vendredi 19 août 2011

Hetty Bower - remarkable campaigner for peace and social justice

17 August 2011

Bernie Miller

United Kingdom

Hetty Bower, belying her 105 years, has been an inveterate opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and an ever-present on all the Stop the War Coalition marches over the past ten years.

Hetty alongside Bianca Jagger, Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn MP at a protest in Downing Street in February 2008 against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By Bernie Miller

Camden New Journal

17 August 2011

Hetty Bower will be 106-years-old when she joins the Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square on 8 October, which will mark the tenth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan and the 'war on terror'.

Hetty has marched on every Stop the War Coalition demonstration over the past ten years, at a pace that puts marchers a fraction of her age to shame, only complaining that we walk too slow!

She says that she plans to keep marching for peace as long as her legs hold out or until our political leaders stop waging unjustifed and immoral wars in other people's countries.

Hetty Bower - remarkable campaigner for peace

Tell Hetty Bower she's the stuff films or novels are made of and she'll reject the suggestion with incredulity.

Hetty has lived 105-plus years, most of that time campaigning for peace, democracy and human rights. She is widely known and respected in activist communities and spoke out again for peace at the annual Hiroshima Day Commemoration in Tavistock Square.

Yet she has never courted fame or publicity for herself – she actively avoids it, insisting: "I'm not important."

Given her age, she remains in amazingly good health. She draws inspiration and strength from other people, from an almost childlike delight in nature, an insatiable love of music and an image of how the future can be.

That image is often based on experiences from her past: having a suffragette older sister whose objective of votes for women was achieved; working for and then witnessing the election of the first Labour MPs to Parliament in 1922; supporting and co-ordinating refugees during the First World War; having a sister who worked in the legendary Finsbury Health Centre and then celebrating the introduction of the NHS; working in education at a time of expansion accompanied by marked reductions of inequality; delighting in the population of the UK being housed after the war; experiencing exemplary social services being created; the introduction of free higher education and universal maintenance grants.

Now she watches with dismay but never despair as the current government destroys all those advances, condemning Britain to a future worse than the past was, even during Hetty's childhood.

Accompanying Hetty on her various escapades over the course of a year is breathtaking. Such determination and dedication might paint a grim picture but Hetty loves good humour often laughing until she cries.

With most of her own generation dead, she is inspired by younger cross-generations: Tony Benn (80s), her own daughters (70s), comedian Mark Thomas (40s), Gill Hicks, who lost both legs in the July 7 bombings and now works ceaselessly for peace, and her new great-grandson.

Hetty loves speaking to her local primary school and recently joined forces with Gill Hicks to speak to teenagers at a nearby secondary school. The youngsters were spellbound, concentrated intently, asked insightful questions and emphasised how much she inspired them. It was mutual.

Hetty's efforts are bolstered by thinking she might play some small part in today's youth undertaking peace and democracy initiatives. Gill Hicks and local schoolchildren are eloquent testimony to her effectiveness.

Some may be born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them. Eschewing celebrity, modest Hetty remains unaware just how great she is and how strongly she motivates future generations.

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