Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The courage of his convictions

If you ever doubted the supremacy of experiential learning over any form of teaching, including psychological brainwashing, you should listen to Ben Griffin, ex-SAS founder of Veterans for Peace UK. Seemingly wired for combat since boyhood, Ben joined the Paratroopers at 18 and throughout his first tours of duty longed only for more adventurous action. Training was nothing to do with the army's role as protector of us 'civi cunts', it was all about following orders without engaging the brain. Gang mentality is developed by fear of group punishment, aversion to killing overcome by de-humanising language: aim at the centre of the mass for fire a bullet in that man's chest.  (Did you know? ~ I didn't ~ that research showed 90% of soldiers aimed above the heads of their enemies, until impersonal terms reversed the stats). Now completely indoctrinated ~ his term ~ Ben joined the SAS. It was in Iraq he started wondering if we're causing more problems than we're solving. We'd become the secret police of Baghdad, living where Saddam Hussein had lived, using his tactics. I wanted to engage an enemy, what we were doing was terrorising civilians. Appalled by what he saw, Ben left the life he'd believed was his vocation, and is now restrained by a High Court injunction from his mission to 'tell people what was really going on'. The problem, he realised, was not just the Iraq war but war itself and the militaristic attitudes of our media and society. You can go on protests and not make any difference, it's like pouring weedkiller or plants that are tolerant. We need to be more proactive.
So the group Ben formed, Veterans for Peace UK, goes into schools to counteract the gloryising of combat, aiming to change hearts and minds, although Ben admits if his teenage self could see him now he'd just think 'what a wanker.' And yes, he is in breach of his injunction each time he gives this brilliant talk, organised at the Cheese & Grain by Frome Stop Wars Campaign on Tuesday. It met with massive applause from the Cheese& Grain audience ~ but then we would clap, wouldn't we, he's preaching to the converted. Weedkiller on the already weeded, you could say.  Memo to self: be more proactive...

No comments: