By Shirley Edwards
May 31, 2014
[These are my views as a woman living in England, on how the culture and spirit of my country has changed over 50 years. Why the country does not feel protected or strong any more, how it has lost, and is losing it values and decency, and how we are daily losing our free speech.]
This year, the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has declared 2014 to be ‘The Year of the Bus’. He wants to pay tribute to what he calls the ‘pulsating red arteries of the capital’. The 8,600 red buses which carry 6.5 million passengers a day.
One of the key events for the 2014 calendar will include the exhibition ‘Goodbye Piccadilly – from the Home Front to the Western Front’ commemorating the contribution of ‘battle buses’ in wartime London.
It is hoped that some remembrance will be made to those who lost their lives in July 2005, when terrorist bombs were planted not only on London’s underground transport system but on the London red bus in Tavistock Place, killing 13 people.
It may be that the London buses are in need of some appreciation and some better publicity after having been at the centre of a number of so many modern day incidents regarding not only terrorism, but also equality and diversity issues. [Link]
If anywhere is meant to typify the meaning of diversity in the UK today, it is designed to stem from the heart of London.
With its mixture of modern and old architecture living along side each other and its cosmopolitan energy, London’s capital can appear to be on the surface, a place which leads the way in what we are daily being told is our ‘multi cultural’ and ‘diverse’ society.
It is a place which celebrates differences, and respects our freedom. We are all meant to be treated ‘equally’ here. The streets team with citizens and tourists of varying backgrounds and cultures. The majority wear headphones, as they walk and sprint their way to work. Black taxi cabs and cyclists weave their way through the crowded streets and a million car horns. A police or ambulance siren alerting people to danger is never far off in the distance. City gents in suits and young women in tight skirts and trainers run along the pavements, all carrying a one shot, dry skinny cappuccino, or a latte, in a disposable Starbucks cup. It is a place where you see the unexpected, and expect the unexpected. Heading their way through the thronging streets, lines of traditional red buses drive triumphantly and gallantly through.
Travelling along on a London red bus recently, had it not been for the glorious sun, the scene would have been typical of that which adorns a million posters and postcards. The Houses of Parliament in the background, Big Ben signalling the passing of time, and the London Red leading its way through the drizzling rain, all in varying shades of grey.
As I looked out the window passing through Trafalgar Square, I strained my neck to look up at Nelson elevated on his column and wondered what he thought of the scene below, from such a high and lofty place. The thousands of pigeons that once resided in Trafalgar Square had been evicted. The square looked clean, fresh and new. Battles however, were still taking place.
Through the gaps in the buildings, I had caught sight of the large fairground structure of the Millennium Wheel; aptly called the ‘London Eye’, carrying people around and around. Adjusting their sight to the 180 degree panoramic view, I wondered if they were caught up in the excitement of the city as they were being carried along in their over sized cage? Were they escaping, or were they investigating?
Would just one human being be screaming to get off?
As my London red bus safely pulled up at the war office and left me standing on the pavement I watched him innocently sail off into the distance, wobbling from side to side. He had no thought for me now. He had done his job.
His notoriety however was most certainly keeping him alive in the minds of the millions of passengers and passers by.
In 2009, the bus and 800 of his counterparts had of course raised a little controversy when Richard Dawkins launched the infamous atheist campaign of plastering a poster on their shiny red sides reading: “There’s probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life”.
The campaign had been conceived by comedy writer Arian Sherine. She had dreamed of just one bus going around London with an atheist slogan, after she had seen an advertisement for Christianity slapped on the rear of one. The atheist bus campaign was very successful with a high profile, and later ran in 13 countries across the world.
Dawkins, who had partially funded the campaign, had of course, been adverse to adding the word ‘probably’. Its campaigners however had decided they didn’t want to be as dogmatic as religious leaders. So ‘probably’ was added for this reason. Were they being truthful?
Sherine and Dawkins should not have been at odds with their uncertain message. To spend such a lot of money on advertising, they either believed there was a God or they didn’t.
The advert did however, have a very good side. It kept discussion alive.
The Advertising Standards Authority received 392 complaints about the advert, who ruled that the adverts were not in breach of its rules as the advert “was an expression of the advertiser’s opinion” and was incapable of substantiation. Although the advert was contrary to many people’s beliefs, it would not generate serious offence.
Whilst it raised some debate for a season, people of faith did not seem so offended or dogmatic that they threatened violence or damaged the red bus. The heart of the Christian message seemed to be more concerned for those who had no hope; who were not having such an enjoyable time of life in Gods absence. The London bus was allowed to go its way.
However, controversy appeared again very recently when The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson banned an advert which was due to appear on the London red bus once more.
The sign Not Gay, Ex Gay, Post Gay and Proud – Get over it, had been booked via Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust with the Transport for London. The advert had been planned in response to Some People are Gay – Get over It posters, which had been allowed advertising space on the London red bus in an anti-bullying campaign.
This time, however, the London bus was declared homophobic.
Boris Johnson believed that the poster would have been offensive to gay people.
Mr. Johnson said: "London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance.
"It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses."
But Dr Davidson said: “It would be very wrong to shut down critical debate in that way by pulling an advertisement that simply expresses a different point of view that should be of concern not only to religious people but to thinking people generally.” [Link]
The advert was pulled and a subsequent court case resulted between Core Issues Trust and Transport for London. The court ruled that both advertisements should not have been allowed by the Transport for London.
