Subtle Tribute to the Fallen

Of all the memorials and remembrance services, exhibitions, and displays this year, I think I have found the most subtle, touching tribute.

The poppies at the Tower of London, The Culture Show,  nationwide parades; England was overcome this year by a desperate longing to remember the hundreds of thousands of British servicemen and women who lost their lives during the First World War. Certain *ahem* supermarkets were even audacious enough to use the World War centenary year as an opportunity to explain how the Christmas Day truce of 1914 between German and English soldiers missing their loved ones and terrified for their lives was similar to said supermarket promoting a message of ‘sharing is caring.’

This aside, 99% of the performances, displays, shows, exhibitions, televised broadcasts and speeches have been genuine, un-manipulated demonstrations of remembrance. Nothing more so that the Royal Shakespeare Company’s interpretation of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

*Collective sigh*

Yes, yes. Shakespeare, really?

Bear with me here! It is a normal (top-notch) production, with a normal (outstanding) cast, and a normal (quality) set. But this, my dear friends, is not the important part. The entire production screams 1910s, be it the dresses or the music or the furniture. Only in the last five minutes as The Princess and her ladies bid farewell to their loves for twelve months and day did the audience notice the change of tone. While the cast were singing, their tones and their faces grew sombre. The lighting darkened and a sense of foreboding seemed to creep into the theatre. We as the audience had come to love the charades of these men and their loveable, friendly natures, and so to see them emerge in British Officers’ uniforms almost had us collectively hold our breath at this horrible realisation. It was only then that we had an inkling, just the tiniest sense of what it must have felt to watch a husband, a son,  a father put on his uniform and walk off into the deep recesses of war. Really, the scariest feeling was a feeling of the unknown, not really understanding what was going on until they were there, in front of our eyes in their uniforms.

As a piece of theatre, Christopher Luscombe deserves a hearty round of applause. As a service of remembrance, he deserves a standing ovation. It is easy to stand at the back of a church service and agree that the concept, the faraway, distant idea of war is tragic. But to even come close to feeling the real, anguished and horrified feelings of British citizens during World War One is a whole other theatrical and social achievement.

In case anyone is curious, Love’s Labour’s Lost runs until 14 March 2015 at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. And no, this is not sponsored in any way.

Rigoberta Menchú: The Voice of A Nation

I stumbled across this week’s inspiration almost by accident, when I fell into the pages of ‘Me Llamo Rigoberta Menchú y Así Me Nació La Conciencia’. This testimonial had been sitting patiently in my ‘to read’ pile for a good couple of months, and this Monday literally fell on me as I shuffled endless piles of paper. Despite the paper cut casualty, I am so glad this read took over my Monday and Tuesday this week.

It is easy to forget the luxury of the world we live in. A life that is not only free of poverty, oppression and violent discrimination, but also a life in which we can access the rest of the world with the touch of a button, we can have food delivered to our front door within minutes, and we are freely accepted into education purely based on our academic merits, and not our religion/ethnicity/age/gender.

Reading Rigoberta’s testimony turned our Western way of thinking and modus operandi on its head- not literally, this time.

Aside from the poor living conditions of Rigoberta’s early life, she exists in a world where she is continually confined by external forces. Her gender, her race, her spiritual beliefs, her family’s financial situation, and her geographical location continually create limitations within Rigoberta’s life. Early within the testimony, she states that she was “afraid of life” and that her own parents told her her dreams would never be realised. This is less a reflection on poor parenting than it is statement of Guatemalan Indios’ life-long social and political barriers.

Through the immense journey that is Rigoberta’s living testimony, her attempt at inciting the international community into stopping the genocide of Guatemalan Indians, the reader never loses sight of Rigoberta’s own voracious and enlightening energy.

Having sold more than half a million copies across the globe and overcome over thirteen language barriers, Rigoberta’s book is a literal transcendence of physical, political, and cultural limits.

I was left feeling quite humbled. I don’t believe that in my life I have ever acted as selflessly as Rigoberta Menchú, and I didn’t even have to struggle to survive. To me, the most resonant issue is that this is testimony of the recently oppressed. This is a testimony that relates to real-life discrimination and suffering that is still happening around the world. While this suffering may not be racial, war crimes and religious bloodshed is still very prevalent.

This week’s inspiration leaves you on an earnest note, with a quote from Rigoberta herself.

“The world’s not going to change unless we’re willing to change ourselves”

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