...................November 2010

THE GREAT 'REMEMBRANCE' CHARADE (see also)

 

 

Probably, I'm just one of a significant 'silent' majority. At least, that's what I like to think. But Remembrance Day, as I see it, represents a ritual assertion of an elite Establishment. In scale of ostentation it exceeds all other national events, and some of its purposes are: an attempt to placate relatives and associates of those killed in ill-founded wars; pacify and keep on-side supporters who might otherwise reflect on the cost and slaughter; and to shake the confidence of anyone tempted or inclined to think for themselves. Above all this, it aspires to justify brutal invasions, massacres... displacing, incarcerating and torturing people... plundering and destroying, etc. and to otherwise gain approval for the military hubris consistently indulged by the US/UK and Israel in their perpetuation of conflict around the world... in the name, astoundingly, of peace!

Of those who by dubious virtue of their status are obliged to ritually attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, are any aware of the hypocrisy they symbolise? Do any of them recognise the duplicity of their position, or have the insight to recognise the true rationale behind these highly-staged public events... or at least wonder if the events actually embody a vast propaganda scam - as is so obvious to me?

And how many, I wonder, among that crowd at the cenotaph would be there if they knew they would not be missed? How many are just following orders or doing what they assume is expected of them? 

For all anyone knows the answer to that last question could be 90%… but whatever it is, there's bound to be some; and surely there's a name for that kind of syndrome/groupthink: ie, when an assemblage of people do something routinely which each thinks the others would be horrified to learn they were insincere about... whereas if one of them had the boldness to confess what a phoney he saw it as, the others would happily - if at first hesitantly - concur. (This anomaly was skilfully demonstrated in a famous Monty-Python sketch which concluded with the unanimous dissolution of the 'Committee For Putting Things On Top Of Other Things').  

But the especially contemptible aspect of the Remembrance fiasco is that tomorrow, as likely as not, they'll pack off another battalion of hapless teenagers all programmed to the hilt. And their programme, their training, their mandate: to kill other teenagers in some impoverished remote country - Afghanistan - never mind (their programming fails to mention) that they'll probably be killed themselves. And all at the clandestine orders, via proxy mercenary politicians, of a corporate/ruling elite who, like me also, have never seen real war. In other words: these cenotaph 'mourners' - except for the truly ignorant - are monumental hypocrites... though, of course, the true elite would never go near; only their stooges (most of whom, doubtless, will have been selected for being already on-side).

Curiously, as if by default, I recognised this angle when a kid myself. Nothing I've learned since has suggested the vaguest plausibility of any alternative scenario. Consequently, I've always felt repugnance for Remembrance Day 'ceremonials', and animosity towards those involved. Somehow, when my dad used to put on his best shoes and wander up to the local market-square to watch these 'Remembrance' toadies, all dressed and polished to the nines, perform their two-minutes-silence routine with all the pomp and humbug that surrounds it, I saw him as though peripheral to events, presumably reflecting on the poor conscripted sods who copped-it in the two world wars - the second in which he took part as a conscript. Both those wars, we now know, were unnecessary and absurd - what war isn't? Everyone openly acknowledges the futility of WW1, the madness, the slaughter and everything associated with it, but for a brief perspective on WW2, which illustrates a poignant aspect that few people in my experience have cared to consider, here's an excerpt from an interview with seasoned US historian, author and political commentator Bill Blum in reply to the question: Do you think the United States has ever done anything good in the world? How about World War Two? Would you have fought in that war?:

'If I had been old enough, and knowing what I know now, I would have been glad to fight against fascism, but I would not have been enthused about fighting for the United States, or for the United States government to be more exact. Our leaders bore a great responsibility for the outbreak of the world war by abandoning the Spanish republic in the civil war. Hitler, Mussolini and the Spanish fascists under Franco all combined to overthrow the republican government, while the United States, Great Britain, France and the rest of the world (except, arguably, the Soviet Union) stood by; worse than standing by, American corporations were aiding the fascist side. At the same time, the US and Britain refused the entreaties of the Soviet Union to enter into some sort of mutual defense pact. The Russians knew that Hitler would eventually invade them, but that was fine with the Western powers. Hitler derived an important lesson from all this. He saw that for the West, the real enemy was not fascism, it was communism and socialism, so he proceeded accordingly. Hitler was in power for nine years before the United States went to war with him -- hardly a principled stand against fascism -- and then it was because Germany declared war on the United States, not the other way around.'

From what I’ve observed, it’s precisely those who are most eager to instigate and spread military aggression in the world, who most revere and promote the pretentious ritualised displays of Remembrance Day and similar excesses, for instance, associated with the ongoing string of funerals for (what mostly turns out to be) mere kids, cannon-fodder, blown-up or shot by other kids intent solely on protecting themselves and their kin from an aggressive, marauding, ruthless rabble of invaders whose principle function is to murder any who resist.

[Note, added Nov-11 from StopWar of quote by Mark Steel ('The Independent') : "The institutions that scream the most that we must respect our fallen soldiers through poppies and Remembrance Day are the same ones that are most keen to have a new bunch of wars to create a new generation of dead soldiers to remember." ]

So those sham displays of lamentation and remorse - which, in all their glamour and orderliness, are about as far from the true horrors of war as it’s possible to be - gain big audiences and numerous supporters on Remembrance Day. Neither hypocrisy nor naïveté, I reflect on these occasions, know any limits.

