The ignorance of youth (In Memoriam)

by Richard on November 11, 2009

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.

Remembrance Day.

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.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


Izzeh 11.11.09 at 1:22 pm

So true, at Acadia University in Nova Scotia and across Canada. We get November the 11th off. Other students at my school took this as a “GET DRUNK AND PARTY” night. When I asked them to quiet down since my roommate and I are going to the services, they replied “It’s a day off, we can be as loud as we want”
I’ve met so many people who think that it’s ok to just forget. Forget the people that died, btu also forget those who lost limbs gave up hearing. The Post traumatic stress disorder that plagues them afterward. All so these kids can run around and party. It’s sad.


Izzeh 11.11.09 at 1:25 pm
A video by Terry Kelly about this exact thing.


Simon 11.11.09 at 4:47 pm

Not being chained to a desk, I was free to attend the short act of remembrance at our local war memorial, where it was heartning to see a turnout of about 50, and also pleasing to see that in my thirties, I wasn’t the youngest there.

I find it a great shame that people can’t or don’t realise that their freedom to do whatever they please is only their’s because other people died for it. A few minutes on one day of the year to stop and remember that doesn’t seem enough to me, let alone too much.

I think universities and other institutions should make it far more prominent.


Allan R. Bevere 11.11.09 at 6:53 pm


An extremely moving quote from your late friend.



Richard 11.11.09 at 7:38 pm

I’m grateful for your comment, Allan.


Sarah 11.11.09 at 8:11 pm

Thanks for reblogging this Richard. Every year I remember Mikes post, doubly important now in remembering him too. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything which captures the importance of it more clearly.

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