It’s all about the supply chain of things, knowing about the whys, hows, wherefores of the world and being able to take action, as people, as makers, as citizens.
Overcoming the shock and cruelty of slaveries and war must be through understanding more about the collision of elite power with the processes of social movement and change and rebalancing the mechanisms in the supply chain.
Can visualising the complexity of systemic systems and supply chains around our freedoms take us beyond shock and awe?
Understanding more about the supply chains and forces that metamorphosed the MV Monte Rosa into the Empire Windrush, as well as the diversity on board ship (a 1938 survey it was found that 27 percent were either from India or China and another 5 percent were British domiciled Arabs, Indians, Chinese, West Africans or West Indians mainly resident in major UK ports such as Cardiff, Liverpool or South Shields).
The massive contribution to peace of the men and women of the merchant navy is part of the supply chain history education we want now.
To change anything we need to be able contribute to the provenance of things we experience and understand that one person’s experience contains a little of all our others experience.
Recently, Jeremy Corbyn @jeremy corbyn tweeted about a revealing history of the Empire Windrush in Paul Arnott’s book: Windrush: A Ship Through Time.
Windrush was/is a ship that should always be remembered for the ever advancing insights into the supply chains around her that we need to question, interrogate and respond to.
She carries much more history than liberation: the Windrush was originally the 1930 built merchant ship: MV Monte Rosa,a 13,882 ton passenger ship, launched by Blohm and Voss shipbuilders in Hamburg, Germany.
Goebbels requisitioned the ship, (in the same way as Nigel Farage has requisitioned the craving for democratic representation and turned it into his Brexit Company, which isn’t a democratic process), using it to treat Nazi party members to holidays in the Mediterranean and Baltic: and in doing so was able to normalise the underlying cruel propagandic processes in german society before and during the second world war.
Monte Rosa became a troop carrier for the German invasion of Norway (justified to ‘protect’ the Norwegians from the Americans, the British and the Jews), a support vessel for the pocket battleship Tirpitz, and then a prison ship transporting Norwegian Jews from Oslo to Hamburg thence to Auschwitz.
Captured by the British in Kiel in 1945, the ship was renamed SS Empire Windrush and the ship, with many other merchant ships, spent years evacuating displaced service people from one lost colony after another until, in her famous single voyage from the Caribbean, she brought the first caribbean travellers.
In understanding the Windrush we get closer to the complexity of the tensions between expression and repression: the many faceted processes of social change as well.
The British Merchant Navy was the biggest in the world and required more crew than Great Britain had merchant seamen, so Indian, Chinese and West African seamen were engaged to crew ships which regularly traded from Great Britain to ports in those areas. Seamen from Commonwealth countries sailed abroad British ships as did many seamen from Scandinavia, the Netherlands and most countries of the world including Germany and Japan.
Traditionally, on board the merchant ship was a whole microcosm of an open society, almost free of class, race, religion, age or colour distinctions: a place of social, as well as geographical mobility that was displaced at home. People sailed for as many reasons as there are people: to contribute, to travel, to solve and escape family problems, legal issues or simply because they wished to begin new lives.
Between 1933 and 1940, forty five thousand germans emigrated to Argentina on merchant ships, women worked as stewardesses on the larger ships. To understand the Windrush and its history you need to understand where your own family fits into the story.
My dad, a creative lad from the Meadows, Nottingham who’d left school at fourteen was inspired with dreams of business and social change from his experiences that I can remember, even now, many years later. He found his knowledge difficult to articulate when he came back to Nottingham and used to make jokes of everything.
I wondered why at the time. He was a slow but aspiring reader (he used to read large print books). He’d been a merchant seaman and had been to Oslo, Malta and Africa. That was all I knew.
Now I wonder about the bigger processes: of the simultaneity of empire construction and deconstruction: the people, always the people, the flows of people, in the middle of life and death and what we need to know and do to ensure it never happens again.