In our name

Every year on this blog, I’ve marked remembrance Sunday with a post, and this one is no different. I think this day, associated events and actions are crucially important. It is only by remembering the cost, that we can consider how to make a better future.

If only for a few minutes today, please take time out to consider those that gave, and those who may yet give their lives for us to live in peace and relative prosperity. From the fields of Flandria to the jungles of Burma, from the deserts of Iraq to the frozen waters of the South Atlantic, when their time has come, good and noble people have given their all that we may enjoy better days.

Remembrance is not about glory, it’s not about posturing and it’s not about patriotism. The hell that poets like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon experienced and spoke so eloquently about was not about any of these things. It was about the sheer, unrelenting dehumanisation of armed conflict. Again this year I have seen the poppy used as a tool of prejudice and superficial posturing on social media, particularly Facebook. It’s not about wearing a symbol, or pointlessly making it your profile picture, it’s not about exclusion, aggression, hatred and being seen to do the right thing. It’s about respect and memory.

I’m a huge fan of @PrimlyStable, and that’s bang on. Hate the superficial aspects the poppy symbolism is developing.

The young men who gave their all on the battlefields that have ebbed and flowed over the globe over the last century did so to keep us free. In order that we may live without oppression. Their fight was for people to have the freedom to choose.

It saddens me to see the meaning of the poppy and remembrance distorted in this way. We all have our own way to remember, and long may it be so.

I also feel that this remembrance is about not just the dead, the fallen and the human cost; it’s about the gross human folly that is conflict and war. That we still expect young people to give their all after thousands of years of societal evolution is a shame on our civilisation. As Tony Benn once put it ‘…all war can be regarded as a failure of diplomacy’.

We learned of the hell of trench warfare from the pen of poets like Siegfried Sassoon. Image from The Poetry Archive.

I do, of course, wholly support the Poppy Appeal, appeals by the Royal British Legion, and Help For Heroes. I am, however concerned that particularly in the latter case, the generosity of the public is being used by the faceless mandarins in government to relieve the burden on state funds. Those injured and bereaved in defence of the state should be compensated and protected by it. It’s the least we can do. While there’s a place for charity, this shouldn’t be a substitute for care of our veterans – a disproportionate quantity of whom go on to fight the effects long after their service has passed.

It is very sad and a national tragedy that ex-servicemen and women are disproportionately represented in the numbers of the homeless and mentally ill.

It’s important to me that we should remember that it’s the ordinary people who bear the brunt of war; the leaders who declare it are rarely victims. The human cost of armed conflict is massive. We should endeavour, after Remembrance and thanks, to show our huge debt of gratitude by attempting to prevent war occurring.

It is to humanity’s shame that we appear to have no leaders of the calibre required to do so.

Please show your support for those to whom we owe so much by making a donation to the Royal British Legion, who do excellent work.

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1 Response to In our name

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    A first rate sequence of posts on this, including David’s evocation of the war graves. I’ve never really taken to poetry, but thanks to the late Craig Thomas, teacher at Shire Oak School and best selling author, I was introduced to Wilfred Owen. It struck a chord then and still does. Among the many tragedies of that war was that he died just one week before the armistice.

    Apologies if this is a bit too graphic, but:

    There we herded from the blast
    Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
    Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
    And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
    And splashing in the flood, deluging muck —
    The sentry’s body; then his rifle, handles
    Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
    We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
    “O sir, my eyes — I’m blind — I’m blind, I’m blind!”

    From The Sentry by Wilfred Owen.

    Is it any wonder that veterans of the trenches would not talk about it, even 70 years on?

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