroyed by power hungry ministers, who see human rights as nothing better than a flea circus, unashamedly seeking power behind a dutiful mask, dishing out leading backhanders, of lies and deceit.
The corruption and political smokescreens make the numbers and outcome, for the ravishes of evacuees, difficult to pin down. Nevertheless, a recent UK government paper, Revue of the National Referral Mechanism for victims of human trafficking, tells us that lives lost, to slavery and trafficking, has risen dramatically in recent years. In 2016, the UN agency, International Labour Organization, gives a clearer indication, registering 21 million men, women and children as enslaved against their will, in debt bondage, or working in appalling conditions.
It’s a wonder our respective leaders find any sleep to heal the wounds of state… wherefore to quell the conscience of heart… murdered sleep… the innocent sleep… balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast…