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The Fate of Child Soldiers:

A Review of Abe in Arms

As anyone who has bought a Kindle or iPad knows, things are changing in the publishing industry. Twenty-five years ago, when I started a small press to publish young adult fiction on cutting-edge social issues, I had to print large quantities of books and find a place to store them until I could sell them. Today, print-on-demand technology has eliminated the need for small and self-publishers to stack boxes of books in their basement or garage, because books can be printed quickly and relatively inexpensively to fulfill orders as they come in. Electronic books require no printing time or storage at all.

This is encouraging news for a new generation of small press publishers who seek to provide alternatives to Big Media. Several months ago, I received a thick catalog from one of those new publishers, PM Press. Founded in Oakland, California, in 2007, PM Press and its associated imprints and co-publishers now have more than 100 titles in print, including fiction; poetry; books on music, art, film, history, and current events; and children’s books.

I was particularly interested in PM Press’s first young adult novel, Abe in Arms by Pegi Deitz Shea, published under PM’s children’s imprint, Reach and Teach. Shea has written a number of award-winning picture books and titles for older elementary age readers that present the stories of immigrants, refugees, and historical figures who changed the world. Among her distinguished books are the biography Noah Webster: Weaver of Words, the stories of Southeast Asian refugees The Whispering Cloth and Tangled Threads, and the fictionalized account of the life of Pakistani anti-child labor activist Iqbal Masih, The Carpet Boy’s Gift.

Released this month, Abe in Arms is the story of 17-year-old Abraham Elders (born Abraham Odo), adopted from a refugee camp in Liberia at the age of 13 by a well-to-do African-American family living in Maryland. In his senior year of high school Abe seems to have the perfect life—a loving family, a brother to whom he is close, an adoring girlfriend, good grades, and the possibility of a Division I track scholarship. But as the book opens in the backseat of his girlfriend’s car, Abe suffers a flashback to his old life in Liberia, where he witnessed unspeakable horrors during the country’s long civil war.

Abe and his adoptive father, Dr. George Elders, thought that a year of counseling after his rescue and adoption were enough to quell the traumatic memories, but as Abe’s flashbacks become ever more frightening and violent, those who love him don’t have the answers to help him. A new round of therapy opens the floodgates, as Abe recounts the life of his best friend in Liberia, Steven, and the heartless “James,” whose worship of the rebel commander Grant leads him to undergo and then commit horrible atrocities as a child soldier.

Abe in Arms is a gripping tale that takes its place in the sad but necessary literature of Africa’s child soldiers, joining such classics as Ishmael Beah’s memoir of fighting in Sierra Leone’s civil war, A Long Way Gone; What Is the What, Dave Eggers’s fictionalized story of Sudanese child soldier Valentino Achak Deng; and the late Ahmadou Kourouma’s Allah Is Not Obliged, set in the Ivory Coast. Shea’s novel will have special appeal to teen readers because of Abe’s daily concerns in the U.S.—his adopted brother Niko’s habit of drinking and driving, his ambivalence about having sex with his girlfriend, not-so-friendly competition with his track teammates. Teen and adult readers will be drawn in by the question of how a young man, whose childhood has been stolen from him by war, struggles to live a normal life.

The situation in Liberia is particularly relevant for readers in the United States because in the first half of the nineteenth century, many abolitionists saw the U.S. colony as a potential home for enslaved African Americans; however, those who returned through the efforts of the American Colonization Society disrupted the lives and livelihoods of the indigenous people, sowing the seeds of later ethnic conflict. In the past two decades, many refugees from Liberia have found refuge in the United States, with sizeable populations in and around New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Liberia’s rebel leader and former head of state Charles Taylor is currently on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity committed in neighboring Sierra Leone. With the trial currently taking place (for more information, visit The Trial of Charles Taylor: A Project of the Open Society Justice Institute), Abe in Arms offers a powerful depiction of the conflict’s impact on the people of the region and its repercussions years later.

Disclosure statement: Reviewed from the finished book, received by the author.

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PM at the U.S. Social Forum

Join PM Press at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit, June 22-26, 2010. You can hit us up at the PM table for some radical literature and good conversation, or meet some of the authors of your favourite books and hear them speak.

What is the U.S. Social Forum?

