Sunday, 22 September 2013

Beautiful Sky - Let's Keep It That Way

Russian Federation As A Cloud : Grafik Farm 2013
The sky took me by surprise this morning. It was ribbed and streaked with weak sunlight, edging the clouds with a faint mimosa and just a hint of crimson. It was, of course, cumulus or nimbus or stratos and you can tell how ignorant I am about my clouds, because I didn't have a clue which ones they were, to be honest. All I can say is that they were beautiful.

I thought about getting my camera, but waited too long and within a few minutes the clouds had been subsumed, my ribbed sky replaced by bland grey which threatened rain - 'a hard rain,' I thought to myself, 'is gonna fall'

My encounter with beautiful morning clouds followed my attendance on Friday evening at a conference to celebrate World Peace Day, which I never knew previously, is September 21.

As well as music, including a rousing and powerful version of Bob Dylan's 'Blowing In The Wind' by a chap called Willie Sinclair, there were also speakers.

Bruce Kent, former general secretary and an articulate veteran of CND (campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) spoke chillingly about the potential to completely annihilate ourselves. He believed there are those around, and have been those around, willing to do just that in the name of some cause or other.

Kent, a sprightly 84, spoke about the street where he lived in London and of his colourful neighbours who can sometimes become a bit raucous, or play their music too loud on sunny days with their windows wide open. Sometimes, he admits, he can be a bit cross with them. Some neighbours, he told us, often arrive home late at night or even in the early hours of the morning, singing in the street after a few beers.

The street, however, can always resolve these issues with a few sober apologies and if things do get out of hand, there is a local council that can be complained to, or structures through which people can go to get things resolved.

No one, he added, has yet resorted to sitting by their window with a loaded AK47 waiting for their drunken neighbour to return from the pub. No one has taken pot shots at the open window where Bob Marley can be heard singing his heart out as loud as the speakers allow.

He, himself, hasn't, he reminded us, dashed down to B and Q recently and inquired if they sold hand grenades. If he had, he explained, someone would have called the police and he would have been carted off to jail or a mental health institution.

And yet, he told us, as soon as one nation annoys another there are threats thrown back and forth.  Armed to the teeth they seem to want to unleash their worst on each other, with these deadly weapons waiting to be launched. 

It reminded me of the recent troubles in Syria, where our elected leaders went to a vote over using military intervention. Cathy Jamieson M.P., also in attendance, told the audience that M.P's had worked hard to get a 'no' vote on Syria and revealed she could hardly believe that the government had been defeated on this issue, much to the chagrin of messrs Cameron and Hague.  Neither of whom, of course, were arrested or placed in a mental health institution.

Bruce Kent also spoke of a time when, on September 26 1983, the Russians thought they had spotted five nuclear warheads heading toward them. Twice it was reported to the Russian high command that the USA had launched five Minuteman ICBM'S at the Soviet Union. We were seconds from all out nuclear war, averted only when the Russians realised it was something odd about the weather rather than actual warheads heading from the west.  Something in the clouds, I suppose, rather than deadly nuclear warheads.

Just imagine, he asked, what would have happened if the Russians had mistakenly returned fire thinking they were under attack?

The United Kingdom, living through a government imposed winter of austerity, has spent $1.6 trillion on military arms since 2000, an increase of 49% in such spending, Mark Bitel of the Edinburgh Campaign Against the Arms Trade revealed. How many people in the world could be saved from starving if this cash was redirected to food insecurity?

He also told us of David Cameron's visit to the Middle East in 2012, purportedly a 'peace' mission, while he took with him eight representatives of the arms trade.

We left the hall that night, chatting about the gravity of such situations and how little we all knew about the arms trade or the nuances of heading for armageddon otherwise oblivious.

I think I decided a long time ago that simply electing our leaders every five years and leaving the rest to them is not enough, we need people like Bruce Kent and Mark Bitel of the Campaign Against The Arms Trade. But as they also pointed out the world needs people, whether that be you or me, with ideas to come forward and help prevent possible catastrophe. If we all say we want peace, we should all get together and put pressure on our elected representatives to make sure that's what we get!

We all want to be fascinated by a glorious September sky in all its patterns, shapes and colours, not terrified by a mushroom cloud.

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