A recent article by Sean Cregan:
“Mick, Sean’s up at the bloody window!”
My dad took the stairs three at a time and caught me just before I fell. The window was nailed shut with six-inch nails… That was my earliest bid for freedom. I was not yet a year old but somehow I had made it up to that ledge, as my folks nattered to the neighbours downstairs.
Looking from that point to this, my own struggle for freedom has been and still is a major factor in who I am as a person today. Indeed it is the reason why I write this from a prison cell.
Born to Irish parents, growing up on south London’s housing estates was always going tbe a challenge. I loved my Irish roots but to other “real” Irish I was just a “plastic Paddy”. The English hated me for being Irish. I couldn’t win. My feeling of always supporting the underdog, the downtrodden, probably took root at that early age and has never waned. If a human or animal had no voice and was being mistreated, I’d be there to fight for what I believed to be right.
In my late teens the world of punk rock opened up a whole new world for me. I listened to bands that sang with anger and passion about the way humans and animals were treated. The “safe” music in the charts didn’t rock the boat and that’s how the authorities liked it. Punk music had such a profound impact. It made me aware of things I’d been ignorant of. I was inspired to form my own band to add my voice to the call for freedom and justice.
I naturally gravitated toward like-minded people: people who questioned everything they were told; people who did not blindly accept what they were told; people that cared for others outside the immediate circle of family and friends. These were heady days for me and I felt alive and part of something good and exciting.
In time I moved into the squatting “scene” and started to attend demos and actions, from CND marches to animal rights and anti-nazi demonstrations. I met punks, hippies, crusties and junkies! Many colourful people, some from privileged backgrounds and from all over the world. I found lots of common ground as well as uncommon ground. My working-class roots found some of the people a bit rich. Literally!
Most of my new-found friends considered themselves as anarchists/activists. After a while it became clear that many of these folk used that label to look the part but actually do little more than take drugs and do nothing; a part of the problem not the solution. I remember one time at a squat in Tooting we were sat smoking weed and putting the world to rights when the doorbell rang. I swear not one of us would-be revolutionaries could be bothered to answer the door! I never smoked another joint. It made me paranoid anyway. There were other drugs that I liked better; speed and acid, mushrooms and pills. We were having the time of our lives, squatting rent free, going to gigs and travelling the country to actions of every description. It was a bit hedonistic but I was happy.
The feeling of living in those squatted communities was one of belonging. It was as if I’d found my second family, my tribe even. We believed in freedom of expression, mutual respect and activism against the oppressive system. We shared a common hatred of the state; the futile wars fought in our names, the corrupt politicians, the greed of big business and the sad consumer materialistic society that had grown in the wake of the Thatcher era. What really was free? Not much as far as we were concerned unless you were part of the privileged few.
We live in this western “democracy” and believe we are truly free, and compared to some countries it may well seem that we are, but that is a skewed way of looking at things. In our society today we are more controlled, restricted, spied upon and monitored than at any time in our history. The last twenty years have seen more
and more of our rights taken away from us under new laws that the government stealthily introduce, by for instance telling us it’s for our own protection in the case of powers granted to the police in the fight against terrorism. It may
initially be used for one section of society but could have a range of implications for the public as a whole. We have more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in Europe. We are constantly watched and tracked, and with “smart” phones the authorities can pinpoint you to a place in seconds while Oyster cards keepa handy record of where we have been.
Our mainstream media is largely run by a handful of millionaires that feed us whatever party line they support through their papers; a nice cosy arrangement with the politicians who in turn get their media mates to bury news they don’t want us to know about. We are given a set of rules, laws to abide by. They claim to be for the common good but we are constantly shown that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. A truly fair and equal society would indeed be free. Free from injustice and a place where we could all meet and live as equals sharing our collective wealth, but that is just not the case. Something like five per cent of the population own ninety per cent of the land! How did these people get to own land in the first place? By taking it by force manyyears ago. I’ve personally always thought that owning the land is a ridiculous notion but their laws ensure that we have no freedom to roam where we choose.
We are told it’s wrong to steal and yet we are robbed every single day by landlords, banks, big business marking up huge profits, taxed to death by the government - the list is endless. Most working people are lucky to have enough to get them through to the next week and once they’ve paid out the bills there is preciouslittle left. And that’s just the way the state wants the lower classes to be: reliant wage slaves, given just enough but not nearly enough!
We are also bombarded with the lives of the rich and famous. The TV and magazines like OK and Hello sell us glimpses into their luxury lifestyles. The ever-pouting Posh Spice and her gormless jet-set equals Paris Hilton et al
flaunt their unbelievable wealth in our faces while doing absolutely nothing to earn it. The poor lap it all up and long to be them, knowing the likelihood of that ever happening is zero. The uber-rich live in countries where they can
avoid paying their taxes - so it would seem freedom is obtainable at the right price. If you have the money you can buy it!
Violence, we are told, is not permitted in a civilised society. Yet we watch as those in power sell masses of arms to corrupt regimes around the world that end up in the slaughter of innocents. When there is money at stake and oil to be controlled it would seem that people’s freedom is way down the list where the men of Mammon are concerned. How many indigenous people have been crushed, uprooted and in some cases eradicated in the name of oil, timber or whatever commodity it is that they desire?
There is only the freedom that tyrants and despots around the globe allow us to have. Their double standards and hypocrisy are disgusting and how they still manage to pull the wool over the masses’ eyes is a mystery to many.
As the years passed my involvement in direct action increased. I became a hunt saboteur and regularly attended hunts in defence of the animals’ liberty. The rich and infamous took exception to their “sport” being disrupted and violence was never far away. Arrests inevitably followed with the law firmly on the side of the well-to-do hunters.
I lost my freedom after being sent to prison for kicking a police riot shield on a May Day protest demo. The police had held us for over six hours using the new “kettling” tactic for the first time. We had been crushed and bashed with batons all day and my temper broke loose with one kick. I was sentenced to six months. This did little to deter me and only underlined the injustice of law and order. Losing my liberty was the worst feeling ever.
In recent years my political life has been dominated by the fight against the rise of the far right. On a wet weekend in March 2009 myself and fellow anti-fascists tried to stop a concert by the extreme nazi organisation Blood and Honour. Given the chance, these fascists would deny many of us our freedom. Their message is one of intolerance and hatred. As the police seemed indifferent we felt it was our duty to try and stop these vile people preaching their politics of hate.
I was involved in a fight with one of the “master race” and myself and twenty-two others were arrested in dawn raids in a massive operation by the authorities.We were charged with conspiring to commit violent disorder. Six were found guilty and sentenced to twenty-one months.
I try to make some sense of why I am sitting in this cell. It seems that those who are prepared to stand up for what is right are treated as criminals. I don’t know if losing my own freedom in defence of others’ freedom is too high a price, but I will always believe freedom is worth fighting for. How I carry on that fightremains to be seen.