Friday, November 21, 2003

Thursday and Wednesday - demos and slow Tubes...

Inevitable delays everywhere - could have walked quicker. One 'protester' on the Tube, wearing a Bush mask with a forked snake tongue and devil's horns (these guys aren't big on subtlety - or originality) was also bedecked in a clearly cherished Columbia Titanium jacket. These are expensive, top of the range garments: slightly at odds with the mask.
Needless to say, the atmosphere round the hapless guy was quite chilly but (typical Brit reserve) no-one said a word to him. He got the point and departed at Temple stop, probably half-way to his destination.
I'm working just across from the vegetarian's nightmare: Smithfield meat market. Before the meat show, it was West Smithfield, scene of quite a few martyrdoms and assorted late mediaeval crowd-pleasers. Reading up on some of the martyrs history to see who the plaques refer to, it's clear that it was a result of Queen Mary's displeasure at Protestantism. Some of the reasons for the executions were: possession of the Bible in English, not affirming the Pope as the sole authority on earth, and not wanting to partake in the Church (Catholic) rituals. Of course the Church was very much hated for the state into which the priesthood and Popery had fallen: they certainly did not practise what they preached, but made it impossible to sidestep their own authority. By, amongst other things, having frequent purges of free thinkers. And trying to suppress the English translations of the Bible.
Of course, it didn't and couldn't last. Protestantism won out, and the Catholic church entered a long decline. But while it lasted, it was fatal for a good many good people, and extremely unpleasant for many others.
It's hard to escape the parallels to today: Britain (with the Istanbul bombing) has suffered something of its own 9/11. The ideology which is behind these acts is not dissimilar to the Holy Church of 1540: unable to win finally (because the power of free thinking is always too strong) but capable nevertheless of inflicting a lot of pain to innocents along the way.
Time to stand firm (and be careful: London is always a target, and as I noticed when we got here, border control is laughable.)

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