‘Have I seen Peterloo??’ That was the foggy thought that formed in my head one early Sunday morning as a ping of a text message woke me from the lovely sleep I was enjoying.
The message was from an old friend who lives 8 time zones away, which explained the unreasonable hour upon which it had been sent.
The previous evening, whilst trading interesting and amusing anagrams with my friend’s spouse, [yes I did just say that – terribly middle-aged of me to derive such fun from word games I know!], they mentioned that their son’s name Eliott was an unfortunate cypher of Toilet!
And that was the next notion that popped into my mind, and I initially mistakenly figured the two things were linked.
Was their most precious possession missing? And if so, why would they think he’d be with me, half-way around the world?
And as I became more compos mentis as the moments went on, I caught myself on that there was no link.
And worse than that, there was no pathway opening indicating a subconscious solution being provided by my synapses to lead to an answer.
And I did what anyone would do in such a situation in the modern world we live in – I selected the web browser on my smartphone and asked the internet to tell me what I needed to know.
And I quickly discovered that Peterloo was not a person but a film from 2018 dramatising and commemorating an event from English history from two centuries earlier.
I freely admit to my shame that the Peterloo Massacre was an event that I was entirely unaware of.
A protest rally in Manchester of up to 60,000 people campaigning for the vote for the common man – the common woman would have to wait another 100 years.
Instead of allowing the peaceful protest to go ahead, orders were given to arrest the leading players.
Presumably the ‘10%’ hoping suppression would stave off the chances of the movement gaining momentum amongst the poorer 90% of Society.
And as seems to frequently happen in such cases where a country directs its armed forces against its own people, something went catastrophically wrong in the mission.
Firstly, a woman and a child were killed in the initial melee, followed by at least a dozen more as matters escalated out of control in a bloody act of carnage and panic which also saw five hundred or more injuries.
It was the local press who coined the name for the tragic event as a reference to Napoleon’s disastrous decision to engage in battle at the Belgian town of ‘Waterloo’ a couple of years earlier.
For a nation whose politicians owed their position as an elected official to a tiny number of people- it was estimated that an aristocratic elite of around 200 men were responsible for putting 400 MPs in the House of Commons – you can appreciate or at least understand the fear that led not to an acknowledgement that things had gone too far- rather they had not gone far enough, and an even greater campaign of clampdowns ensued against the populace.
This included the jailing of newspaper owners, editors and journalists in an attempt to prevent the spread of information; information which history tells us was no fake news!
It was Napoleon, it maybe remembered, who opined that “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets”. And that was certainly an apt summing up of what was happening to the now hapless establishment. They ended up spawning a number of new media outlets, formed phoenix-like from the ashes of the fires of aggression meted out against ordinary decent folk who just wanted their voice to be heard.
We owe the electoral rights we now have to the bravery of these long forgotten heroes who stood up and faced the courts for the crime of talking truth to power, for the message was eventually heard and progress and fairness evolved in the right direction.
The quality of where you get the data (upon which you can formulate opinions on what you think of what is going on around you) is vastly more important than the quantity.
Good information and strength of character can change the world.