Real Politics kicked in for me in the active sense in the sixties; Civil rights, Apartheid; CND and of course Vietnam. Politics always played a part in the lives of me and my brothers and our friends but it was usually talk and opinion and debate to the background of protest song and folk music. When you left school and went to work you joined the union and you started to learn about active politics. We were going to change the world and the enemy was America, Marches, Protests and Boycotts etc. were constantly on our minds and the villain always seemed to be the biggest; richest capitalist country in history the USA. "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive," wrote Wordsworth about the French Revolution; and that’s how that generation felt, America and capitalism needed tobering and we were just the kids to do it; it was a long time ago right.
The antagonism to America still exists but it seems to be less ferocious, certainly in terms of the American people and that goes for me also, I still see America as the cause of most of the worlds problems but it is not fair to blame individual Americans who are just the same as us, some good some bad. Some people who read this site will be surprised at this because I am usually regarded as against all things American and I admit that I can be very antagonistic toward them, I have always struggled to explain the difference between my feelings for their people and my hostility to the elite corporate crooks who dominate their society.
A couple of weeks ago I found myself sitting on the deck of the MV Emerald in the harbour of a Greek Island called Patmos; the weather was glorious the beer was cold and I was in heaven because my wife had found a newspaper called The Athens News which was in English. I was having withdrawal symptoms after a week without a newspaper; what has this got to do with this article? I hear you ask, well here is an excerpt from the paper, A great man was being honoured for his contribution to liberty and human rights at Deree College of the American College of Greece, he said the following.
“I thank you warmly; firstly for your efforts in serving the students in their educational, learning and cultural needs in Greece; secondly you represent a great people; the American people have given new momentum to the patriotic, political, scientific and cultural elements that comprise civilisation internationally; to such an extent that freshness and renewed vigour has been lent to humanity’s struggle for prosperity; education and human rights. I know that I am often considered anti American, in reality it is the opposite, my admiration for this country and it’s people is so great that I suffer and protest every time that someone or some group of people acts in such a way that I consider to be anti American . Because I consider America to mean freedom; progress, good intentions, peace, educational solidarity, the cultivation of science and culture”
The fact that the speaker was also a hero of my youth and a great socialist was also a help, he put my feelings about America far better than I ever could, I agree with the sentiments expressed by him, he is Mikis Theodorakis the great Greek musician, composer and freedom warrior, a man who faced the Greek Colonels and went to prison and was expelled from his country, socialism never had a greater fighter and he declares his love for the USA. Most people of my generation will remember one of the all time great film scores for a movie called Zorba the Greek starring Anthony Quinn, the theme tune is one of the most popular tunes ever written by his pen and is impossible to ignore when it is played, everyone reacts, whether it’s by foot tapping or shoulder swaying or when the night gets late and drink has been taken as the say in Ireland; the stage/floor becomes the beach where the scene is set for lots of drunk; mainly men to display their version of “Zorba’s dance”
He is still alive and campaigning and I thank him for the music and his inspiration; not least for helping me to better understand my feelings toward my American comrades.