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Made in Shoreditch

I also contribute a weekly column to Made in Shoreditch magazine called 'Old East End/New East End', where I look at the relationship between the East End of old and new, looking at the changes and the stalwarts in landscape, residents and culture, focussing on one street or district each week. You can find it here.

'arry's Giving 'em 'ell

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Prince Harry has killed an Afghan while on duty for the British Army. I'm sure everybody is completely shocked by this astounding revelation - a British soldier has killed an Afghan on his/her own soil. Crazy.

Now I'm sure that a few Daily Mail readers are absolutely aghast at the thought that cheeky, lovable Hazza has been causing havoc in Helmand Province (or wherever he's stationed), but really he's just doing what his job remit requires of him. I'm sure that many, many more anti-war demonstrators are disgusted with his comments such as "if there's (sic) people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game I suppose". If we look at this objectively, however, then surely we can see that this is rather typical squaddie bravado about being on the front line.

Fuck yeah!

In any case, I kind of admire Harry. It may not be a popular opinion, but face it, he's a member of the British Royal Family who believes in the idea of 'the nation', and has gone on what he feels is a mission to defend it. I've toiled long and hard over the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, feeling sometimes opposed to them and sometimes for them, and I've come to a point of almost indifference. My apathy may well frustrate some, but the point really is that if the coalition forces of the US and the UK want to go steaming into a country and invade it, there really is very little that we, the people, can do about it unfortunately. I'll argue this point further in a moment, but firstly let's look at the facts.

Saddam Hussein was a vile dictatorial despot who was committing genocide on his own people. The Taliban were a militant group of tribal animals killing anybody in their way who did not agree with their Islamist stance. That the British and the Americans (and associated others in the West) went into these places and ousted these regimes (in Saddam's case at the second time of asking due to some rather dodgy weapons deals) has done some good. The killing of innocent civilians, the harrowing scenes of, as Outkast put it, "bombs over Baghdad" and the near Vietnam style war of attrition which has played out now in Afghanistan for over a decade, seemingly just to keep it going, are utterly wrong. I will conceded this and, indeed, wholeheartedly agree with it. The reasons behind going in may well have been somewhat ropey, yes. However, Saddam is no longer persecuting the Kurds on a whim and the Taliban are reeking far less hell on innocent Afghans through piety and misreading of religious scripture (surely the most flawed form of doctrine).

Outkast - BOB

The reason I'm at the point of indifference, though, is purely because while our leaders profess to be liberating people from dictatorship, as far as I can see we have no real democracy of our own in the West. In America, one has two parties to choose from (yes you can vote for an independent if you live there, but the futility of doing so I hope I need not explain). In the UK we have three parties, although really it is two (given that the last solely Liberal government got in almost 100 years ago). In fact, it seems in Britain that more and more hung parliaments will arise and the Lib Dems - or, rather scarily, UKIP - may have more of a say in who gets in, but they will mainly be choosing which one of the big two gets in and elects a Prime Minister. Our missions are supposedly freeing the people and giving them the right to vote for their leaders. This, I fear though is pointless, or at least if they follow the Western model.

In the UK we have a monarchy. Granted, it is a parliamentary country in which voters choose their leaders (although do you choose who is going to lead the party you would like to vote for?), but nonetheless we have a monarchy. It seems a tad strange to me that a country in which the democratic process is so controlled, leaving its voter with two real, viable options and which also then has a hierarchical family upon which we must all look up to should be trying to liberate anybody other than ourselves, but if it is a good cause, I'll throw my hat in and back it as far as I can - after all, Thatcher, Blair, Major and Cameron have all had their downfalls, but have never committed genocide on our soil.

David Lloyd George - the last Liberal Prime Minister, who got into the hot seat in 1916. He did some decent stuff for the poor.

That a member of that very monarchy is willing to risk his life for his belief in our semi-autocratic, church-bound system is actually quite refreshing. I do not remember Tony Blair ever offering to strap up and hit the trenches. I'm not condoning violence or oppression. Far from it. But if Harry believes in it and espouses the rhetoric, then the fact that he's out there defending it has an admirable quality which is missing elsewhere in Westminster and Windsor (note: I'm not saying pack the Queen off, I realise that she's in her eighties, just send some of those greasy hangers-on, maybe).

In any case, getting our backs up won't do a damn thing. I watched a video on TED the other day about this rather inspirational Israeli guy. He was giving a talk on this project whereby he sent messages to Iranians saying things like "We won't bomb your country, we love you" via Facebook and they were replying and this whole online community has been forged out of normal Iranians and Israelis who are for peace. I think this is a far better way of going about lobbying for peace - you cut out government and all of those egos and the people themselves just say to one another "look, we have our differences, yes, but I don't want you killed in my country's name, just as much as you don't want the inverse".

You never know, it could work...

What I propose, then, is that anybody reading this from the West - be it the US, UK or more unlikely somewhere like Australia, Germany France, wherever, simply adds one Afghan friend on Facebook and one Iraqi friend on Facebook (send them a message beforehand if possible just outlining why you are adding them) to show that it's not us, it's the wankers that govern us, that we unfortunately vote in because we have no other real choice. Just like them.