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    What was your first political memory?

    by Leon
    2nd October, 2006 at 4:26 pm    

    Inquiring minds want to know:

    It started with a discussion between friends over lunch. As we shared our memories we found ourselves laughing and being fascinated by these untold stories of each others lives. Lilli remembered poll tax riots and her sister being born. Simon remembered being confused by the news reporting dead ‘bodies’ in Vietnam and wondering where the heads were. Natalia remembered being worried about an army of communists taking over Hong Kong when she was five. We asked our friends and they got excited too. And so we decided we had to share it with everyone…

    Everyone has political memories, but they are usually not part of our everyday vocabulary. Yet politics affects us in all aspects of our lives. However, as the latest research continues to confirm, most people feel disconnected from the political process.

    First Political Memory will act as a tool to increase people’s interest in politics but also open up new kinds of conversation about history, memory and the ability to make a difference by getting involved in the future.

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    Filed in: Uncategorized

    31 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. sonia — on 2nd October, 2006 at 4:39 pm  

      Very interesting!

      Lemme think. i think for me it was when we moved to kuwait when i was 7 and the iran iraq war was on - and then all the other middle-east shenanigans - civil war in lebanon, palestine etc. but early on it was the iran iraq thing that seemed to have the most impact for us - there were a lot of hijackings then. around 1986/7 consciousness of the intifada was pretty strong: i remember young men used to wave the ‘teatowel’ {:-)} whilst riding around very recklessly in open-top convertibles. 1989 was significant as the year the berlin wall came down and ceaucescu lost his hold on romania. the cold war in general had a lot of impact on my imagination - i was into spy stories. then of course 1990 and war itself..and then i guess i stopped feeling like a child and it was pretty full on.

      throughout my childhood i heard a lot from my mother about events in 1971 in what is now Bangladesh - no clear first memory about that but i remember feeling pretty scared. my mother was never one to mince her words and for some reason liked to go into gory detail. ugh. perhaps all this is why im such a wussy pacifist.

    2. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd October, 2006 at 5:23 pm  

      I was 11-years old in a rickshaw in Dhaka when my 15-year brother quickly took his religious cap off his and my head. We were stuck in the middle of a university riot (where it’s been said the students were better equipped than the army) on the eve of martial law. The communist party Jashod were warring with the Muslim Party and, clearly, the Muslims were losing. I saw a bloke in a muslim cap come up to our rickshaw pleading to let him board, his blood-soaked hands holding in the intestines that had been carved out in a stabbing.

      I thought: well, if politics gets you fucked up like this, it must be just as bad as religion

    3. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd October, 2006 at 5:25 pm  

      Well, to be truthful, my thought was: shit, shit, fuck, fuck, but I know what I meant…

    4. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd October, 2006 at 5:30 pm  

      I used to be political, you know. When I was at uni I joined the Socialist Worker Party. Okay so it was to shag the cute comrade in the mohair jumper, but all that ecstasy I was taking made me truly believe I could make a difference. It all fell apart at Marxism 92. I’d just had an enlightened debate with Rebel MC and a cuppa with Tony Benn and was pumped with talk of the revolution when I popped outside and was met by another group of Socialists, can’t for the life of me remember what they were called, chanting: ‘Icepick in your head’ to all that had gathered at the Marxism do.

      And I thought: fuck. Come the revolution, you’ll all be lining each other up against the wall…

      I left disillusioned, swapped ecstasy for smack and dip my dick into politics only here, to seek validation for my existence and maybe get laid

    5. ZinZin — on 2nd October, 2006 at 6:13 pm  

      You are a legend in your own lunchtime.

    6. Bert Preast — on 2nd October, 2006 at 6:18 pm  

      1979 election for me. I lived in Liverpool at the time. Gangs of older kids roamed the playground asking the dreaded question “red or blue?”, get it right and you got to join up and give some other unfortunate a few slaps, get it wrong and you had to be quick on your toes.

      But then that went on all the time there. Still does, shouldn’t wonder.

    7. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd October, 2006 at 6:32 pm  

      Bert dude, you should sue the producers of The Matrix…

    8. Bert Preast — on 2nd October, 2006 at 6:36 pm  

      Never seen it, so you’ll have to advise me what for?

    9. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd October, 2006 at 6:42 pm  

      I can’t tell you that my friend. Even Morpheus couldn’t tell you whether to pick the red pill or the blue one…

    10. Bert Preast — on 2nd October, 2006 at 6:46 pm  

      Wrong choice, SLAP. Damn, but lifes a bitch.

