Rod’s Blog 27.03.14
Today is Tony Benn’s funeral. I’m not very comfortable with the idea of heroes. As soon as someone is lionised there is massive pressure on them not to disappoint, as if life isn’t hard enough already. It is inevitable that our heroes let us down – after all, they are not actually superhuman. Tony Benn was one of the very few famous people I can genuinely call a hero – and he never let me down. Tony was brave enough to be outspoken without being rude; he was intelligent without making those around him feel stupid; he was honest. I never met the man but I heard him speak several times and on every occasion what he said felt like simple wisdom – the kind of wisdom that becomes folklore or folk law.
There are many stories about Tony Benn’s generosity and his openness. He managed to be inspiring without being academic or aloof. He managed to speak with a public school educated accent without triggering my personal prejudice against that voice. His public speaking style was not to shout and berate his audience like so many political speakers. His style was rather like a concerned headmaster. You sat and listened like a school kid who didn’t want to upset this wise man who was exuding knowledge and experience without patronising or belittling his listeners.
Tony’s approach to doorstep canvassing was to say simply, “I’m not going to promise you anything – that would be dishonest and unrealistic. I’m here on your doorstep to share my dreams for a better society – if you share those dreams then vote for me”. This sums up Tony Benn’s attitude to politics. In asking for our vote he was asking our permission to be a public servant, a true representative of the people. In voting for Benn you were entrusting him to be your voice in parliament. I think a lot of MP’s have forgotten that duty.
One of his most famous quotes sums up our problems today. He said “I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people. Secondly, demoralise them”. I see evidence of this everywhere I look – and the more that capitalism fails and is held together by the deceit and trickery of the banks the more they need us to be paralysed.
I’m not claiming to have the solution to this – but I have discovered a movement called Positive Money which aims to expose the banks and how they control the system. Have a look at the website and some of the videos and share them. In order to organise we need to educate.
About Rod: Rod became Artistic Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company in 2006, following his role as associate director at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth. He has also ran The Hub Theatre School in Cornwall and been an actor with several companies including Kneehigh Theatre. Directing credits for Red Ladder include Where’s Vietnam?, Forgotten Things, Riot, Rebellion & Bloody Insurrection, Ugly, Sex & Docks & Rock ‘N’ Roll, Big Society! and Promised Land. Rod is both a life-long Liverpool supporter and a believer in Proudhon’s principles of anarchy – the two might be connected.