The US Social Forum (USSF) is a movement building process. It is not a
 conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the 
economic and ecological crisis. The USSF is the next most important step in our
 struggle to build a powerful multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational,
 diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and
 changes history.

We must declare what we want our world to look like and we 
must start planning the path to get there. The USSF provides spaces to learn 
from each other’s experiences and struggles, share our analysis of the problems 
our communities face, build relationships, and align with our international 
brothers and sisters to strategize how to reclaim our world.

World Social Forum to USSF - Globalizing the Resistance

A global movement is rising. The USSF is our opportunity to prepare and 
meet it! The World Social Forum (WSF) has become an important symbol of global 
movement convergence and the development of alternatives to the dominant
 paradigm. Over the past nine years, the WSF has gathered the world’s workers, 
peasants, youth, women, and oppressed peoples to construct a counter-vision to
 the economic and political elites of the World Economic Forum held annually in
 Davos, Switzerland.

After gathering 100,000 people in Porto Alegre, Brazil in
 2005, the International Council (IC) decided that in 2006 there would be
 regional social forums to culminate in a WSF in 2007. The IC delegated
 Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) to help shepherd the US Social Forum 
process, stating that it was strategic to hold a gathering of peoples and movements within the “belly of the beast” that were against the ravages of
 globalization and neoliberal policies in the US and worldwide. GGJ is an 
alliance that grew out of people-of-color-led grassroots groups who
 participated in the first WSF. These grassroots leaders initiated a process to 
create the first USSF National Planning Committee (NPC) and Atlanta was
 selected as the USSF host city. In early 2009, the NPC selected Detroit as the
 second host city for 2010.

Learn more about the World Social Forum and social forums happening around the world.

Who Will Be There?



Big Noise

Richard Rowley and Jacqueline Soohen are members of Big Noise Tactical Media, a New York based radical media group. Their groundbreaking feature films, Zapatista (1998), Black and Gold (1999) and This Is What Democracy Looks Like (2000), have won top honors at hundreds of film festivals from New York, Toronto and Los Angeles to Berlin, Seoul and Bogota. They have also produced television and video reports from the front lines of struggles around the globe. In 1999, as founding members of the Independent Media Center video team, they collaborated in cutting the historic daily satellite feeds from the WTO protests in Seattle. They have reported for national television news programs from Argentina, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, Ecuador, Brasil, East Timor, South Africa and Palestine, where they were the only media to break the siege on the Church of the Nativity.

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CASA Collective

Teaching Rebellion / Ensenando Rebeldia: "Once you learn to speak, you don't want to be quiet anymore," an indigenous community radio activist said.  Accompanied by photography and political art, Teaching Rebellion is a compilation of testimonies from longtime organizers, teachers, students, housewives, religious leaders, union members, schoolchildren, indigenous community activists, artists and journalists--and many others who participated in what became the Popular Assembly of the People's of Oaxaca. This is a chance to listen directly to those invested in and affected by what quickly became one of the most important social uprisings of the 21st century.

Acompañada de fotografías y arte político, esta compilación poderosa de testimonios de organizadores, artistas, amas de casa, periodistas, estudiantes, maestros y otros que participaron en la Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca provee un vistazo abierto y honesto de las protestas oaxaqueñas del 2006 contra la situación política en el estado mexicano--protestas que se convertirían en una de las revueltas sociales más importantes del siglo XX1.

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Josh Macphee

Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today is a major collection of contemporary politically and socially engaged printmaking. This full color book showcases print art that uses themes of social justice and global equity to engage community members in political conversation. Based on an art exhibition which has traveled to a dozen cities in North America, Paper Politics features artwork by over 200 international artists; an eclectic collection of work by both activist and non-activist printmakers who have felt the need to respond to the monumental trends and events of our times.

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Carlos Martinez, Jojo Farrell, Michael Fox & Silvia Leindecker

Venezuela Speaks!: For the last decade, Venezuela’s “Bolivarian Revolution” has captured international attention. Poverty, inequality and unemployment have all dropped, while health, education and living standards have seen a commensurate rise. The international mainstream media has focused predominantly on Venezuela’s controversial leader, President Hugo Chavez, who has routinely been in the headlines. But without the active participation of large and diverse sectors of society, Chavez’s moment on the scene would have ended long ago.