    11. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd October, 2006 at 6:47 pm  

      That’s what happened to Keanu Reeves. Someone slap him

    12. Katy Newton — on 2nd October, 2006 at 7:49 pm  

      I can’t remember my first Political Moment but it would probably have involved one of the following:

      1. Spitting Image
      2. The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
      3. A Pink Floyd album

      Both of my parents were very political and quite left wing. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t loathe Margaret Thatcher, although I suppose you don’t have to be too left wing for that. These days I tend to be quite left on some issues and quite right on others.

    13. Inders — on 2nd October, 2006 at 8:36 pm  

      I remember the day Thatcher resigned. I was in junior school, i can’t remember if i was in year 5 or year 6. But i was in the dinner queue and it was big news.

    14. ZinZin — on 2nd October, 2006 at 9:54 pm  

      Bert 6
      Red or blue they meant football did they not?

    15. ZinZin — on 2nd October, 2006 at 9:58 pm  

      Another Question Bert if you please.
      Did you take Tebbits advice on board?

    16. Katy Newton — on 2nd October, 2006 at 11:01 pm  

      Oh Inders, you make me feel so old. I was in secondary school, possibly in the third or fourth year. The sixth formers told us because they had had the radio on in the sixth form common room.

      *misty eyed reverie*

      PS Oh god they are showing the World’s Biggest Penis again. And I am sitting in the same room as the Chairwoman. I am not sure if I can cope with this.

    17. Bert Preast — on 3rd October, 2006 at 12:26 am  

      ZinZin - Red or blue was and still is football. But that year it was whether you were Labour or Tory, and that’s my first political memory. I can’t remeber any other election campaign or political issue that reached the playgound, but then 4 years is a long time when you’re like 9ish.

      I followed Tebbit’s advice in that I joined the army, but that was more down to having no work, no home, and sinking into the criminal life than giving a helping hand to the UK economy. If you have to do criminal things, why not learn to do them professionally? Mind, a bigger factor was that Thatcher had just stopped dole for under 18s, so if you’d left home getting on one’s bike was an obligation rather than an option.

    18. BevanKieran — on 3rd October, 2006 at 1:25 am  

      Attended a “Free Fiji” demonstration in 1987 somewhere in London. My Dad told me Paul Boateng spoke at the event.

      At junior school, “We don’t want no Poll Tax…we don’t want no Poll Tax…la la la la” was still reverberating around the playground, at least a year after it had been abolished.

      Also remember a teacher condemning the L.A riots in assembly. I disagreed, though at that time my opinion might have been skewed a little due to watching Oprah.

    19. Leon — on 3rd October, 2006 at 9:44 am  

      Hehe Katy you feel old? I can remember Thatcher being elected! Although I was very tiny and didn’t quite know what the fuss was about…

    20. Sunny — on 3rd October, 2006 at 12:26 pm  

      My recollections are waaaaay too embarassing to admit openly. No seriously, they are.

    21. Leon — on 3rd October, 2006 at 12:57 pm  

      Now I’m curious! Tell us Sunny!!

    22. sonia — on 3rd October, 2006 at 1:19 pm  

      Yeah tell us Sunny!

    23. Sunny — on 3rd October, 2006 at 1:45 pm  

      Heh. No chance. Maybe when we’re all sitting around together sipping on coffee.

    24. AsifB — on 3rd October, 2006 at 3:01 pm  

      You all are so young -I can just about remember some fundraising events for Bangladesh in Manchester from 1971. ( A magician filled a bucket with 2p coins out of someone’s backside)

      Better memories of both being in Bangladesh during the 1974 famine -and of fundraising events critical of the Awami League’s handling of the famine in Liverpool - re-inforced by the fact (amazing though it may seem now) that Bangladesh was always on the telly at the time - John Craven’s Newsround and Jonathan Dimbeldy for World in Action went big on the story…
      Other mainly telly memories would be the February 1974 election and Nixon resignations. Can’t remember 1973 power cuts being traumatic (partly because I was spending 6 months of the year in Dhaka at the time)- and tv news from Vietnam -which thanks to the Stars and Stripes I always associated with astronauts (i figured they did bombing raids when they weren’t going to the moon)

      My first autonomous political action was a couple of years later in 1976 - some posh girl gave a talk bragging about ‘my wonderul xmas holiday in South africa’ complete with wildlife pictures and showing off her BOAC Junior Jet Club logbook.

