Hogmanay, December 31st 2009
Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year. The origins of the word are a little uncertain but it may have a French etymology due to the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France between the 13th and 16th centuries.
Despite its Scottish origins the Hogmanay custom of singing "Auld Lang Syne" has become common in many countries. "Auld Lang Syne" (which means roughly 'Long, long, ago' i.e. the good old days) is a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns, which was later set to music.
As always Auld Lang Syne was sung at Hogmanay 2009 in traditional style:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Will 2010 usher in a new age of peace and prosperity for the world we live in? 2010 started in devastating fashion for the people of Haiti when their country was struck by an earthquake that may have killed some 200,000 people in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country. One of the more bizarre responses of the 'International Community' was to send in 10,000 occupation troops. There were photo opporunities for former US Presidents George Bush senior and Bill Clinton who was seen handing out food aid.
2010 means ongoing occupations for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq and the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel.
Was the 2003 attack on Iraq justified? Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Was International Law violated? The Chilcot inquiry currently taking place in London will look in to these matters with former Prime Minister Tony Blair due to answer questions on Friday 29th January. The current Prime Minister Gordon Brown will also be called to account in the coming weeks.
Perhaps the Chilcot inquiry might like to consider listening to evidence from a man in the know about Iraq and Afghanistan, Parliament Square peace campaigner Brian Haw. Brian has been protesting every day against the (13 year long) sanctions regime on Iraq and subsequent invasion of Iraq for over 3,000 days (and nights).
He started his protest on June 2nd 2001 – months before the events of September 11th and before the US led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He was initially demonstrating against the economic embargo against Iraq which according to UNICEF killed over 500,000 children. He has continued to protest 24/7 opposite the British Houses of Parliament in opposition to the ongoing occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the continuing siege of Gaza.
Brian Haw was joined in 2005 by a British Australian lady from Melbourne called Mrs Barbara Tucker. A pleasant lady in her 40’s with two grown up sons she has travelled around the globe and lived in various parts of the world including California, Egypt, New Zealand, Israel, the Gaza Strip, and most European countries. She was brought up in the south eastern Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley near the renowned Channel 10 studios. This is where many famous Aussie TV series such as `Neighbours` and `Prisoner` which aired under the title `Prisoner: Cell Block H` in the UK and the United States, and `Caged Women` in Canada were filmed.
Barbara is used to the kinder climate of Australia's city of literature and she currently lives in a tent, which does not have the amenities enjoyed by the honourable members in the establishment opposite. She is currently praying for warmer weather as she and Brian continue their quest for peace and justice during the coldest British winter in 30 years.
Barbara has been pursued and harassed by police for more than four years over her pink banner, which she wears in Parliament Square and outside Downing Street on a regular basis. Remarkably she has been arrested some 37 times including one occasion without a warrant, which is illegal. The police have tried various other methods to restrict her, with cases of obstruction of the highway, obstructing a police officer, and even attempts to have her sectioned under the mental health act – but still after all this time, nothing has been proved in court.
The peace campaign in Westminster's Parliament Square has been now been running for over 8 and a half years – the best part of a decade.
There is a Parliament Square in Edinburgh as well and a photo of this is included.
'Parliament House was built here in 1641 giving the Square its name. It was used by the Scottish Parliament (of the time) until the Treaty of Union in 1707. Largely unchanged since the time when it could be described as “the busiest and most populous nook of the Old Town”. Many buildings around the square, including the Post Office of the mid 1700’s perished in the Great Fire of 1824. During the festival season the square provides a convenient, open area for many street performers to gather an audience.'
It should be pointed out that this is not the location of the Scottish Parliament. The so called 'White Heather Club' (as cynics have dubbed it) is located further down the Royal Mile near the Palace of Holyrood. It was set up after a referendum in 1997 and was established by the Scotland Act 1998, which sets out its powers as a devolved legislature. It has limited tax raising powers and deals with "devolved matters" including education, health, agriculture and justice.
One remit it does not have is foreign policy which is the business of the Westminster Parliament in London. The vast majority of Scots like people everywhere were deeply opposed to the unprovoked attack on Iraq in 2003 and also at the current basing of around 200 nuclear missiles at Faslane which is some 30 miles west of Glasgow.
Will 2010 see the righting of wrongs worldwide? Will the will of the majority of folk across the globe prevail or will the wishes of the powerful minorities who effectively rule countries be implemented by armed forces, a muzzled media owned by the rich and so-called 'intelligence' agencies? Will Brian Haw and Barbara Tucker's ongoing peace campaign still be going next Hogmanay or will it one day no longer be necessary due to a better way of living?
We will have to wait and see and hope that December 31st 2010 sees us celebrate a better World for us all.