Farewell to Shirley Williams

“No man is an island,

Entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the continent, 

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less,

As well as if a promontory were:

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.”

John Donne’s poem (above) is a reminder, not only of mortality but of how to behave when faced with a stranger’s death, whether that person was known to you or not. Donne is concerned mostly with reaction to a stranger’s demise and in the past few days (this is Wednesday 14th April 2021 CE), two strangers have been featured in the news. both were from the UK: one was important due to membership of an influential family. and the other actively sought to make the world a better place for the inhabitants.

One had a massive coverage in the media; the other less so.

I refer to Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh and to Shirley Williams.

(As an egalitarian, I would prefer to not use non-earned titles, but to use the plain name is to perhaps misdirect. Also, the main reason for the over the top media interest is because of the titles.)

I all too often forget that “[a]ny [person]’s death diminishes me, [b]ecause I am involved in” humanity. Partially, because, announced death’s are of people who made a negative contribution to the commonwealth of humanity. Prince Phillip, despite many people who claim otherwise, despite the recorded evidence, was one such with his casual, apparently deliberate and calculated, racism and misogyny, among other bad traits. Whilst I can feel sympathy for his relatives; I can only feel indifference towards his death.

But enough of the Duke.

Shirley Williams was a political thinker, making an honest attempt to improve the lot of humanity. Born into relatively high privilege, she was an ally of the non-privileged. Once, as a member of the UK government, she travelled to Soviet-era Moscow on an official visit. She took her seat in second class and on arrival left the plane and was a bit surprised to not be greeted by any officials of the USSR. They were waiting at the VIP gate as they would have travelled that way. Another time, whilst also a government minister, she was removed from a picket line by police. She had been merely protesting with her Trade Union.

I have nothing further to add at this time, but would urge anyone to read one of her many obituaries.

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