      Partly because one of my dad’s magazines had a really effective anti-apartheid poster (it was a mock advert Come and work in South Africa and get ‘three fifths’ pay if your’re Asian/Mixed two fifths if African and so on) - but probably just as much becuase I’d clocked up more miles in my Junior Jet Club book, I took the poster in the very next day - teacher liked it and got quite passionate while posh person went suitably red in the face.

    25. AsifB — on 3rd October, 2006 at 3:17 pm  

      Floodgates opening now - I remember an aunt being told her husband had been killed in Bangladesh in 1971 (it was years later that I fully appreciated that he had been an early victim of the military crackdown that started the Independence war)

      A few years later but kind of topical -my dad being visited by a man from Special Branch because his cousin (my dad’s not the police officers)had overstayed a tourist visa. We met him a few times in restaurants he worked at over the next year or so + my dad got very paranoid about phones being bugged.
      He eventually went back and became well off to send all his kids abroad…

    26. faizal — on 3rd October, 2006 at 4:49 pm  

      I was eleven and NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” was released with Parental Advisory. Made we want to go and but it to find out what the fuss was about. For me, that album was my awakening of global political injustice and probably the reason why i ended up working for my respective organisations

    27. Galloise Blonde — on 3rd October, 2006 at 5:28 pm  

      The Miner’s Strike was the first time I felt the impact of politics into real life, and my community. And Apartheid was the first thing I remember getting really fired up about.

    28. justforfun — on 3rd October, 2006 at 6:50 pm  

      Strange how bangladesh in 71 keeps coming up.

      I suppose my second memory of an event that others also experianced would be the 71 war. I remember I was six and helping my dad’s driver paint the lights black on his Dodge, so there was only a slit for the light to come out. This was happening all over Delhi as a black out was enforced to prevent Pakistani bombers finding the city. Sounds absurd now but it did happen. More people were probably killed by the increase in road deaths than ever killed by any bombs dropped, if any were ever dropped!

      My first memory was being made to get up at night and see Neil Armstrong land on the moon. Wow . I still see the film and when the Eagle lands, the spray of light as the dust rises still gives me goosebumps.

      As for actual politics, in India Indira Gandhi and the Congress were pretty much a part of the furniture so it was only in 1976 when the Emergency was declared that I ever had an understanding of politics. We soon left for Zambia as my parents were not happy with how things were going and where she was taking the country.

      Kismet - if you were 11 and saw such a horrific act, I hope you have overcome the experience. It is not something that can be brushed off so lighly. I was older when I saw experienced the sheer terror of a riot in India, and I am afraid it has coloured my mind in a similar way since - fuck all religions, they are truely a curse to this world. It was the sheer random nature and senselessness of it that I can never understand and it has alway made me wonder what happens in the mind of someone who can be influenced by religion, the loss of his own personal responsibility to the mumbo jumbo that others pass on. I suppose I just can’t trust that they are capable of thinking, because if they were, how could they act like that. Hope you have found peace.


    29. Zub — on 5th October, 2006 at 4:54 pm  

      Showing my age here. But I’ll list 3:

      1979 - Tanzanian invasion of Uganda, Tanzanian tanks rolling past our house in Kampala.

      1980 - Ronald Reagan elected president, big grinning picture of Ronnie on the front page of the Bangladesh Observer, we were back home and living in Chittagong at the time.

      1981 - assassination of President Ziaur Rahman in Chittagong Circuit House, a few hundred yards from our house.

    30. Mark — on 6th October, 2006 at 2:22 pm  

      We went with my Grandparents to vote (they were solid Labour by the way - it was probably when Gaitskell was Leaader - what an age give away!).

      Anyway when we asked where we were going they said something about Parliament. Now in those days kids actually knew about the conncetion between that august institution and Guy Fawkes night even if they were only sure what the latter was. Our reaction was to ask whether this “voting” thing was some sort of “Guy Fawkes night or grown ups!”

      Sadly my Grandad died before I became more conversant with politics than fireworks. I really wish I had had the chance to talk politics to him.

    31. Rowshan — on 12th October, 2006 at 1:21 am  

      guess my earliest political memory was being called a paki (politics with a small p) by the then national front demonstrating on brick lane while as kids we walked passed and watched skinheads roam about the streets in late 1970s. the NF sold newspapers and demonstrated every sunday for a long time on our doorsteps, and counter demos were staged by local lefties etc. Oh - and hearing God Save the Queen by Sex Pistols without really understanding what it all meant..

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