The Socialist 16 November 2011 |
Join the Socialist
Poppy mania for bosses...
To cheers from the press, David Cameron and Prince William intervened so the England football team could wear the poppy during their match against Spain.
Channel 4 broadcaster Jon Snow, criticised for not wearing one, said: "There is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there - 'he damned well must wear a poppy!'".
For my generation, the world wars left a big impression. In our street there was a bombsite where we'd play, people still lived in prefab emergency housing, several skeletal houses stood as they'd done since the Blitz.
My grandparents were bombed out. Sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews had died in two world wars. One granddad lied about his age, to volunteer in World War One at 16.
He never talked about the war. After being bullied by "patriotic" older workmates, my other granddad died, leaving my nan to bring up four kids. Dad was a fireman in the Blitz.
So although we'd stand in silence on Armistice Day, there wasn't much respect for establishment warmongers. "Remembrance" recalled suffering not glory and the red poppy honoured those slaughtered for nothing on "Flanders' fields".
When I was young it was commonplace to view WWI as an horrific waste of life. This war was waged by declining empires.
It not only destroyed a generation but was a cause of World War Two and further horrors.
Many of my grandparents' generation were duped into fighting for "king and country". Everywhere most workers' leaders echoed the patriotic call.
Yet older people have told me that there never used to be so much fuss made about the military between the wars as there is now - and I can't recall it post-war.
The huge anti-war protests over the Gulf war, the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq shook the "establishment" to the core and they have been gradually glorifying war ever since, aided by Help for Heroes.
Weeks before 11 November there appears to be an epidemic of red poppies on TV - especially on the BBC.
For the first time in over 40 years, I stood to the national anthem at a match recently - caving in to peer pressure from 11,000 fans and a stadium announcer saying "and now our boys from xx regiment back from Afghanistan".
I do not want to be "ruled over" and I am against the military misadventures of this government. I'm with Harry Patch - one of the last WWI veterans - who mourned his comrades and wore his poppy, saying "war is organised murder."
And the words of WW1 poet, Wilfred Owen, about a man gassed in the trenches, which ends:
"If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori"
(It is sweet and glorious to die for one's country)
I learned that at school but I have a feeling it's not in the national curriculum now.
...but poverty for ex-soldiers
Most ex-soldiers have gained nothing from the recent media poppyfest. 2,500 ex-servicemen are in prison, there are 1,100 single homeless ex-servicemen and 2,500 in statutorily homeless families' accommodation in London alone.
Now army recruiters are touring homeless hostels to recruit - they recently took 22 homeless young people in Leeds on a promotional day out!