The above slogan was daubed on a wall in Chania, Crete. Following a remarkably moving demonstration organised by pupils and students last Thursday week, its intertwined irony, humour, anxiety and anger continues to capture the collective mood. During the march the young people vented their concern about the capitalist crisis,  a corrupt State, police harassment, the spectre of low wages and poor prospects, the contradictions of both consumerism and political passivity. They chided those, who continued their Xmas shopping,  heads buried in gift wrapping. Their profound criticism of their elders’ political conformity is caught in the words sprayed on a banner hung over a bridge in Northern Greece, ‘Your TOLERANCE sat on your couch is COMPLICITY!’ More or less all the schools above primary level were closed up to Xmas as a result of the students’ decision to strike. A group of young women and men brought tears to my eyes as they revived in solidarity with immigrant youth the classic 1968 assertion, ‘We too are  the Undesirables!’  Of course too these young people are not necessarily typical. All manner of motivations course through the veins of any throng. Nevertheless, seen through the eyes of those in control of Youth Work in Britain, this mass expression of young people’s desires would hardly be defined as a ‘positive activity’ and would hardly be awarded accreditation.  In Greece, where Youth Work hardly exists, it remains to be seen what will transpire in the New Year, but the atmosphere remains volatile and fragile, the desire to resist still evidently strong.  And the unpredictable and confrontational character of the world-wide situation – not least the unfolding tragedy in Gaza – suggests that social and political convulsion will continue. What chance a little rebellion from British young people, a surfacing of frustration and anger directed not at each other, but at the core of an exploitative system, which thwarts their potential. Indeed, what price youth workers themselves rising to the challenge of the historical moment?

Of course my rhetorical flourish is open to derision. Perhaps it reflects a nostalgia for the past mentioned above. So for now I’ll content myself with regretting the recent death of Adrian Mitchell, the sometime Shadow Poet Laureate, a revolutionary poet of peace and with quoting one of his poems written in 1964 and often amended, which remains very much up to date.


To Whom It May Concern

I was run over by the truth one day.
Ever since the accident I’ve walked this way
So stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Heard the alarm clock screaming with pain,
Couldn’t find myself so I went back to sleep again
So fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Every time I shut my eyes all I see is flames
Made a marble phone book and I carved all the names
So coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

I smell something burning, hope it’s just my brains.
They’re only dropping peppermints and daisy-chains
So stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

Where were you at the time of the crime?
Down by the Cenotaph* drinking slime
So chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about Vietnam.

You put your bombers in, you put your conscience out,
You take the human being and you twist it all about
So scrub my skin with women,
Chain my tongue with whisky
Stuff my nose with garlic
Coat my eyes with butter
Fill my ears with silver
Stick my legs in plaster
Tell me lies about ……





Tell me lies about Vietnam.

[A remix of this poem will appear in a new collection of Adrian Mitchell’s poems ‘Tell Me Lies’ to be published in June 2009 – see]


At the very least  let’s resolve in 2009 to pursue the truth as best we can, to laugh and weep, and to keep critically chatting. Our best wishes to friends, readers and, of course, critics.

[Our apologies for not attributing the photograph of the defiant young student. If you know of its origin, please let us know.]

Published in: on December 30, 2008 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,


You will have seen the scenes of the uprisings in Greece catalysed by the death of a young Greek lad in Athens at the hands of the State a few days ago. Whilst I confess to a touch of romanticism about the events, I am not naive about the complex mixture of motives coursing through the veins of those involved in such adrenalin-fueled activity. Indeed in Chania on Crete the other night it was difficult to be detached from the emotion. It must be said though that the targets for the crowd’s anger were the symbols of capitalist greed and corruption, the banks, many of which were trashed. Hardly any other buildings were touched, except, unfortunately, a public cafe.

This said, the purpose of this note is to draw your attention to an Open Letter produced by young people  in the middle of the drama, which has been circulated widely in Greece. The piece loses something in the translation  and yet….


We are no terrorists, hoodies, the known – unknowns

WE ARE YOUR CHILDREN! These known – unknowns…

We are dreaming – don’t kill our dreams!
We are impetuous – don’t quell our impetuosity

REMEMBER! You used to be young too.
Now you only chase money, you only worry about your image!
You have grown fat and bald.


We were expecting you to stand by us .We were expecting you to care.
To make us proud of YOU just for once.


You are living fake lives, you have given in, you stoop and are just waiting for the day you die.
You are not using your imagination, you are not falling in love, you are not creating. You only buy and sell.


Where are the parents? Where are the artists? Why are they not coming out to protect us?



PS: Don’t throw any more teargas. WE CAN CRY FOR OURSELVES!

I have seen this plea derided as adolescent angst – perhaps youth workers might resist this easy put-down? Without doubt the situation is complex and contradictory, but whilst the response of Greek youth would not be regarded as a positive activity in many circles, it holds out more hope, however frail, than a million accredited outcomes.

As ever the struggle does continue.

Published in: on December 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,