Will We Ever Learn?

I listened to a programme about the singer song-writer Joni Mitchell.  Joni was a folk singer, who came from Canada to America to find success.  The folk scene was very much alive in America, as it was here, during the 50s, 60s and early 70s. 

As I listened, I found myself humming, “Where have all the flowers gone?  Long time passing,”  lines I knew were from a folk song of that era – but which one? And then the lines, “When will you ever learn?  When will you ever learn?”  Not one of Joni Mitchell’s, as it turned out,  but an anti-war song by Pete Seeger.  Ironically, inspired by a Ukrainian folk song.

Anti war songs are no longer top of the charts – as far as I know.  Yet there is plenty of war about.  Either side justifying their actions.  Or, as the poet Seamus Heaney put it:

All throwing shapes, every one of them

Convinced he’s in the right, all of them glad

To repeat themselves and their every last mistake,

No matter what.

(Philoctetes – The Cure of Troy)

Jesus wept over Jerusalem, because they couldn’t see what was happening:  “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19: 41-42).  No doubt he is weeping over Gaza, Haiti, Sudan, Ukraine…..

Chris Dawson

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