Roshan Doug, one the West Midland's best known Asian poets,
was born in 1963 and, like many thousands of Commonwealth citizens,
has made his home in this region. Here, he looks back on the 20th
century with mixed feelings and hopes for a new millennium when
tolerance will triumph over bigotry and wisdom over superstition.
Two events of the 20th century remain firmly in my mind. They
both concern the concept of freedom.
The first is the Chinese students' demonstration in Tienanmen
Square in 1989: a student standing alone in front of a tank, courageously
defying the authorities of the Chinese militia.
- a lone student faces the tanks at Tiananmen
For me it was an unsettling reminder of the thin line between
social freedom and social captivity, between choice and subjugation.
Throughout history people have been ruling us through their personal
ideology, which is more often than not, tainted with a dwarfed,
blinkered perception of reality.
comes to mind. So do Mussolini, Napoleon, General Haig, and Alexander
My other image is from the same year and relates to the Salman
Rushdie's Satanic Verses controversy when thousands of Muslims burned
his book as a protest against his presentation of Islam.
a writer and an educationalist, I am concerned about people burning
books and demanding the death of an author on the grounds that he
has written something with which they do not agree. This is absolutely
We must not fear knowledge. Not only do we need to allow freedom
of expression, but we must do our best to encourage it by creating
an environment of social, religious and political tolerance.
Now, let us learn from the lessons of all our yesterdays.
Let's turn our backs towards superstition and fear, and hail freedom,
tolerance and knowledge, for today and tomorrow and every day.
2000... and beyond
are sometimes better than we give ourselves credit for.
Message of hope
|Message of hope that thunders through the
century . . .
Life today is immeasurably richer than
it was 100 years ago. And yet we must never forget that ten
years of Our Century were spent in world wars which killed
60 million and left countless millions maimed or homeless.
However, if there is one message which thunders from the
hundreds of memories recorded in Our Century, it is that
hope springs eternal. Even in the depths of conflict and
deprivation, the human spirit survives.
We humans are sometimes better than we give ourselves
credit for. Our species which so eagerly raced towards self-destruction
in 1914 and 1939 has, by and large, learned its lesson.
Today, nations live at peace in a way that seemed impossible
100 years ago. There is every reason to believe that the
next 100 years will be good years.
So let us look on the bright side. Let us draw a line
under Our Century and enter a new century with the optimism,
and the sentiments, that have never been out of fashion:
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile,
smile . . .