I find it very difficult to live in a World that believes it is ok to keep innocent people in prison. Difficult to believe we allow them to be tortured, sometimes killed. Difficult to believe we are not able in some way to say “No, this is wrong, it is time to change our World for the better”. I am talking about Political Prisoners, those people that are locked away because their calls for freedom, fairness and justice don’t tally with cruel, repressive, selfish Governance.
So that’s why I have felt it necessary to do quite a number of demonstrations to this effect in the past 20 odd years.
November 2010 saw another one of my severely under planned spontaneous events. Concentrating on boosting the awareness of the then 2,100 Political Prisoners in Burma’s jails I hailed my quest to hitch hike 20 times around London’s M25 motorway. It was freezing cold, (I hadn’t thought of that). I had little money, (I had thought of that but my feeling for this atrocity were beyond finances). The M25 is frighteningly difficult to hitch hike around, (I found that out).
In short I lasted about 4 days. I did one and a half laps, got about 10 lifts, got attacked by a viscous dog in the middle of the night, got lost, walked for miles, got very tired but did get a mention on the Twittersphere as far away as New Zealand. My quest to highlight the plight of Political Prisoners was talked about a little more because of my actions.
I retired tired, very short of cash, aching from sleeping in the car but sufficiently inspired by people’s reactions to try again…with money, with a place to stay and a much much better plan.
Six months later saw just that. I managed to find a very local camp site to Clacket Lane Service Station, (base camp for all my lifts). I had sufficient money saved up and bought my bike along for transport to and from hitching site, and all was good.
I changed my sign to ‘Single Lifts Right Round Please’. Pretty absurd but it meant I wouldn’t be dropped off at awkward spots. It meant every driver, (and there were a lot of them) knew exactly what I wanted and thirdly, it was different, which usually meant people asked why, and in turn I was able to talk about Political Prisoners, Human Rights injustices Worldwide, and now the more recent Arab Spring and the emerging crisis in Syria. (This was April 2011…and look where we are now).
I planned to hitch for 2 weeks, my summer holiday in effect. In fact I ended up hitching for about 7 of those days sometimes doing the night shift from 6pm-2am. The camp site was wonderful. I was usually the only one there and after 8 hours standing in one spot with the roar of traffic as my neighbour it was always superbly soothing to return to birdsong, a comfortable tent and a hot shower.
(With one of those clicker things air hostesses count passengers with I estimated that a total of 75,600 cars passed me in both directions in 8 hours).
I took a side trip in the middle. I booked a ticket to Gazientep in Turkey and then took a bus to a place close to the Syrian border where I had been before in 2001. I bought some flowers, said a prayer for the people of Syria and laid them on a beach over looking the Syrian hills in front of me.
I returned with renewed vigour and changed my sign yet again. ‘Only Lifts In Yellow Ferraris Please. Thank you’.
This got even more reactions. In total I have used this placard for about 90 hours, probably about 10 days worth. In all about 8 red Ferraris passed me, 2 green, 1 black and a grey one. I got offered a lift in a beige Masserrati but refused it because it wasn’t a Yellow Ferrari. The only Yellow Ferrari that ever came past was being towed behind a car on a trailer.
It’s now August 2012 and a large number of Burmese Political Prisoners have been released, but there are still a large number inside. Syria hacks itself to pieces. It’s so sad.
But when you would like to live in a World free of pain, what do you do about it? Do creative demonstrations make any difference at all? Are their only purpose to make people smile…and realise there is a more gentle side to life than we witness on our television screens?
If you want to live in a much much better World surely it is better to say so than to bury your head amongst day to day living and hoping almost beyond hope that someone else will appear with the answer.
Wouldn’t it be damn amazing if you and I were that someone else and that actually because we really ‘do’ want to live in a better World, we are the ones able to create it?
Did I get a lift in a Yellow Ferrari? No. Would I stand at the exit to Clacket Lane service station Eastbound for another 8 hours? Of course I would, although I don’t know whether by just making a lot of people smile the World is changing for the better with it-maybe we have to do a lot more.
You know the good thing about having an explicit sign whilst hitching-everyone knows exactly what you want. I didn’t have to put my thumb out once…but I would have done if that Yellow Ferrari had come along. Cheers.