It's about obedience and conformity; it's about propaganda to follow the herd, not to ask questions but to blindly submit to the will of a malevolent elite - and at the same time betray one's inborn right to the freedom to think for oneself.

Who the hell do these iniquitous controlling 'elite' think they are - and why the hell should those of us who they dominate not take every opportunity to revolt against their efforts to enslave us, mind and body, with their endless propaganda and fiscal restraints by which they control us and limit our freedom?

WHY can't more of us see through this monumental deception? See 'Stop War'....

End of soapbox...

Except to wonder why MPs who voted for invading Iraq shouldn't have to answer for their actions. Members of the Iraqi government had to answer for theirs, just as did members of the German government in Hitler's time - so why not here? Just because our government was not overthrown by outsiders doesn't mean our MPs should be allowed to get away with voting - against the clear wishes of their constituents - for the massacre of more than a million civilians, displacement of several million others and the untold destruction, chaos, instability and suffering that so predictably unfolded.

One might be persuaded to exonerate the few MPs who were either stupendously ignorant or uncommonly stupid, but the majority well knew the consequences of their vote. They valued their political careers above the lives of hundreds of thousands of ordinary decent people in a far off country for whom, obviously, they didn't give a fuck! It may be there's no judicial penalty for these 'crimes', but there should at least be an official recognition of them - as Ed Milliband has already hinted at.... And it's an appalling reflection on the Labour Party that most of their MPs preferred a leader deeply implicated in 'extraordinary-rendition', torture and probably a whole gamut of other violations of the Geneva convention, and war crimes. If it ever did really mean anything in the UK, the word 'democracy' has these days become utterly meaningless - or rather, perhaps, a euphemism for its opposite.

Luckily for me this site gets very few hits, if any, so I probably won't be arrested for exercising my 'freedom-of-speech' in the preceding two paragraphs. We'll see?

(added April 2011: See Pilger's 'Marching for Anzac...'

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WANDERING

Perhaps a reason I like wandering around woods and fields is because as a small kid my parents occasionally took me walking in these places. A few days ago I recalled a memory from when I was two-years old. It’s Remembrance Day 1951, and I'm bumping through woods in a pushchair. As part of the ritual, it seems, my parents would spend Armistice Day afternoon walking through Hinchingbrooke estate. This was on the western outskirts of Huntingdon, not far from where we then lived. The estate comprised an ornate mansion surrounded by lawn and shielded from the main road by a high wall; beyond the mansion was dense woodland (maybe ~100 hectares) and several fields for grazing.

Flanked by tall overhanging trees, a long straight mud-track ran through the wood for what seemed miles. I remember gazing up through a great avenue of tangled leafless branches high above as I bumped along. There were haphazard scatterings of crows too which cawed incessantly - and to me intriguingly. The rutted track was covered in brown and yellow leaves that glinted from dew in occasional patches of sunshine. Eventually, the trail turned and followed the river for what again seemed miles, gorgeous miles of half-fallen trees, decaying logs, mysterious narrow tracks leading off, and numerous other details enchanting to a small kid. A cordon of enormous conker trees stood between the track and river (actually a tributary). Then the sun vanished, I recall, and the wood became dark and dramatic, the foliage stirring eerily and the wind roaring in the treetops. Just before emerging onto the main road, was a sluice to release water from a large ominous-looking pond and marshy area - like a water-monster's lair. (The original horizontal wheel, latterly twisted and rusty, for adjusting the sluice was still in place five years ago.) The wind moaned and whistled in telephone wires along the roadside as we went up the hill towards home, and massive dark billowing clouds moved across the sky. This is one of my earliest memories: the tremendous atmosphere returns like yesterday: leaves dancing and rustling, the wind sighing and howling in turn, the entire sky swirling black and grey… it's the kind-of nostalgia that evokes a deep longing for similar experiences, vivid and strangely ominous but uplifting... and brings to mind some lines from Hesse’s prose-poem ‘Trees’:

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning…. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death…

I always get a bit infected too by the enthusiasm of those mad storm-chasers I see in the occasional extreme-weather TV documentary. Sometimes I wonder why I haven’t joined-up with them…. sheer laziness, I guess.

When I was 15 we acquired a dog. It was really my sister’s – a birthday gift. She picked it from a litter at a farm near Grafham Water. The first day it sat in our back garden shivering (from fear - I surmised, since it was a warm day). For all it knew, we were going to kill and eat it. This perception never left me and because of it (and similar subsequent perceptions over the years) I eventually and permanently gave-up eating meat in 1981.

Betsy

But that dog turned out to have a great personality. Always ready for a walk (what dog isn't?), it created a fabulous pretext for me to go wandering. So almost from the start it was me more than anyone who took it for its longest walks. Miles and miles we’d go into the countryside – back then no-one would have believed the distances I went with that dog. These excursions continued regularly over the next decade or so, and I reckon the dog enjoyed them even more than me. Looking back now, I realise that this ‘apprenticeship in wandering’ was vastly more significant and valuable to me than any that I might be engaged in at work and college.

It’s because of Remembrance Day that all this returns to me now as a sensational journey back to cherished moments long past. Yet - because of what it stands for - I detest it.

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