I would understand if the idea of a Tory politician walking a 1000 miles for charity were to be greeted by gestures of fingers pointing to the back of the throat or twizling around the temple area of the head. At the risk of testing the patience of the public and colleagues still further I thought I would take a moment to explain my reasons:
First, this is not the first charity walk which I undertaken—it is the fifth. www.walkfortomorrow.org www.walkfortruce.org www.walkforsyriaschildren.org www.walkforpeace.eu Politics is often a deeply frustrating profession. You become increasingly aware of problems but decreasingly able act, unless that is you are a celebrity; a political or parliamentary genius, mega wealthy or backed by a big organisation, a charismatic parliamentary or media performer–none of which apply to me—though the National Lottery could change this any week now. Hence, to do something as simple as putting one foot in front of another and through that sustained effort give cause for people to give funds to a worthy cause just makes you feel useful and doing something to address a need of which you are aware. I don’t find it easy, I am 53, overweight and not terribly fit or as someone once described me “less Bear Grylls, more Beer & Grills.”
Second, I am sickened by war and violence which is streamed into our lives through our 24 hour news network and passed off as entertainment in movies and computer games. We men seem unable to kick this appalling primeval habit to seek glory and purpose in our own lives through taking or maiming others. All war and conflict is tribal in nature we all believe we are right and because of that we are all wrong. I can’t do anything about events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, DRC, Angola, Ukraine but I can do something to aid the suffering of the innocent victims of that violence. Friendensdorf International provide emergency medical care for almost a thousand child victims of war and conflict each year at their Peace Village (German: Friendensdorf) in Oberhausen north of Dusseldorf.
Third, we are remembering today ‘The lights going out across Europe’ and this evening my wife and will attend the First World War Vigil at Westminster Abbey. Historians will argue about the causes and I am not qualified to debate this although I instinctively stand with those who see WWI as a war of choice for Britain, Germany, America, Austro-Hungary, France and Russia but one which gave rise to a war of necessity in WWII. That said I think if the participants knew what horrors awaited them then they would have stepped back from the brink as we did at the end of the Cold War. Like many those events of 100 years ago shaped my family as it shaped our society and world. As I walk I want to reflect upon those catastrophic events and reflect quietly on what might be done to ensure it could never happen again.
So this is why I walk: because it is a way of making a difference; it is a way to register my protest against war and terrorism as a tool of effecting political change; it is a way of understanding the events that shaped my world better and it doing so it may not change the world but it will certainly change me.
I will write a post again in two months time from Berlin to let you know how I get on. In the meantime if you wish to support Friendensdorf International then details of how can be found www.walkforpeace.eu Needless to add all the costs associated with the walk will be met fully by my wife and I so that every penny raised will go to the work of Friendensdorf.Thank you for reading.