Venezuela Speaks!: Voices from the Grassroots is a collection of interviews with activists and participants from across Venezuela’s social movements. From community media to land reform; cooperatives to communal councils, from the labor movement to the Afro-Venezuelan network, Venezuela Speaks! sheds light on the complex realities within the Bolivarian Revolution. These interviews offer a compelling oral history of Venezuela's democratic revolution, from the bottom up.

Beyond Elections: What is democracy? Freedom, equality, participation? Everyone has his or her own definition. Across the world, 120 countries now have at least the minimum trappings of democracy---the freedom to vote for all citizens. But for many, this is just the beginning not the end. Following decades of US-backed dictatorships, civil wars and devastating structural adjustment policies in the South, and corporate control, electoral corruption, and fraud in the North, representative politics in the Americas is in crisis. Citizens are now choosing to redefine democracy under their own terms: local, direct, and participatory.

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Re:Imagining Change provides resources, theory, hands-on tools and illuminating case studies for the next generation of innovative change makers. This unique book explores how culture, media, memes, and narrative intertwine with social change strategies, and offers practical methods to amplify progressive causes in the popular culture.

Re:Imagining Change is an inspirational inside look at the trailblazing methodology developed by the non-profit strategy and training organization, smartMeme. Founded in 2002, smartMeme offers tools, training, and strategy support to organizations and movements working for justice, ecological sanity and transformative social change. Re:Imagining Change is a summary of their approach, and a call to innovate our strategies for collectively addressing the escalating social and ecological crisis of the 21st century.

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Movements become apparent as “movements” at times of acceleration and expansion. In these heady moments they have fuzzy boundaries, no membership lists--everybody is too engaged in what’s coming next, in creating the new, looking to the horizon. But movements get blocked, they slow down, they cease to move, or continue to move without considering their actual effects. When this happens, they can stifle new developments, suppress the emergence of new forms of politics; or fail to see other possible directions. Many movements just stop functioning as movements. They become those strange political groups of yesteryear, arguing about history as worlds pass by. Sometimes all it takes to get moving again is a nudge in a new direction... We think now is a good time to ask the question: What is winning? Or: What would--or could--it mean to “win?” 

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The events

Story-based Strategy: How Grassroots Organizers Can Win the Battle of the Story
Event Date:  Thu, 06/24/2010 - 10:00am - 12:00pm

Cobo Hall: DO-03D

SmartMeme's training will focus on updating the timeless skills of storytelling and social change strategy for our current context of media-saturation, hyper-branding and 24 hour news cycles. This multi-media, interactive training will provide participants with hands on tools for framing their issues and useful frameworks to integrate messaging and storytelling into their organizing and campaigning. We will explore what it means to apply a "narrative analysis of power" to social change work and approach strategy through the lens of storytelling. We will share some of the story-based strategy approach for linking traditional organizing and movement building efforts with values based messaging, narrative concepts and creative action. This will include discussion of the relationship between meme theory-the study of how ideas spread and replicate-and movement building. Participants will get a chance to share some of their stories and unpack the "control mythologies" at play around the issue they work on. The training will cross issues and organizing experiences, use interactivity, small groups and skilled facilitation to help participants integrate messaging and storytelling into grassroots

Collaborative Investigation (Co-Razonando) in Times of Crisis: Bridging North and South, Activism and Academia.
Event Date:  Thu, 06/24/2010 - 1:00pm - 3:00pm

WSU Manoogian

This workshop is part of a collaborative effort between activist-researchers and researching-activists in the Americas to develop new concepts and practices adequate to the multiple, intersecting crises that characterize our times. We recognize that the inadequacy of old concepts and theories of social change contributes to crisis. While most in the mainstream look to policy experts, scientists and academics for solutions to the ecological, food, energy, economic, and political crises of our day, we believe that social movements are producing the most creative responses. Building on our different experiences within movements as well as international projects of militant or collaborative investigation, we will discuss the importance of spaces and projects to cultivate new conceptual and practical frameworks for pursuing activist work. The panel will combine the diverse experience and approaches of our presenters with collaborative media projects including Turbulence: Ideas for Movement (a critical transnational magazine) and community gardening projects in rural and urban areas (North and South). Following brief presentations the workshop will use small group work to explore other potential sites for collaborative investigation.
campaign work.

Re:Imagining Change Book Release Party
Thurs. 6/24 6-8 pm
Free food & cash bar!

Celebrate smartMeme's Re:Imagining Change @ the Majestic Cafe
4120 Woodward Ave between Mack & Warren, Detroit 48201

Josh MacPhee and Dara Greenwald
Re-animating Social Movement Histories Through Visual Culture
Event Date: Fri, 06/25/2010 - 3:00pm - 5:00pm

WSU Cohn: 224

In this workshop, participants will learn about the importance of culture in social movement history. The presenters (Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee) have done extensive archival research to unearth the history of social movement cultures through posters, video, sound, and other materials. This will be a multi-media presentation with case studies of moments in which cultural production played a crucial role in movement development (including Anti-Apartheid, Anti-nuclear, and others). A participatory discussion will follow the presentation about the possible role that culture can/is playing in movements today and the ways learning history can activate and inform present struggles.

New World from Below Collaborative Book Party
Date: Friday, June 25, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
New World from Below Convergence Center
The Spirit of Hope Church, 1519 Martin Luther King Dr.

Participating Authors: Benjamin Holtzman, Cindy Milstein, Jeff Conant, Jordan Flaherty, Josh MacPhee, Justseeds Artists' Cooperative, Seth Tobocman, Team Colors Collective and the Turbulence Collective.

Sober Living For the Revolution on

By Stefanie Knoll
Friday, May 7, 2010

I learned about Gabriel Kuhn accidentally - a comrade of mine met him at the London Anarchist Bookfair in 2009 and told me about this book on his return to South Africa. Excited about the book, I googled it and discovered that Gabriel was not only born in the same small town as I was - Innsbruck in Austria - but that he's also an anarchist (there aren't many in Innsbruck) and also straight edge (there are only three of us in Innsbruck as far as I know)! Excited as I was about this I got in touch with him and, after some e-mails sent back and forth in our Alpine dialect, he sent me a free copy for review, something which I must say I'm very happy to be able to do.

As soon as the book arrived (which, with the postal service in South Africa, can take ages) I forgot about the PhD I was supposed to write - I just couldn't put Sober Living for the Revolution down. It was just what I had been longing to read in these last years that I've been living in South Africa; in my circle of friends I'm the only remaining straight edge person, and possibly the only one in South Africa who is not Christian. Because of this I always have to defend why I'm straight edge and how this is connected to my politics (which I think it is) and this book does a great job in providing all the right arguments.

The hardcore scene in South Africa is lame - it's mostly white (in fact most shows are exclusively white), male and tough guy. Most bands are Christians and dedicate their songs to Jesus, and those few international bands that make it out here are almost always tough guy bands without any message...the usual commercial hardcore bands that have enough money to tour the world. There was one exception to this rule last year: Have Heart. I screamed my lungs out and wore the X on my hand with pride (I was the only one wearing it in the audience). Have Heart are not particularly political and I didn't watch them when I had the chance to in Europe, but hey, at least they're not Christians!

Back to the book. First off, it looks fantastic! Maybe it's our straight edge aesthetics, but I really like the design, and the back cover photo is amazing. Because of this, I made an effort to read it in public spaces so people could see it. Unfortunately, no one commented on it. The sadness of living in a place where drinking and driving is a national sport and seen as a great accomplishment (well, for those who can afford to have cars)....

Another thing that struck me immediately when I looked at the table of contents was that Gabriel really made an effort to interview a wide range of people of different nationalities, genders and sexual orientations. This kind of diversity is welcome in a scene that is too often focused on what's happening in the United States. The South African hardcore scene, for example, is completely oriented towards the US, and most bands sing in a fake American accent.

It's also interesting to note that most of the interviewees don't see themselves part of a straight edge movement any more; instead they distance themselves from it, with many not even attending shows any more. I guess they've grown out of it and have become disgusted by some of the prevailing attitudes, but at least all of them are still straight edge and none of them are dogmatic. They make an effort to show that straight edge isn't a puritanical position and distance themselves from conservative elements like hardline (a tendency which developed out of the militant vegan straight edge scene in the 1990s). The distancing from hardline is obvious, because such views don't go well with radical politics - the focus of this book - and especially not anarchism, the ideology most of the interviewees subscribe to in one way or another.

The book is structured as a selection of interviews and articles, with an overall introduction written by Gabriel as well as short introductions to each of the interviews/texts. It also contains a very helpful timeline graphic near the beginning that puts the straight edge scene into perspective. The book is divided into 5 sections: Section 1. Bands - in which famous radical straight edge bands known to everyone in the scene are interviewed. This begins with the band any discussion on straight edge has to start with: Minor Threat. In fact, all the other bands/interviewees/texts refer back to Minor Threat. Section 2. Scenes - interviews with various people from around the world talking about their local scenes. Section 3. Manifestos - a selection of three radical straight edge texts with follow up interviews. Section 4. Reflections - interviews with queer activists and feminists, as well as one straight edge crusty and one anarcho-primitivist. Section 5. Perspectives - five more personal articles.

Gabriel makes the scope of the book explicit in the introduction by stating that he's not claiming to represent the whole straight edge movement, only its radical fringe. He's looking at people who are, “engaged in political struggle and social transformation, but not judgmental, belligerent, or narrow-minded” (page 14).

What was not surprising to me, but is important for anyone who thinks that all straight edgers are conservatives, is that most of the radical bands were/are, apart from a few Marxist bands like ManLiftingBanner (who are interviewed in Section 1), anarchists! In this vein, there is a reprint of the CrimethInc pamphlet “Wasted Indeed: Anarchy and Alcohol”, another article titled “Towards a less fucked up world: Sobriety and anarchist struggle” and an interview with someone from Anarchists Against the Wall in Israel. Additionally, many of the interviewees explicitly state that they are anarchists.

Many interviewees also talk about veganism and the importance of animal liberation, while drawing a clear distinction between their views and those of the militant vegan straight edge (hardline) scene that started with the worst named band ever - Vegan Reich - and that now often uses the even more nauseating term “vegan jihad” to describe their views.

As already mentioned, the book opens with an interview with Ian MacKaye, singer of Minor Threat, the guy who created the term “straight edge” in order to encapsulate his personal policy of “don't smoke, don't drink, don't fuck, at least I can fucking think”. These lyrics, unfortunately, led many to believe that straight edgers are against sex but, as Ian tells us, this is a misunderstanding; he was simply referring to the prevailing attitude of the time of going to shows to get laid without caring about people's feelings. Many now interpret this as not engaging in promiscuous sex, only religious folks use it to justify their celibacy. Iain also mentions that he never wanted to create a movement, but hey, neither did Marx! He tells us about Rock against Racism concerts the band organised, and about Revolution Summer 1985, where, amongst other actions, they organised an anti-apartheid protest in front of the South African embassy. As he says, “Straight edge was just a declaration for the right to live your life the way you want to. I was not interested in trying to tell people how to do that. I mean, obviously things got pretty crazily perverted over the years.” (MacKaye in Kuhn 2010: 34). Finally, Iain also explains that straight edge is not a lifestyle. It's life - we're born that way.

Moving ahead, many interviewees point out that sobriety is crucial for those who want to help bring about revolution. In this regard, the example of how the US government brought drugs into African American communities to destroy the Black Panthers and criminalise poor communities is mentioned a few times. We also learn how Native Americans deal with the divisiveness of alcoholism in their poor communities. South Africa provides another example of the ravages of alcohol abuse: Soweto is full of alcohol advertisements and on weekends the only sober people you find in townships are the kids.

Facing the problems instead of escaping them seems to be one of the main rallying cries from radical straight edgers. Many of them also point to the lack of ethics in the alcohol and tobacco industries - huge corporations that clearly don't give a shit about their consumers (millions of whom die every year from alcohol and tobacco related causes) – and some also note that tobacco ingredients are tested on animals and a lot of alcoholic beverages use animal derived ingredients. As if these facts weren't enough of an indictment, tobacco companies have often chased away indigenous peoples to grow tobacco, or even tricked them into selling away their land for a pittance.

For me, however, the most beautiful article in the book was definitely Point Of No Return's “Bending to stay straight”, in which the connections between being straight edge, vegan and anarchist are looked at, as well as the the need for a sisterhood in this male dominated scene. If you only read one piece in the book, read this one! The interview with Frederico Freitas of Point Of No Return that follows the article talks about the connection between straight edge and anarchism in Brazil. He mentions that many working class and anarchist movements at the beginning of the 20th century viewed sobriety as important. The FAI in Spain before and during the Spanish Revolution of 1936 is one such example: FAI members did not drink or smoke (and many were vegetarians).

In the same spirit there is a great picture on page 127 of a Mayday march in Sweden that shows a banner reading, “Don't drink away the class struggle: drug-free organizing!”. I can definitely relate to that!
Another article I really liked was “The Antifa Straight Edge” manifesto, published by Alpine Anarchist Productions. I'm especially fond of this piece because it reminds me of a similar manifesto (against hardline) my best friend (the other vegan straight edge anarchist from Innsbruck) and I wrote in 2006 without knowing about this one.

Further along in the book are some articles and interviews with “queer edgers” followed by two interviews with feminists involved in XsisterhoodX. Both of these sections highlight the challenges queers and women face in the scene as well as the need for safe spaces; they also show how women are often central to the running of shows, etc.

One thing this book highlighted for me about the straight edge scene - especially the more political, vegan part of it - is that we are a relatively close-knit community. All of us seem to know one another directly or indirectly. For instance, while I've met some of the people interviewed in the book personally, I also have good friends who are good friends with many interviewees, from the US West Coast to Israel.

This book did also remind me of a sad realisation I've had a few times though, something I experience on a daily level in a circle of friends who are all pro-drugs: it's not them who have to defend themselves for taking drugs, it's straight edge people like me who have to defend our views, and this is especially true in the political and alternative scenes. To me, especially when I think back to what Ian MacKaye points out – that straight edge is not a lifestyle, it's life – this is a sign of just how upside down this world is. I hope readers of this review and book will consider this; hedonism seems to be our present paradigm and it fits all too nicely into the American dream/myth and into an individualistic neoliberal world.

In conclusion, I want to say that I learned a lot from this book. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in political hardcore and the political straight edge scene. It demonstrates conclusively that we are not a bunch of conservatives...Far from it!

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On sundays we'd watch the soldiers march at Windsor Castle,
With their drums & their busbies, er Majesty's Coldstream Guards,
& my mum would say how it made her feel so proud to be British,
& sometimes I still find the loss of that childhood land hard.

Changing the Guard
Changing the Guard
All that they're doing is
Changing the Guard.

But I clenched my fist & played rhythm for world revolution,
Though in Paris & Prague the same writing both sides of the Wall.
On sundays we'd meet in Hyde Park for each great demonstration,
But whoever you vote for the government wins after all.

Changing the Guard
Changing the Guard
All that they're doing is
Changing the Guard

Changing the Guard
For the sake of appearances,
Changing a few of the names,
Changing the Guard
For the tourists
& more of the same...

But I'll give you this song & the bag of old bones that goes with it,
There's some potcards of castles, some badges & maps you can't trust
Cos they're well out-of-date but the problem's still: how do we change the world?
& in all of this shit there's still one or two things that don't rust.

We're changing the Guard
Changing the Guard
All that we're doing is
Changing the Guard.

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Oliver Twist, who doesn't exist, apparently now,

Sits at the back picking his scabs in my Literacy Hour,

But he's dreaming such dreams...

The Minister says: these are the ways we raise standards.
But which box do you tick when Oliver Twist's thinking in rainbows?
& dreaming...

His Grandad Tim Winters, 2 teeth left like splinters, says: well I was the same.
So it's nobody's fault, if you're on income support, you've got yourself to blame
for dreaming...

In the canteen, there's cabbage & beans & the odd dead samosa,
But you have to choose between a pudding & a juice if you're on free school dinners,
Both would be dreaming...

Oliver Twist, now you just look at the state you're in.
There's a box you can tick for a new nuclear submarine.
There's a box you can tick for some Olympic Games,
But pudding & juice, that would be dreaming.
That would be dreaming...

Oliver Twist, now you just look at the State we're in....

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We ride the train to work & read the news

The news is bad again, what else is new?
The pensioner who’s murdered on page 4
Page six has more bombs in a far-off war.
But then you see the skyline & the river in the sunlight
& every day, it takes your breath away,
& you look at all the faces with their stories and their secrets
Getting through another working day.

