Those who cannot remember will forever be haunted. So it is that Londres is one of the most haunted of cities. It cannot remember carving up the Middle East, it cannot remember the centuries of divide and conquer, the divisions of which live with us now. It cannot remember the warnings of those who did not want to invade. It refuses to remember even sending British extremists to North Africa a few short years ago. And so violence appears among us, as though uncaused. The leader of the Opposition names its cause, and is castigated for it.
Last week I spoke to my brother, who almost in the same breath said that he the only remembers the good parts of our childhood, and that he is sometimes haunted by an unaccountable melancholy. Not so unaccountable, I thought. He thinks himself fortunate to remember mostly the good times, but forgetting has consequences.
I have been reading much about the rebel history of Londres. Many names crop up, intriguing writers who I would like to read. Yet I cannot find any trace online of some of the classic writers of this Island’s most radical period. Their writers are easy to find, of course.
In the first half of the nineteenth century there arose on the south bank of the Tamesis, on Blackfriar’s Street, a venue, the Rotunda, populated by radicals of all stripes. It put on radical theatre of a political nature, provoking audience responses, educating and entertaining. It hosted most of the radicals of the age: the founders of the working class trade unions, the advocates of Owenite cooperation, the agitators for democracy and reform. For a few years this hotbed of radicalism stirred up Londres, to the point of causing concern to the rulers. It was infiltrated by police informers and vilified in the press. Key leaders were arrested and imprisoned.
The Rotunda’s Wikipedia entry is several hundred words long. It has one sentence on the venue’s radical history. And so our rulers propagate the idea that radical agitation is alien to the Island. It is not alien to the Island, and nor is the violent suppression of it. I think it is the violence we would all rather forget, and so it is the violence that haunts us.