New blog post. Saturday 28th of November. 2016. Woke from a dream in the middle of the night. Nothing major. Just sharing the benefits of walking barefoot in wild places to a room full of people. Loud music was coming from somewhere. They couldn’t hear me. All understanding was lost. I found myself awake with both hands clutching my heart. I lay awake for hours thinking of many things: work, climbing, friends, partner but mostly Syria, Isis, Iraq, air strikes, international politics and today’s Stop The War demonstrations happening all around the country. I breathed my way through an in-depth body scan to find some peace: toes, balls of feet, arches, tendons, heels, Achilles, ankle joint and so on. One body part, one breath, all the way to the top of my head. Still wide awake. Nowt else for it. Get up.
Back to the laptop. I’ve been there all week. Google, Facebook, civilian casualties, collateral damage, Cameron, Corbyn, airstrike precision, airstrike inaccuracy, government and military say this, reporters and aid workers say that. The first reporter to actually meet Isis and come back alive says its soldiers are spread out amongst the cities they occupy. They live next to civilians. To wipe them out would mean wiping out whole cities and all the innocent people who live in them. Does each airstrike fuel the fire and fan the flames of terrorism? Quite possibly. If a bomb or missile destroyed your home and killed your family, how would you react? How much of the big picture would you see? When I was a young man, I just assumed that Britain was always the good guys. It turns out we’ve had our fair share of bad guy roles for a very long time.
Staying in Manchester, there are no mountains or moorland on my doorstep. No forest to escape to. Nature’s welcome distraction from the violence and suffering caused by people is all too diluted here. Slouching on the floor and staring at the world through a screen, nothing but the pain in my sitting bones motivates me to move. Closing the laptop lid and shutting the door on the world, an hour or so of free-flowing yoga helps me to feel much better. Now I’m sitting cross-legged with a straight back, balanced emotions and a clear head. It’s heart wrenchingly sad to face the suffering we cause in the world. When has our government ever really cared for all of us, let alone the civilians caught up in a war? What gives it the moral authority to play the military role it chooses? To what extent are we compliant with its actions?
The lessons learned from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya suggest that the US, the UK, France and the rest of the powerfully armed world need to consider a different approach. Maybe more political brain, less lethal brawn and some compassionate love would be worth a try. Are we capable of it? We love our family and our friends. We care for them. We make mistakes but we take responsibility for our actions. All of this happens on a small scale, all of the time, all over the place. What does it take to extend this further? Could we ever have the option of a government that genuinely cares for all of its people as much as it does for its own way of life? Would its foreign policy make more friends and less enemies? Would we vote for it if we could?
Feeling the need to do something, albeit rather small, the recent attacks in Paris pushed me to start a Just Giving page for Refugee Action. This winter solstice, we will be walking the skyline of the Great Langdale valley in the Lake District. Starting at sunset and finishing at sunrise, the walk will climb 10 peaks, cover 20 miles and ascend 5000 feet. We will walk through the longest night of the year in solidarity with all innocent victims of war. If you are a keen hill walker and you would like to join us, please get in touch. If you would like to support us, please donate here: