Since time immemorial the Red Flag has symbolized the discontent of the downtrodden and the revolt of the rabble. It was raised in cities and castles under siege to indicate that they would never surrender. The Red Flag is a signal of defiance and battle. The colour was gained by soaking it in cow or horse’s blood.
In 1450 it was carried by peasants in their march from Kent to London protesting unfair taxes and the corruption of King Henry V1. American revolutionaries at Bunker Hill flew it on 17 June 1775. British sailors raised the Red Flag at the mutiny on the Nore in 1789. It was carried during the French revolutions and became the banner of the Paris Commune in 1871.
The French Marseillaise is one of the most stirring pieces of music ever. It was written in 1792 and became the rally cry of the French revolution. It inspired French soldiers to rebel against an oppressive Monarch. It entered their hearts to sing a song with a deep feeling of spiritual elevation. A song with magnificent tunes and words to provide support, comfort and uphold morale. It needs to truly capture the spirit of this unique, pivotal and momentous occasion. The song must inculcate the experience into their entire beings.
Music has influenced world affaires and inspired men to altruistic, noble and magnanimous causes. A former slave trader saw the divine light. It entered his heart that he should sing a song. In 1779 he wrote ‘Amazing Grace.’ His heart told him to sing. His thoughts and intentions preceded his actions. He saw the miracle. He turned his back on his evil ways to follow the Lord.
The 1864 Geneva Convention laid the foundations for modern humanitarian law. It was strongly tied to the formation of the International Red Cross. It changed the matter of things and was a big step towards humanity. Since then countries are bound by multilateral treaties that are in force forever and everywhere. It called for relief societies to be formed in peacetime. They consist of nurses and volunteers who care for wartime wounded regardless of nationality. The carers would assist military medical services and be protected by an international agreement. The rules have been modified and extended at various conventions since.
The ‘Internationale’ is the international song of Marxist and socialist political parties. A Frenchman wrote it after the fall of the Paris Commune of 1871. It’s been used across the world as a song of resistance to oppression. The Soviet Union adopted it as its national anthem. Perhaps its most dramatic use in recent years was its repeated singing by students in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The western press did not report this.
Red became the colour of the Australian Labor movement. Red banners and emblems were carried during many strikes and demonstrations. They figured in the poetry of Henry Lawson, the bard of the labour movement. The song, The Red Flag, has inspired the trade union and Labor movement. It used to be regularly sung at union and Labor party meetings. It brings a tear to the eye of many Labor stalwarts who remember it.
THE RED FLAG
The worker’s flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts blood dyed its every fold.
Then raise the scarlet standard high.
Beneath its folds we’ll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here.
Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow’s halls its hymns are sung
Chicago swells the surging throng.
It waved above our infant might,
When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We must not change its colour now.
It well recalls the triumphs past,
It gives the hope of peace at last;
The banner bright, the symbol plain,
Of human right and human gain.
It suits today the weak and base,
Whose minds are fixed on self and place
To cringe before the rich man’s frown,
And haul our sacred emblem down.
With heads uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.
Written by Irishman, Jim Connell, and sung to the tune of ‘O Christmas Tree’. It was first sung in public in August 1889 during the London Dockers’ strike. They struck for an hourly rate of sixpence (tanner). There were mass meetings and spectacular demonstrations. A great march with bands, banners, slogans, floats and thousands of dockers (wharf labourers) left the London docks for the city. The strike had a good deal of public sympathy. Substantial monetary support came from Australian trade unions. It ended with the granting of “the full round orb of the dockers’ tanner.”
Many wonderful women inspired the suffragette’s movement (the right to vote). It started peacefully with an appeal to reason and logic. They made no progress so more radical measures were adopted. ‘Deeds not words,’ became their motto. Many extraordinary women made many magnificent speeches. They were imprisoned, starved and beaten. But they did not give up. The indomitable human spirit can endure anything. Provided it believes its cause is right, just and honourable. Great social change can be initiated if enough highly motivated people are involved.
During World War One, the machine gun, mustard gas, trench warfare left seven million dead men and would become history. Legend has it that on Christmas Day, 1915, soldiers from both sides of the trenches met in no-man’s-land for a game of football. It started a chain of events that caused opposing armies to get out of their trenches and celebrate Christmas together. There was an uplifting moment in history’s most horrific war.
There was a mine disaster in the French region of the Ruhr mining area in the 1920’s. German miners speed across the border in trucks to rescue French miners from a collapsed mineshaft. Instead of rescuers, a trapped French miner saw the Germans as the enemy from the First World War. Despite some difficulties the German miners rescue the French miners. The miners put aside their nationalities and past troubles to try to build camaraderie based on human solidarity. The successful rescue was followed by the idealistic prospect of international solidarity among workers.
Martin Luther King was one of the world’s great moral leaders. He inspired the black civil rights movement. Recurring themes of democracy, justice and hope in King’s life produced such memorable imagery as, “I Have a Dream.”
“Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
“I have a dream that someday soon the sons of the former slave owners and the sons of the former slaves will sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream.”
It’s the greatest speech ever in terms of how well it captured the spirit of the occasion.
The song, “We shall overcome,” helped create a better way of life for black people and a better world for everyone.
The Olympic games have long represented the ideals of humanity’s highest calling. A universal quest for peace, moral integrity, an exalted mix of mind, body and spirit that transcends cultures. However, corruption, commercialism, doping, terrorism and war now threaten the integrity of sport. Those ideals appear in peril. Nevertheless, Olympic ideals endure and the Olympic spirit is alive and well. The Olympic games are a vehicle, a representation of our better instincts and our better attitudes. This is worth fighting for and worth preserving.
The Olympic Motto is: ‘Swifter, Higher, Stronger.’ The Olympic Creed: The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part. Same as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
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