Yesterday was a beautiful day. Indications abounded of spring finally upon us. Early morning sunshine warmed the backs of contented cattle in the field across the lane; mist drifted benignly from the valley floor far below. The call of rooks in distant trees, the chatter of thrushes, blackbirds, and fieldfares busily collecting debris for nest building, all indicative of the peace and beauty pervading our natural world, and all too easily ignored by human animals distracted by insane beliefs of elevated status, lust for power, insatiable needs to force their viewpoint on their fellow beings whatever the cost in life and suffering.
Yet again we woke to that other world of shame, degradation, and horror. It’s a world of our making. It belies our ability to live in harmony with our fellows. It’s a world constructed from a self-centred, power-hungry, cold-blooded need to dominate that has been our downfall since the beginning of time. It brooks no debate. It takes no prisoners. It holds only ugliness and barbarism. It is within us all.
The week’s bombing atrocities in Belgium are only one physical manifestation of this ugliness residing in each and everyone of us. We hide it well. We’re shocked when others display it so blatantly by taking the lives of innocents who will never have the joy of feeling spring sunshine, or the song of birds, again. But then, even while outwardly mourning the dead, en masse we applaud and smile and hold hands, ostensibly displaying our defiance of the perpetrators in a garish display of ‘oneness’. In truth the oneness is illusory. It really means “…I’m a survivor, you may have got them but you didn’t get me.”
I will be accused of cynicism. Look back, though, at our history. It’s a long and nightmarish tale of bloodlust, power-grabbing, torture and killing. We kid ourselves we are “evolving”. Surely, those events are history? Only terrorists do that sort of thing today, don’t they?
We are all prodded to remember the crimes of the Nazi party and how the ‘good guys’ beat them into submission and made them pay, but let’s forget the heinous war crimes committed by the British in Kenya during the early 1950s, crimes equally, if not more heinous, than those of the Nazis, less than a decade before, in WW2.
…a man, now aged 79, who describes how he was placed above a metal drum of burning charcoal, known as the “hat of death”, and beaten until he defecated over himself, before then being beaten unconscious with a hammer.
Another man, now 83, who suffered regular torture including a punishment which involved being made to dig a hole with his index finger by constantly turning his crouched body in a circle, causing dizziness punished by further beatings….
Account of torture at the Gechia Post detention camp in 1953.
“A Mau Mau fighter was arrested and brought to the post. They brought in a new torture method where they lit a charcoal fire inside the cell and burned big metallic springs until they were red hot. They would then strip naked a detainee and place the springs on their skin.
“We were lined up and the Mau Mau detainee was stripped and laid down. He was burnt several times and finally the spring was placed on his lower back and left to burn in his internal organs till he died….
Account of a paramilitary raid in 1952 when claimant was aged 14.
“A white officer stabbed me with a bayonet in my knee. He did it to try to force me into the hut. My father was collared into the house and I followed.
“My father and I were forced to remove all our clothes … My father was forced to sleep with me. The ordeal did not work because he had his inhibitions and I had my inhibitions. It took about 30 minutes. The two white men were inside the house, watching.
“Then my mother and brother were brought … I heard orders to open legs. I did not see them being forced to have sex but I think that is what happened. I was being beaten outside when this was happening….
There are many documented accounts of even worse British torture methods against the Mau-Mau in Kenya, including the raping of men by the use of broken bottles. But, we were the ‘good guys’.
Let’s also conveniently forget the crimes of America in Iraq, just a few years ago – at Abu Ghraib and the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, the CIA’s “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”. Such a cute phrase to describe medieval barbarity. But, after all, these too were the ‘good guys’.
We’re no more evolved than were the Visigoths who sacked Rome way back in 410, though our inventive ability has increased in leaps and bounds. We call it ‘technology’, but our technology isn’t just capable of killing and maiming more of our kind more efficiently than the Visigoths killed Romans, it’s also capable of exterminating every living thing on the planet, either acutely by nuclear force, or the more chronic, though equally terminal condition, of global warming.
“Ah,” I hear you cry, “but I’m optimistic. I believe we’ll find a way to move forward and overcome our differences.”
Our belief systems haven’t evolved one jot since we came down from the trees, either.
Today is another beautiful, peaceful day in northern France. Sadly, many people are missing it altogether. If they’re not at work, they’re indoors by their television screen, soaking up the horror-riddled news broadcasts from Belgium that’ll continue for days to come, resembling some gruesome form of dramatic entertainment.
Perhaps, if the Romans had invented television, highlights from the previous day’s blood-letting arena games may have proved equally popular.
I think I’d rather stick with the cattle and the birds and the sunshine.
 “Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain’s role in the emergency” Independent, November 23rd 2014