Putting things aright.

I wrote the last week of a person acting courageously and thanks to her foresight in recording her experience in an interrogation chamber from academic thugs, the story got out onto the Internet and provoked an immediate backlash, and perhaps a long overdue debate about what many think of as the imminent demise of freedom of expression in academia.

Once upon a time another woman, a black woman, refused to sit at the back of the bus and that in retrospect and towards a lot of people’s opinion was the single match that lit the fuse that led to the whole civil rights movement in America. Perhaps Lindsay Shepherd’s solitary defiance of the same sort of authoritarian brutality may grow into something like Rosa Parks’ did, but I’m inclined to doubt it.

My feeling is the situation in higher education is going to have to get a lot worse before anything concrete is done. The climate of intolerance and supremacy is by now systemic and perhaps a totally different mechanism towards advanced studies is required, since the classical one has been totally traduced and is now patently failing. The chances of a controversial idea rising to the surface in that environment, never mind an original one, are slim to say the least.

The commonality though is they were both acts of solitary courage which in one case was recognised immediately courtesy of the Internet, and the other a few years down the line. What really burns though, is when such acts go unrecognised for years, as though there was something dirty, underhand or shameful about them all along.

My wife is flying back to Ireland this weekend to be there with the rest of her family for the posthumous award of the Scott medal to her brother. He was a cop who with four others went into a building that had been rigged to explode and they’d been lured there by an anonymous tip. He took the full force of it and was killed instantly, a fellow officer was blinded and deafened for life and the other three suffered severe trauma, but one of them battled through his injuries on the night to go and get help for his comrades.

He was the sort of young man who could find his way onto the roof of a five-story building and sit there on the crown tiles like a goodo, surveying the fine view of the town as everyone else lost their heart for fear he might fall. He was the only southern Irish police officer to have been killed in the latest round of the “troubles” and it was a big political thing under the full media spotlight with his parents being presented with the ceremonial folded flag while the whores of the media just pushed their cameras directly into the faces of the grieving family to get a good shot of their tears.

The flag with his officer’s cap was kept in a glass case in the family house for years, some sort of remembrance of him. Families need these symbols to absorb the grief. Parents need to feel the loss of their child had some meaning, that there was some context to it. Brothers and sisters dealing with their first serious brush with death need to feel it wasn’t some random merciless act of God which could have happened to them just as easily. The cloak of the always assumed immortality of youth had been brutally ripped off them.

Well, forty plus years down the line, he and the others finally get a medal. I think it’s just and mete that they all should get the award. It may not fall exactly in the parameters, but there’s an honour consideration that falls into the bloodless equation.

Another event happened last year and it concerned what was known as the Siege of Jadotville. You will have never heard of it, but slightly north of 150 men held off a force of apparently 3000-5000 for five days. That was in 1961 and the men pictured above are the ones who pulled off that remarkable feat of arms.

In the end, they had to surrender, because the reality was that by that stage, they didn’t have a single bullet left to shoot, they’d long ran out of food and water and their leader forever afterwards known as Jadotville Jack was conducting one of the most daring bluffs in military history. He’d concede the position just as long as his men weren’t to be butchered as previous Irish peacekeepers had been, otherwise they’d fight on to the bitter end.

In the face of such intransigence, their enemy granted them good terms and after a month in captivity, they were freed. For reasons deeply political and known only to the Minister of Defense at the time, you’ll never have heard of the siege of Jadotville but it did happen. The Jadotville story was well-known in military circles, but in a curious loop of similarity to Lindsay Shephered’s outing of her story on the Internet, someone made a movie of their stand, so the Jack finally came out of the box about Jadotville.

The leadership out of such a situation was called Commandant Pat Conlon, and the miracle was he got every single one of his men out of it alive. It wasn’t a good thing to have Jadotville on your military CV or any association with Conlan, but he enjoyed the unconditional respect of any soldier who was fortunate to serve under him. Nearly half a century later, they finally struck a medal for those brave men pictured above and they were presented with it. Not before time either.

In the end, things have to be set aright.


Related articles by Pointman:

A journey up the river and into the Heart of Darkness.

Uncommon valour.

Click for a list of other articles.

2 Responses to “Putting things aright.”
  1. Leigh says:

    First reply after reading your blog the last few months (in Australia). Came across the movie on Netflix a few months back and it was an incredible story. Terrible the way these guys were treated. Great post mate. Enjoy reading them and always looking for the next one. Have a Merry Christmas!!


  2. Margaret Smith says:

    Good one! Brave people need to be remembered and rewarded – such as the incredibly courageous airmen of Bomber Command during WWII.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: