Time to bring back badges
I love badges. At the moment on my sixties style green winter coat I am wearing the anti-government badge I bought on the national demo against the cuts on 26 March 2011.
My love of badges started when. as a young Catholic girl, I was given an Immaculate Mary medal. These were given to girls as a symbol of the Virgin Mary’s purity and of the kind of lifestyle the Catholic church wanted to promote for women.
The Catholic church pays particular attention to brainwashing little girls into compliance and obedience. They are the future ground troops for the religion! Me, I just liked the idea of wearing the medal.
Lucky for me I came from a Irish republican socialist background. My father, Irish exile and building worker, tried his best to radicalise his children. Fighting against the modern culture of 70s Britain, he explained the injustice faced by our people in Ireland and by others elsewhere in the world.
Our heroes were Muhammed Ali and Bernadette Devlin, to name but two. He saw no contradiction between socialism and Catholicism. As a family we in fact practised a very traditional version of Catholicism – west of Ireland brand – a mix of nightly family rosaries and a triumphant trip to the church several times over the weekend. He had little regard for the clergy and saw them only as intermediaries to the “Big Fella” upstairs.
Radicalised I left my East Manchester council house and extended Irish family to go to university in Yorkshire. In the mid-70s universities were alive with left,women’s groups and political activity. Brought up on the “s” word socialist I immediately joined the International Socialists (and gave up the church). I was now in badge heaven.
At University there was one for every political group and campaign – CND, Troops Out of Ireland, Anti-Apartheid plus numerous ones produced for industrial disputes and even a badge offering advice to the former Lady Diana in 1981 on her marriage , “Don’t Do It Di”. The “Ditch the Bitch” badge to commemorate Magaret Thatcher’s rise to power led to heated discussions between lefties and feminists.
Badges told the world what you believed in – immediately and to their faces. At University I got involved with the National Abortion Campaign. We wanted “ Free abortion on demand” and wore badges stating this. I wore my badge with pride at University, on marches …and back at home when I went to church…
My mother looked shocked when I put on black duffle coat to go to church but she had already been so I went with Dad and my sisters. He couldn’t care less and was happy to have a dissident daughter. The priest didn’t pass a comment as he nodded at us as we left the church. He probably expected it of one of our family.
Later on as Mum, Dad and I watched Question Time they told me that they supported abortion. They had seen enough pregnant women being chucked out of their family homes and sent away to Dublin to have their babies. Wearing a badge “A Woman’s Right to Choose” led to encounters with anonymous women in toilets where they told me they had had abortions but under terrible circumstances.They treated me as if I knew what they were talking about by just wearing a badge –maybe they wanted to believe that they were not alone…
So in 2012 where are all the badge wearers? As I wear my anti-government badge I see people reading it and looking like they agree with me. They must do – this is the northwest –few people vote Tory. I have had some good conversations with people who have randomly approached me. They say that they have lost their job, their children have degrees but work in coffee bars and they feel things can only get worse.
Maybe wearing a badge is making a statement; saying what you think and inviting other people to respond. Wearing badges is not enough…but its a start and you can quickly find out who is on your side…follow me…