I looked into the background of Core Issues Trust and found it is a non profit Christian ministry, and is founded and co directed by Dr Mike Davidson, who is ex-gay. From their website it states it supports men and women who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression. It respects the rights of individuals who identify as ‘gay’ who do not seek change. "Statement on Prejudice."
The organisation offered insights from leading professionals, some of whom have been gay, together with testimonies from men and women who wanted to move away from the identification of being homosexual for different reasons. It did not appear to solely emphasis complete cure. Some people however believe that being ‘heterosexual’ is at the core of their being.
Out in the Cold
During the summer months, the London red bus will now also be used again in another controversy. The cashless society.
Unless you have an oyster card or a contact less debit card you will not be able to travel on the bus no matter who you are. We may all be kicked off together.
Already, 1800 passengers have had to be refunded by thousands of pounds when Oyster readers detected the wrong card and debiting their bank accounts.
With no choice of payment being offered, the implementation of cashless travel will transform London and its commuters, and then the rest of the UK, into a population paying for the most minor of necessities with a piece of plastic. We have become accustomed to paying for large items this way, and now it will be the smaller details of life.
It is reported that the Transport for London has given guidance to its 24,500 London bus drivers on how to deal consistently with vulnerable passengers.
Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square
At the end of my day in London, I had waited for the No 88 London bus to return. He seemed tired as he appeared around the corner to greet me, but it was good to see him. I had no idea how much was left on my oyster card, hoped it was taking me on the right road, and was ready to go home. I hoped the driver would understand London was a confusing place broadcasting many contradictions, confusing messages, and great distractions.
Somehow it appeared that not only the London bus but its people were being played off against each other. There is a dictatorship and a greater divide between people now than there has ever been before.
I am not sure that the spirit of London as demonstrated during the war years by its people still exists. Not to the same degree. Different standards apply now, and patriotism cannot be rekindled by citizens who feel let down, despite what politicians promote to the world.
The bus stopped outside The Cenotaph. London’s main memorial to the soldiers who died in the Great War. This time I could only glance down. There were just a few wreaths of red poppies lying around the foot of the monument, symbolizing blood. I wondered about the confusing message engraved on its side which read ‘To the Glorious Dead’
Freedom of speech was now being killed on London’s streets. It all seemed to start with one person taking offence at the message of Christianity at the back of the bus.
Who and what is at the core of London driving it in a different direction?
I thought of the 8,600 London red buses, which Boris referred to as the red pulsating arteries of London, against the blood of those who have given their lives for freedom.
Looking outside was not a good place to search for truth. Neither were the sides of the bus. I closed my eyes as the bus bounced through Whitehall, and returned to the place within where truth lived. It was different to the one the world was creating. Confusion didn’t exist there. There was no indoctrination or dogmatic message which Ariane Sherine or Richard Dawkins attest to.
Despite the hustle of London, there are quiet messages. If you visit I hope you find them too.
Throughout the day, I met the train porter who brightened the day with his jokes. “The best place to sit is at the back of the train” There had been the bus conductor who took time to give directions. The young commuter who shouted ‘God Bless’. The business owner, who kept his café open at the end of the day, for a much needed British cuppa, and lastly the happy drunk who met me at the end of my train journey home.
Swaggering towards me with a big smile and wreaking of drink he asked for help. “Please can you help me, do you have any money”
“I’m sorry, I’m broke myself”. Didn’t he know I’d been to London and exhausted the oyster card?
“Never mind Darling, I still Love you” the drunk retorted, as he went his way.
It was a lovely welcome home and maybe the saddest and most genuine. The drunken mind can still speak the sober heart.
No-one can tell you who you are inside. Maybe the core of our being is something we discover. Everyone should be the allowed the freedom to do just that. Do we find it in a world where there is probably no God, or in a world which honors and respects that there is one?
Isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be part of it? -Richard Dawkins
"This is a great day for freedom of speech in Britain. I am very glad that we live in a country where people have the freedom to believe in whatever they want." -Ariane Sherine 2009.
Johnson bans 'gay cure' bus adverts.
2- Court to investigate whether Boris Johnson banned ‘gay cure’ bus ads for ‘political capital’.
3- Not Gay Banned Poster Case Report.
4- Ariane Sherine
5- Welcome to Core Issues Trust.
6- London buses to become cashless this summer.
7- LGBT group ignores court order banning London bus ads normalizing homosexuality.
8- NHS to give sex change drugs to nine-year-olds: Clinic accused of 'playing God' with treatment that stops puberty.
9- High Court rules that Humanist, Stonewall and 'Ex-Gay' Bus Adverts should all have been banned.
© 2014 Shirley Edwards - All Rights Reserve
Shirley Edwards was born and lives in Great Britain. She has always worked in administration, but have also taught and studied complimentary health. In administrative roles, she has worked within The Church of England. She also worked for some years as a volunteer within the hospice movement.
Shirley has an interest in all health issues, loves the British countryside, and enjoys writing. She is thankful for talk radio and loves listening.
Shirley has always been concerned about the loss of freedoms in her country, also the demise of America, a country she loves for the original reasons on which it was founded. She believe in the Pursuit of Genuine Happiness.