Friday 17 February 2017

Peace Children

Following on from my last post, I’d like to explore this idea a little further. I came across the idea of the Peace Child when I was writing a Citizenship internet guide for school. And oh, Madam May, what irony. My Grammar School education made me interested in languages. I became a teacher. Very much the National Curriculum included Citizenship and it meant of this planet or even universe. Why educate people one way then rubbish that very education which you claim now to be bringing back? Mayhem!  
I myself became a type of Peace Child. I learnt the languages of some other cultures, learnt those cultures and combined them with my own. The two fused and we exchanged ideas and values. Isn’t that healthy? Might that not lead to Peace?   

The Peace Child originally came from Papua New Guinea. After a dispute, warring tribes would swap Peace Children. A child form one culture would be brought up in the other and would thus understand both. Of course the tribes would be reluctant to go to war again as one of their own lived with the other tribe.  More importantly, these children acted as ambassadors, negotiators and finders of the third way. The latter is particularly important as they understand all of the issues that concerned both sides in a potential new dispute.  

Europe is right on our doorstep. More accurately, we are right on its doorstep. This is the best place to start the Peace Child process.  

Besides, there are many people who cannot help belonging to more than one culture. The Citizens of Nowhere stance denies them citizenship whereas actually they, like the Peace Children, are best placed to bring others together. 

I stopped teaching languages after a while and followed my other love: writing. One of my early works was my Peace Child trilogy. Peace Child Kaleem is a mixed race child and acts as diplomat between the two races. However, as it’s also a YA trilogy so it is story of his own growth. 

In Book 1 he stops Terrestra being an  isolated planet, in Book 2 he gets rid of switch-off - compulsory euthanasia for people over a certain age. This also allows the Z Zone, the poorest part of Terrestra, to integrate with the other zones. In Book 3 he communicates with the Zenoton, who have a really alternative attitude to economics that might be worth a try.  

Book 4 is now in preparation. Yes, Trumpet and Brexit are in there. 

I am a product of my education and of the 1944 Education Act. That screams by the 2000s globalisation and internationalism. Is the baby being thrown out with the bathwater? Shouldn’t we be reforming the EU not leaving it? Shouldn’t Trump be finding the terrorists and not punishing all who share the same faith or are of the same race?    

I now also work as a partner in a publishing company. Out latest venture: Citizens of Nowhere. This is an anthology of stories about the global citizen. 

Will my books get burnt?               

Friday 3 February 2017

Simply Red

R.B.N Bookmark 

 ”I´m not British –I´m European!” 

It all seems a very long time ago when I read those words in a magazine interview Mick Hucknall gave during the mid-1980`s.

It was a statement that was so out of context for those times, what with Thatcherism and the anti-Europe sentiment which seemed to permeate British politics at the time.

I was fortunate enough to see Simply Red live in Manchester around the same time as Hucknall’s statement and, I like Mick, admitted to becoming a European. It was far more Cosmopolitan and exotic sounding than just being plain old British. I was a European Mancunion and my best mate was Mick Hucknall –even if he was totally unaware of the fact.

It was many years later that I as a young man ventured out into my adopted European homeland to acquaint myself with my fellow Europeans. I admit to being immature and unaware of the complexities that abound in European politics – I was born on an island and as such my view of the world at times scarcely stretches further than the sun bleached sands of Blackpool beach.

So when I finally took the plunge into Europe it wasn`t as I had envisaged it all.

For I became very aware that once I had stepped beyond realms of Britannia, that I was no longer the European , but instead I was back to being British again.

This was painfully obvious by the fact I was monolingual, it never occurred to me that Europeans couldn’t speak English?  The vacant looks on those fellow Europeans faces that I encountered whenever I asked “Do you speak English?” made it clear I was at a linguistic disadvantage once I´d stepped off our small island.
As if this was not enough, my broad Manchester accent on occasion would baffle even the most fluent of English speakers. I remember a rather puzzled looking Scandinavian gentleman asking me.
“Do you speak English?”
I answered “yes” but whether or not he understood me I never did find out – he thought I was Norwegian?

The first thing one learns when residing in Europe is Britannia does not rule, and past merits like  owning an empire and defeating the Germans in two world wars does not really cut it with anyone. Indeed it can be a major disadvantage, if my experiences are anything to go by.

So the first thing I was encouraged to do was integrate, which is just a fancy word for letting go of the past. What better way to integrate than to learn the language, something so many of us Brits find is the most difficult part of being a European. 

I decided early on that I´d go the full hog, ditch English and immerse myself in the language of my adopted homeland.

The results of this crash course in Europisation have, at times been both disastrous and not least comical.
Once I ordered two beers at a pizzeria for myself and my wife, when to my dismay two large Mediterranean shrimp and scampi pizzas arrived at our table. How “two beers please” can translate into “two beers and two scampi /shrimp pizzas please” god only knows, but somehow I had achieved the impossible. As for me being a vegetarian as well, pizza was coming out of my wife’s ears by the time she had finished both hers and mine.  Anyway I put it down to experience and since that day I let my wife do the talking instead.
The transition from being English to European can be a chaotic one to say the least, something I wish Mick Hucknall had warned me of in his magazine article. 

For once I had acquired the tools to order a beer without an accompanying pizza, making small talk at the dinner table, attempting to come across as an interesting individual with extra-terrestrial origins etc. Once folk had stopped pinching me to see if I was a real person just like them, it was then I began to have my doubts about being a European.

It suddenly struck me like a bolt out of the blue, that no matter how much I pertained to be something and someone else, and assimilate myself into another culture. The fact remains I will always be a product of my upbringing, my roots may have spread overseas but the tree from which the acorn has fallen is still very firmly planted in the land of my origins.

My poor peripheral vision being what it is, I have probably gone full circle a hundred times or more before realising I´d already passed what I was looking for.

And what was I looking for you might ask?

The answer I found was not necessarily the one I was looking for, but in hindsight I now know it`s the only one that fits the bill. 

That being when all is said and done, Europe is united by its disunity, it`s uneasy cultural and economic diversities make it the most unlikely conglomerate of nations ever devised. The machinery that is the EU is in all honesty in desperately need of some tweaks, and a little lubrication from the surplus oil glut –if there is such a thing, that is?

In some ways Brexit was no great surprise, the repercussions on the other hand will rattle a few cages I´m sure. But one thing I have learned on my European journey is that I am British, and am seen as such – the stateless entity of a united Europe might sound ideal in the halls of Strasbourg and Brussells. But to the ordinary man and woman so called Citizens of the EU, priorities lie much closer to home. The global citizen might well be just a faint and jaundiced looking image of an ideal that has lost its wheels.

So tell me Mick Hucknall, would you still consider yourself a citizen of Europe all these years afterwards?
Living abroad tends to give one that citizen of nowhere mentality, so in my case I´d probably answer yes to that question. Though were you to ask me if I was being completely truthful in my answer– well probably not. 

A united Europe is but a concept, home as they say is where the heart is and let’s face it – you can`t hang your hat up on a concept……or can you?

R.B. N  Bookmark is a  contributor to the Salford Stories anthology.