Sunday, 9 November 2014

Why I won't wear a poppy

Why will I not wear a poppy? Why am I not comfortable with Rememberance Day?

Not to be disrespectful to people who died in the world wars but because I feel the way it's done does not pay respect in the right way, it's all wrong and for several different reasons.

We have learnt nothing, we have been locked in perpetual warfare ever since.  
Not poppies, but navigating away from imperialist military projects will do a much better job of honouring the memory of the fallen and respecting war veterans.

The red poppy was adopted to commemorate the First World War, chosen because of its common appearance in the barren wastes of the killing fields of France and Belgium. This was the ‘war to end all wars’, conducted at a catastrophic level of human loss and suffering, with millions bereaved, physically or mentally injured.
But instead of starting a period of peace, the war marked the beginning of a century of war and the development of nuclear weapons. This country has been involved directly in wars for the past 13 years, wars which have become increasingly unpopular at home, and which have failed even in the most basic of their declared aims.  On Remembrance Day, the politicians who today are promoting wars - whether it be in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria - will stand solemnly at the Cenotaph. They will wear their red poppies in the week that Britain has been bombing Iraq, and has announced that it is sending troops back to the country it spent ten years helping the United States destroy, killing up to one million Iraqis.

Millions of people have visited the Tower of London to witness the 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat making up ‘The Blood Swept Lands and Sea of Red’ instillation, which only remembers British and Commonwealth soldiers.  Why do the British think like this? What about the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Polish, the Japanese? Were those lives less important? This also seems to be sanitising the memory of a brutal and futile war, which would perhaps be more aptly remembered by filling the moat with barbed wire and bones.

The Government is unveiling commemorative paving stones laid in the birth places of those members of the British Empire forces in World War I who received the Victoria Cross for their bravery. The government’s stated aims are to “provide a lasting legacy of local heroes” and “honour their bravery”. All 627 Victoria Cross recipients will be honoured over the next four years, with the promise that “no hero will be forgotten”.
This represents another remaking of Great War commemoration, it turns the emphasis from grief at a costly tragedy to lionisation of the warrior. It is a move that has more to do with the contemporary politics of militarism than with any genuine attempt to honour the memory of those who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918.

The tragedy of World War I needs remembering - but not in a way that reinforces militarism today. It is fitting to recall Siegfried Sassoon’s verdict on an earlier government’s attempt to memorialise the dead, the Menin Gate in Belgium.

Who will remember, passing through this Gatethe unheroic dead who fled the guns?

The poet threw his Military Cross into the Mersey in 1917 as part of what he described as “an act of wilful defiance of military authority". His sombre verdict on what the fallen may have thought of the Menin Gate’s “peace complacent stone” is worth recalling as the government of today lays paving stones around the country

The UK's biggest arms company, BAE System has in the past sponsored national poppy appeals and donated to fund-raising drives.  This year they will be sponsoring the annual Poppy Ball white tie dinner, and specific offices and arms factories will be hosting their own local events.
Arms companies do not do this because they care about the war dead, they do it because it is good for their business. By agreeing to take money from arms companies these organisations are giving practical support and a veneer of credibility to an industry that profits from the same war and repression that they seek to commemorate.

To sum it all up the Royal British Legion (RBL), the charity that promotes the red poppy, has got Joss Stone - accompanied by Jeff Beck on guitar - singing a version of Eric Bogle's classic anti-war song 'The Green Fields of France' but with its anti-war message removed!  Yes, it's true!
The RBL titles the song 'No Man's Land' and the last verse of the song deriding our perpetual wars has been deemed not relevant. The First World War was to be the "war to end all wars". Instead, as this missing verse highlights, it heralded a century of virtually endless war;

Ah young Willie McBride, I can’t help wonder why, Do those that lie here know why did they die? 
And did they believe when they answered the cause, Did they really believe that this war would end wars?  
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,The killing and dying, were all done in vain. 
For Willie McBride, it all happened again, And again, and again, and again, and again.

1 comment:

Gambo said...

Phew ... have to draw a deep breath after that John. Yes, of course there is hypocrisy. There always has and always will be so don't anticipate that any form of Utopia. Not here, not in the West, not anywhere. I think you would have to extricate yourself from the world, perhaps form or join a commune with like-minded people, to get anywhere near to it. But of course that does nothing to help cure the world's ills. I think the mass publicity over the Great War of late has done much to educate us about the evils of war generally. The poppy has taken on significance as a symbol of sadness and grief for those that had their lives taken from them so horrifically. I don't think it would be a good move at the present time to stop. But a change to a yellow poppy representing peace just may be a positive step. We do need to remember in some way as well as look to the future. As for the hypocrites and those that profit greatly from arms sales ... well, quite, what can one say. Blair and Co (Peace Envoy to the Middle East, ha!) will reap what they have sown. If it wasn't for the emergence of Muslim terrorist groups today I feel the anti-war sentiments in our nation would have gathered strength. Yes, I know we have caused much of this by warmongering ... but where do we go from here?! We can criticise how we remember and our perception of war and it's causes - but what would you do personally if you were in authority? Would you allow the Muslim extremists to run riot with their goal to extinguish the West or what?