Barricade of Flowers

The juggernaut of nationalism rolling down the road is a carnival float of ghosts, distant recollections, fears and frustrations as we grapple with global change. That makes a slippery enemy for those defending the barricade.

In February 2017 Dominic Grieve invited English Cabaret to perform Dreams of Peace & Freedom at the Palace of Westminster. In preparation for that performance we published the following blog as a press release. This in turn prompted Patrick Smith’s article for Buzzfeed which you can view here. We are delighted that Dominic Grieve continues in his support for The Humans in the Telling.

Written by Tom Blackmore

The Convention on Human Rights in Europe is an international treaty.

The juggernaut of nationalism is rolling down the wide streets of Britain once more. A general hue and cry has been raised under the flag of patriotism, and a brighter, bluer, paradise.

Down the street a barricade has been hastily erected. This was built by those surprised and blind-sided by the popular vote overcoming expectations in 2016. Those who were shocked that the mask of protest was nationhood.

Despite the efforts of many brave defenders, that barricade is not holding. Surprise, muddle, nostalgia, the pragmatism of economics, all mean that our membership of the EU is being sacrificed on the shrine of some people’s will.

We are watching from further down the street where it is still quite quiet. We are at work on the foundations of a further barricade, this one built to defend not business practices and trade, but rights and freedom.

For when the juggernaut has swept away economic co-operation, and the rules of the club, its’ declared intention is to sweep away all European law, including the Convention on Human Rights.

‘It’s more of the same,’ they yell, ‘more interference with our sovereign nation.’

Actually of course the Convention is something very different.

The Convention allowed individuals to take their government to court if their government failed to protect or even abused their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

It is not the rules of the club drawn up by nation members, but a treaty between sovereign nations, inspired by a global hunger for peace.

The Universal Declaration was the product of the United Nations, a project to generate good globalisation, or at least an attempt at it. It spawned regional instruments that captured its’ vision but sought to apply them to the character of the region.

In Europe, this was forged by the newly founded Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly. And it was moulded by those who had made a forensic study of the totalitarian condition of the Nazi regime, and who had confronted the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg.

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg By LCB Photography

Nations draw up treaties to better manage relations with others. In the immediate aftermath of years of depression and war, European nations wanted treaties that would stop wars and bloodshed. They identified that nationalism, born from the fire of the industrial revolution, had stoked the flames of military aggression. And they wanted those flames extinguished.

Sovereign nations signed a treaty, agreeing that such a court should be built and that they would be subject to it to protect their people.

Although without any plans to expand, let alone the capability, or any immediate threat, nationalism loses its meaning. Patriotism should be contentment with ourselves, and the warm comfort of neighbourly co-operation. In fact, that it is what patriotism is.

The foundations of our barricade is history, its substance the peace and freedom enjoyed by many for 70 years.

But a word about this juggernaut. Nationalism only really works when it is expansionist. Nationalism is an idea that fuels empire. It’s a justification for minding some other nation’s business, and for capitalising on another’s wealth. It’s the big idea that makes that behaviour right. As a nation we know enough about that from the past 200 years.

The juggernaut of nationalism rolling down the road is a carnival float of ghosts, distant recollections, fears and frustrations as we grapple with global change. That makes a slippery enemy for those defending the barricade.

But perhaps the tactic of erecting a barricade is wrong.  Perhaps these wraiths need exorcism not challenge, a deep peace not battle. Perhaps, we, down the road, waiting for the juggernaut, should build and tend a mound of flowers, a garden barricade, where the ghosts can lie down and sleep – for those who call on the memory of ‘a sovereign nation’.

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