Normally I avoid politics like the plague because they’re so divisive, one of the three taboo topics – the other two being sex and religion. With politics I’m like many others, we know there’s a lot wrong but who to fix it is a different question.
This time I’ve broken my rule. It wasn’t so much the terrible attacks in Paris, the murder of people in an attempt to quash freedom of speech and goodness only knows what the justification for killing police and shoppers was. What prompted me to join in was the reaction of the French and others around the world to the attack.
Not a backlash against those Muslims who had nothing to do with the atrocity, purely a dignified and peaceful statement of solidarity and respect for the values of our western democracies. Don’t forget these terrorists killed a Muslim policeman and that a Muslim shop assistant risked his life to protect Jewish shoppers.
I commented on the forums here: Je Suis Charlie and one comment really struck a chord with me from Mrs Bee: ‘We need more gardeners in the world they have their priorities right. Too busy nurturing their plots to be bothered with extremism and destruction. ‘
This brings me to allotments. One thing that enables people to kill strangers is to de-humanise the enemy. I remember reading about a study of soldiers that showed the majority deliberately didn’t aim at enemy soldiers until they saw them as less than human. That’s why the top brass were so scared by the famous Christmas truce in WW1.
Allotments, especially allotments in areas of diversity, bring people together. When you share a passion for growing, knowledge and even a cup of tea – the stranger becomes known and then a friend.
You discover that the Muslim chap is just a chap with many of the same worries and concerns as the rest of us. The Muslim discovers that those who don’t share his faith are just people. You can replace Muslim in the above with any religion or race etc.
It’s not just race and religion either. I’ve seen a builder’s labourer educating a doctor on the finer points of growing cauliflowers and shifting a pile of muck. ‘You don’t want a spade, you need a shovel for that. Have a lend of mine.’
Technically it’s called social cohesion, melding our multi-cultural and diverse people together in a common cause and teaching respect.
The internet is a wonderful thing, it enables people to come together from across the world to share a common interest. But it has its limits. You don’t see the face behind the lines of type, the smile that tells you the other person is joking. It cannot replace actually being face to face with someone.
Facebook friends are not the same as friends. Especially those who boast thousands of ‘friends’ – sorry those people aren’t real friends. Potential friends who share some of your views but that’s as far as it goes. The real benefit of meeting strangers is that you learn that despite the differences, we have more in common than the one interest.
Anyway, I know some will find this post inappropriate to a gardening web site, but it’s something I feel strongly, so forgive me.