& our leaders making speeches,
They’re very good at making speeches,
How our soldiers have to be there,
& how we will not surrender,
But you never see them riding on your train.

We ride the train back home & read the news,
There’s not much on TV, what else is new?
The beggars hold out hands to catch the night,
The smart hotels and cafes shine so bright.
But then you see the skyline & the bridges with their lamplight,
& even now, it takes your breath away,
& you look at all the faces with their stories and their secrets
Winding down another working day.

& our leaders making speeches...

We ride the train to work & read the news,
You thank your lucky stars it wasn’t you,
It wasn’t you in Baghdad or Madrid,
Or on the train from King’s Cross when the bombs came home.
Picking up the pieces, picking up the pieces,
Picking up the pieces, picking up the pieces,

& our leaders making speeches
How our soldiers have to be there
& how we will not surrender
& you’re picking up the pieces
But you never see them riding on your train
When the bombs come home.

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I keep seeing us everywhere, as far as the eye can see,
It's like some river overflowing...
We got muslims, we got Christians, we got pagans, we got Jews,
We got atheists, anarchists, socialists... we even got a liberal or two,
On the day we all said Stop The War.

We keffiyahs, we got T shirts, hijabs & rainbow scarves,
We got placards that say we're angry, we got placards that make you laugh,
We got whistles, badges, banners, 10,000 djembes & a salsa band,
We got pensioners, we gor pushchairs, arm in arm & hand in hand,
On the day we all said Stop The War.

We got the actress & the bishop, we got tankies, we got Trots,
& some got extra sandwiches in case their mates forgot,
We got respectable housewives from suburbia who've never done this sort of thing before,
& the International Sex Workers of the World united, with the boy & the girl next door,
On the day we all said Stop The War.

We got that what's'ername from off of the telly, we got that bloke I met called Steve,
But we are more than just this 2 million, we are Ramallah & Tel Aviv,
We are New York, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Cape Town, Cairo, Bangkok to Glasgow,
It's like some river overflowing,
On the day we all said Stop The War.

Buy CD now | Back to Leon Rosselson's Page | Back to Robb Johnson's Page


They said we ought to have 3 minute's silence,
I thought: the dead of two world wars only get 2 minutes,
But then most of them didn't speak American...

They said we ought to have 3 minute's silence,
But all that I could hear was all these voices, screaming,
& most of them didn't speak American.

I heard ghost voices from Hanoi & Hiroshima,
I heard ghost voices from Beirut, ghost voices from Baghdad,
& the Secretary of State was saying: this is a price worth paying...
half a million children dead in Traq, that's a price worth paying... ?

They said we ought to have 3 minute's silence,
of course, Wall Street when it stopped could only afford 1 minute.
& then the million dollar bombs rained down
On a poor land where they don't speak American.

No more bombs & silences,
I think we ought to have a different kind of justice.

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Who's that walking miles for water?
Who's that sweat shopping all day long?
In the hot south, in the cold north,
Who are these so proud & strong?

From the work bench in the back room
To the cradle beside the bed,
From the Mad Mothers to the Peace Campers
Who are thse seeing red?

These are Rosa's lovely daughters,
These care no man's blushing brides,
These are Rosa's lovely daughters,
& they will not be denied.

Now their fathers handshake their bargains
& their good wives stand around & weep,
But their hearts sing when they're dancing
"We are no man's to give or to keep".

These are Rosa's lovely daughters...

Me, I'm skewed, slewed, stewed & awkward,
Me, I'm clumsy luke a clown,
But these are wildfire in the backyard
& the big White House is burning down...

These are Rosa's lovely daughters...

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I dreamed the old dream just last night,
Red & green, & going home,
I dreamed of no wars left to fight,
Red & green, & going home,

I dreamed of those who know no rest,
Red & green, & going home,
The refugee & the dispossessed,
Red & green, & going home, (& so on, red & Green lines 2 & 4 rach verse)

Submarines ploughshared the sand,
& bactories turned to fertile land...

We healed the sick & the obscene,
The leper & the limousine...

We saw our likeness in each face,
& with each kindness gathered grace...

So broke the walls of greed & fear,
With love to all things living here...

These are old dreams, nothing new,
Of yet to come, nonetheless true...

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