Noisy People, Bacon Sandwiches And A Violent Peace

I attended a conference in Cardiff today with the startling title of DPRTE 2016. It's billed as the premier event for the Defence procurement industry for the United Kingdom. My own interest was to investigate possible markets for my medical product, a unique air handling system which is currently used in the UK’s hospital network to protect staff and patients from infection. It's an often overlooked aspect of the defence market that armies have hospital set ups seeking to treat and save the lives of those injured by warfare. With the current situation of the various fanatics evolving the possibility of initiating some sort of biological or chemical attack then a system that can help reduce the effect of such an attack on the general population might be seen as saving lives.

As a Christian, I veer between the arguments for a ‘Just War’ and the very apparent pacifism that Jesus so obviously advocated. Until such time as peaceful co-existence is determined as one of the most inviolate human rights, I can accept there will be times when nations have to act in their self-defence or cease to exist as nation states. As with most thinking adults, I harbour reservations regarding the influence a powerful industry could have upon where the line lies for that decision to occur but accept the lines needs to be there. Thus the scene for today's attendance.

Upon arriving in Cardiff it was quite clear that a two fold demonstration against the conference was taking place. It’s healthy, and a good sign of our democracy, that people can voice their opinions openly without the need to fear the threat of oppression. The police were doing an excellent job of high profile but friendly policing. To the right, a group of Quaker Baptists (I have no idea if that was two Christian groups or a single organisation) had calmly set up a stall. Their sign read ‘Food not Bombs’ and there was the sizzle of bacon frying as they served up bacon sandwiches. I’d have been quite tempted to wander over, have a chat, buy a bacon roll and wish them a great day protesting. Who wouldn’t prefer food to bombs, it’s a common sense sentiment and certainly a noble one.

Around the main entrance, four Cardiff police were having to restrain, and I assume arrest, a young man who was obviously violent. As we walked towards the crowd it was quite clear things were tense and there was a sinister threat of impending violence. I was mildly jostled but my main concern was I had made the mistake of bringing my wife with me. Had I just invited her into danger? It seemed I had and so I was frantically trying to make sure nobody tried to punch her or worse. The police were excellent and we managed to walk through, my wife was called some pretty unpleasant names, I had my parentage questioned. I can assure folk my mum and dad were married. What was irritating was the general perception that everybody who was walking by was involved in some way with dropping cluster bombs on children. I became a murderer, a piece of worthless scum, a child killer and various other things, an avatar for a false perception fostered by strangers on somebody they had never met nor knew anything about. We entered the event which was mostly about how the government (including the NHS) are changing their procurement systems to help smaller companies enter the market. The sort of companies exhibiting were mostly either government departments, consultants seeking to promote the new cyber security standards and some really quite dangerous handrail manufacturers. There were some fantastic transit boxes but not one weapon nor anything connected to weapons in any really direct manner.

Here is an example of a tweet relating to it:

Mark Hawkins @MHphotos_ 7h

7 hours ago

Cardiff, Wales

Arms Fair protest outside the Motorpoint Arena in #Cardiff. #stopcardiffarmsfair #DPRTE http://composedimages.photoshelter.com/gallery/ArmsFairProtest160316/G0000JD10sbBmS50/C0000ei9Uy3o1c.0 …

To be fair to Mr Hawkins I’ve picked his out as it was top of the list. In reality, his tweet is a fairly good representation of the sort of media coverage the event was getting. So we have several dichotomies.

There were folk, such as myself, attending whose main interest is the preservation of human life. I did see some folk in uniform inside, but they appeared to be more connected with logistics and digital information than budding ex rambos’s. Outside there is a legitimate protest with one group conducting themselves in a way to be admired. Those folk could spend time sharing and discussing their views any time they wish, especially with a bacon sandwich involved. And then there are the noisy people.

We left early, partly as I suspected the noisy people might be seeking to do something extreme to get media attention and partly because we discovered there was a very good burger bar nearby.

As we walked out a young lady about my daughters age proceeded to block my path. She was intent on making eye contact from behind the skull mask she had painted onto her face. One of her colleagues blocked my ability to move away and so I was, for a brief moment, trapped. She leant in, seeking to intimidate, dead-eyed aggression and called me a child killer. Her voice was an icy threat and I am quite sure if she had had a knife she might have used it. I was in a lynch mob, no trial would occur, there was no defence for after all everybody in a suit was obviously guilty to the noisy people. I managed to walk by, hearing the insults and threats from behind, only to have this repeated as I tried to cross the road, by several young men on both sides of the pedestrian crossing. Finally, we managed to get through, neither of us had been physically harmed and we sat in the burger bar hearing the noisy people making extreme noise and loud bangs as they performed for the TV crews. I heard on the way home that some had managed to get onto the roof and also that French police had just stopped a terror attack in Paris.

As we drove home I reflected on the recent restrictions placed on the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was deemed by similar noisy people not to be allowed to speak at an LGBT debate. There is an ongoing attempt to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford university by noisy people. We seem to be walking a road where the rights we support regarding freedom of speech are being utilised to make us less free to speak. In the event we do, are we then in fear of attack or violence because those advocating their campaign rights see violent aggression as the obvious way to secure peace? It can never be and the situation of people trying to advocate peace against the defence industry by using violence and aggression is sheer lunacy. I do think we need to start looking at how we can secure peace but such a peace can never be a violent one. Let’s start the conversations about food, not bombs, let’s look to promote happiness and not aggression but let’s do it with bacon sandwiches and humour, it’s so much nicer.