A day of irritations, small and large, at the Public Tree Service. At the end of the world nothing is done properly, or only by those who believe in the future. I’ve come back home with a small knot in my stomach and can’t wait to go out to dinner and have a pint. The day started off well enough, reading, in the early hours of the morning when my body often forces me to take a break from sleep, this oath, recited with bandaged eyes:
I call upon God to witness this my most solemn declaration, that neither hopes, fears, rewards, punishments, nor even death itself, shall ever induce me directly or indirectly, to give any information respecting any thing contained in this Lodge, or any similar Lodge connected with the Society; and I will neither write, nor cause to be written, upon paper, wood, sand, stone or any thing else, whereby it may be known…
Such was the oath of woolcombers forming secret societies for mutual benefit and resistance to the employers in the early nineteenth century. I love the comprehensiveness of it. I love the commitment to each other, which they took seriously. The result of this secret organising was that in the period when organising strikes was illegal, the workers knew each other well enough to decide on a strike instantly in the workshop, only by casting glances between them. They would walk out together, and no organiser could be found.
The repercussions of being found to be a strike or protest organiser were grim: a lengthy prison sentence, hanging or transportation. It can’t be then they had less to fear than we do today, but perhaps they did have less to lose.
A few days ago the President of the Empire bombed an airfield in a country the problems of which most people do not understand, least of all him. Most of the people I know were disgusted, but there is no method of putting that disgust into action, nor of showing disgust at the support for the Kingdom of Saud show by our rulers. Protests do not work, not for that, nor to put an end to the border prisons, nor to show that the neglect and harassment of the poor is not acceptable. Protests do not work in part because they are ignored, but few know that many of them fall to police repression: UKUncut and the student fees protests being the last I witnessed.
Perhaps we should start to swear oaths again. If current television shows are anything to go by, people still love some melodrama. Perhaps we could all do with a bit more of it in real life.