I was watching a TV report from someone who had spent time with the Somali pirates, seemingly going further away from their coast and getting more and more aggressive as counter measures are limiting their success. At first it was easy to have some sympathy, they were poor fishermen who have lost out to the illegal fishing from bigger boats along their shores.
I turned then to the stories of Michael Palin, journeying across the ‘New Europe’, the book about the TV series. It happens I am on the part where he is visiting Auschwitz, well built red brick buildings and barbed wire, the end of life for so many, young and old and in between.
Both stories are about hope. And what people do about it. The camp guards at Auschwitz could have said, no, I do not take away people’s lives, people’s hope for the future. I am not saying I would have done that. But I am saying I know that would have been the right thing to do.
In the same way, the Somali pirates do have a choice. They could use their guns, (the Jews, the Gypsies and the unwanted did not have such luxury), to turn against those who oppress them within their own country. Instead they take actions which deprive others of liberty and life, which bring massive costs to so many people, billions being spent now to protect ships, even though the ransom payouts are only in their millions, we know the value of freedom and are, fortunately, willing to pay for it.
If this seems like a very right wing agenda, let me turn now to Pyramid Sellers, and maybe even those get rich quick lawyers who advertise as angels trying to sell you hope that you will get rich too by making claims for things you would have previously put down to bad luck or your own incompetence. They are really the agents of the devil.
No-one has the right to sell hope. Hope should be given freely, where we can, which is why education and health has to be free. When you sell hope by suggesting you will do better than what is free, you need to be sure you are not selling what you should by rights be giving away.
Hope can be won, which is sometimes why we need to fight for our right to have hope, although that is best done peacefully. The impoverishment in the former Soviet Union and the impoverishment in the current USA and now it seems even Greece show how societies can somehow drain hope from people, little by little, hope is sold and then stolen, year after year.
History is long in stories of people selling false hope, from the selling of forgiveness, for the only pennies you had if you were poor, which made the churches rich, or with the building of Churches if you were a slave trader in Bristol, UK. Hard to believe that anyone who could believe in a God who would let you off abominable cruelty by building churches in honour of Himself.
I think if I was to start a Bill of Rights, a Constitution on which all other Principles would follow, I would start with Hope. It is not for sale, it is the right of all, always, today, tomorrow, and for all time and for all people.