This is a post by Mike Blakey, a friend and former contributor to this blog who was murdered in India almost 3 years ago while working with the charity Tong-Len. A hostel for children is being built in Dharamsala in Mike’s memory. If you’d like to make a contribution, you can do so through the JustGiving Michael Blakey Memorial Fund.
For those of you reading abroad, who may not be aware, it’s customary in Britain for everybody, everywhere, to stop what they’re doing at 11am and observe a 2-minute silence for all those who have died in combat since the first world war.
Across the country, as the BBC shows, people have been observing this wonderful tradition of ours. Except, it seems, in Swansea University.
I was in a class of maybe 25 - 30 Brits. Funnily enough, we’d just been discussing the moral ignorance of neo-classical theories of labour, and their absolute lack of respect for human dignity. And at 11am, as we were taking a break in the lecture, not a single person stopped - or even considered doing so - to bow their heads, or even stay silent for a couple of minutes. Instead, they continued to discuss the amount of beer they’d drunk at last night’s annual BEER RACE. One girl, sat to my right, got so drunk that she had almost missed the lecture this morning, apparently. the lecturer sat at the front, eating a bag of crisps.
I got up, and walked outside. I was late; it was 11:02am. Students were bustling up and down the corridors, and across the lawn outside. I couldn’t really go anywhere to get some peace. But then, as I was looking outside, into the crowd of young faces speeding up and down, there was a solitary figure, stood tall on the lawn. He was a gardener, a man perhaps in his 50s. Amongst the crowd of busy youth, he was propped up on his rake, hands folded, head down. He stood silent, a figure apart from the world around him. After a minute had passed, he slowly raised his head, took his rake, and began to get back to work. Around him, everyone continued on their way.
It’s reassuring to know; someone remembers.
I’m leaving comments on this post open. Please remember that the person who wrote it can’t answer back. It was first posted on November 11th, 2004.