The images from Bodrum, of little Aylan, aged only three, limp, expired and gently grounding upon the turkish sands, being lifted gingerly by a Coastguard Officer will haunt me for a long time. I have spent much of the day in a mixture of quiet rage and profound sadness, not just in terms of this senseless and awful waste of a gorgeous little human being, but also in terms of the simple desire for our political leaders to break with their anachronistic rituals and actually DO something of substance.
I spent my morning train journey from Hull to Doncaster staring disbelievingly at that sodden and lifeless form, that only days since would have generated such love and laughter within his parents, even within the hellish existence they strived to save their children from. I stared at him, face down, pure, innocent and seemingly asleep, because I could not process the reality of the terrifying end that this beautiful little boy must have met. At the time, I believed that I was willing myself not to cry, but in retrospect, I now realise that I was willing him to somehow wake up, as if I could will this little boy to have not been killed by the failure of a toxic and corrupt political process, and by the grandeur of self inportant, morally myopic politicians, if I could only focus the abject rage I felt, alongside the raw and unapologetic love for a stolen spirit.
I have often thought of my own uncle, and the end that he arrived at, and this represents a parallel all too easy to illustrate. He was lost aboard MV Gaul, a Hull based trawler that disappeared with the loss of all 36 hands in 1974. He was 26, with a promising career, and a whole life at his feet. He left behind a wife, 4 children, 2 devastated parents, and decades of unanswered questions and unfulfilled potential. I never met my uncle, though I often think of him, both in terms of what he was like as a person, and the fact that he likely died terrified and helpless, much like Aylan, and these other poor refugees. According to reports, as Aylan was gently plucked from the water's edge, his brother, Galip and his mother, Rihan were also washed ashore by the seas, flung to their doom, and deposited like unwanted jetsam. His father is reported to have survived, and if I had it within me to believe for one second that there were some form of deity out there who could fix this, I would happily pray for this man as he turns to face an unimaginable loss.
Away from Turkey, and in another easily drawn parallel, refugees are being marked with ink by the Hungarian authorities, and being loaded into trains for mass transportation. Still, our elected millionaire representatives do nothing. This country rightly holds close to it's heart, those who gave their best years, and their lives, fighting against such things, and yet the replication of dehumanising large groups of people, and their classification as being somehow "subhuman" is tolerated with a shrug. Not only are we insulting our own standards of humanity and civilisation, we are insulting the memory of those sacrificed in it's defence, and that cannot be right.
The poorest people in this country are routinely smeared by the massed media, and by government ministers as "lazy scroungers" "drains on the nation's finances" "the something for nothing culture". They are castigated and marginalised, and their shadows made to appear as a sinister enemy, and it has been done so off the back of a lie. We're not broke. We have millions spare to spend on nuclear replacements, and other pet projects from another age, so don't believe Cameron when he tells you that we cannot afford to do the right thing. Austerity is a choice, a calculated political judgement based solely on the need to repay the rich for bankrolling the Conservative Party. In a similar vein, Refugees are dismissed as "migrants" "economic chancers" "rapists and pickpockets". Only weeks ago, the government used this same, moral and humanitarian abyss to play to the gallery of Fleet Street, so instead of seeing our Prime Minister seize the initiative, show leadership in a true crisis, and help Europe really make positive strides forwards, he instead played to the gallery by using the refugee crisis as a bulwark against the EU project, prancing and preening across the stage, stopping the music just long enough for his rabid consort of jingoistic, anti-europe MPs to tickle his tummy.
Aylan, Galip, and their stricken mother were only trying to escape a dustcloud that our government helped to make. Cameron was only too eager to tamper with foreign affairs when he became embroiled in Syria. Sadly, he doomed himself to repeat the mistakes of his mentor, Tony Blair, by courting press yardage first and foremost, meticulously crafting the photo opportunities in the absence of a calculated and informed long term strategy, whilst his hapless staff scrambled to backfill the vacuum with defective policy. Our political leaders have sown the seeds of chaos and conflict within the Middle East for centuries, and the modern era is no different. The vacuum left in Iraq by Tony Blair's idiocy, and self-deluded crusade will forever, alongside the rise of David Cameron and his unabashedly Thatcherite ethos, be his legacy, for that legacy has breathed life into what is now ISIS, the very murderous regime from which Aylan and his family were so desperately fleeing.
In response, people feel helpless, rudderless, and uncertain. The times where statesmen would harness the public mood, and shape the agenda are gone. The fleshy meat of those times has been flogged off to the corporate sponsors of all major politicians, and the remaining bones will soon follow with the advent of TTIP. Our national government will not, I fear, follow the example of the Germans. They already take the highest number of refugees in the continent, and have committed to taking 800,000 more. Every area has it's problems, and I know that Hull is no different, but if it saved just ONE more little boy from a watery end, and the indignity of making land face down, a corpse, then I for one would be happy for David Cameron to DO something, and I would welcome those refugees into our great city.
It is time to break the cycle of hypocrisy, propaganda and selective hysteria that operates whenever government or massed media intersects with the poor, vulnerable or disenfranchised. People must mobilise at a community level: Firstly, stop buying these cancerous newspapers. Research nearby projects collecting clothes for these wretched fellow human beings, volunteer to collect donations, spread the word, attend marches and meetings, and send a clear message that life is worth MORE than horsetrading and austerity. An individual posting of outrage and sorrow on social media is cathartic, but not terribly useful. Turn that outrage into the donation of money, old clothes, shoes or tents though, and YOU can really make a difference to the next little boy like Aylan or Galip. Something else you can do, is to educate your children. Make sure that they grow into this world recognising the value of all life, and the true worth of taking action to change things for the better, so the leaders of tomorrow might just look at the world from a different perspective.
One final request from me: Hug your children a little tighter tonight. Value them, tolerate their annoying little traits, and love them for simply being themselves. Those poor little boys were of a similar age to my own two sons, and I am eager to wrap my arms around them once more. Whilst you hug them, resolve to do something. No matter how small, contribute to the effort to ease this crisis. Just because David Cameron is sitting on his hands, it does not mean that we should.
Prime Minister, I hope hope you hug your children a little tighter tonight too. They are beautiful little people, just as were Aylan and Galip, and the countless lives needlessly lost before them. Use the power you have, and make a change, but don't you dare tell me that we cannot afford to put our shoulders to the wheel of humanity.