Did the National Front ‘desecrate’ the Cenotaph?
When I came across the ‘National Front’ wreaths at the side of the cenotaph, I was quite surprised, as I was very much aware that the NF was the predecessor of the British National Party. But I thought, well, it probably meant something else as I didn’t think that the NF would be allowed to place a wreath at the cenotaph as it might be deemed to be an attempt to claim the sacrifice by the ‘glorious dead’ for the ‘white’ racialist cause. As I stood there, others who came by, too, in soft surprised tones, remarked at the 3 NF wreaths, and one of the ladies thought the same as I and said that ‘National Front’ probably meant something else. Not being completely certain, I asked an elderly man, who was also looking askance at the said wreaths what ‘National Front’ meant. He turned to me and said, ‘these are people who do not like those of other ethnic origins to be in Britain, or at least, not in large numbers’. Hmm…another version of Singapore’s Confucian PAP I thought. I’ve often wondered after how a party that can be lauded in Singapore can attract common revulsion here in the UK, and vice versa. Perhaps there is something wrong with the people here. What’s wrong with racialism and racial supremacist agenda right? I mean, history has shown time and time again that we gain far more by living in isolated hovels as opposed to enhancing our perspectival arsenal through egalitarian multiculturalism hasn’t it. Well, that’s what the NF, BNP and the Confucians think anyway.
But I had to ask myself if we can truly justify our taking issue with the NF laying their poppy wreaths at the cenotaph from any truly distinguishable moral position.
We place wreaths ‘in appreciation of’, to symbolise ‘our’ ‘contribution to the effort’ by our identification with various groups, and ‘in remembrance of’, amongst others. In a sense, it is sort of a ‘melting pot’ event where all are united around a centrepiece whilst attributing their own sense to it. Our partaking in this event by simply being there, wearing our poppies, and placing wreaths at the cenotaph, serves to validate our own familial significance within this society. And by way of the order and prominence given our wreaths, or who places the wreaths first and last, whether the first condescend to be around to observe the last doing so, or if we are allowed to place a wreath there at all, as opposed to some grassy knoll somewhere else, serves to weave a perspectival infrastructure around us that is fraught with meaning despite our intentions and perceptions. This serves to simultaneously indicate the value placed on the war dead, and the dead return this to us by serving as an advertisement space upon which a particular perspectival status quo is accorded value. The question we have to ask is, how far left are these events from the perspectives of the right.
For instance, prominent figures such as the Queen being the first to place her wreath and in a central position, in turn reinforces her extraneous and relative value. So the Queen could be said to represent not just ‘the country’, but also ‘class division’, just as the National Front does for ‘racialist division’. Just imagine a republican nation with a newly instituted monarchy, and the Queen or King placing her/is wreath in a position formerly reserved for the Parliament of Soviets or House of Commons and one might appreciate the significance of the Remembrance Day event because we have been taught to forget its contrast to the inverse by an alternative course of history.
These attribute a particular value to the ongoing evolution of the identity of the nation. Hence, in my non-remonstrative observance of the events deemed appropriate on Remembrance Sunday, I am disabled from an outright critique of the National Front lest I come across as hypocritical to myself. Both preach a generic ‘division’ and are distinguished by features, not form. I have to admit that the cenotaph on Remembrance Week, is used, albeit unwittingly, as an ‘advertisement space’ that validates a particular socio-economic–cultural status quo ‘as was, as is, and therefore ought to be’. Can I really deny others the right to redefine this space or add to its features; even if it is as repulsive and cretinous a creation such as the National Front? Wouldn’t the class-system that is abhorrent to egalitarian minded persons be seen as being advertised by the perspectival infrastructure erected around the cenotaph in terms of the order, prominence and ostentation of wreaths placed by various quarters? And doesn’t ‘Our Glorious Dead’ have just a tinge of unrepentant patriotic nationalism about it that does not betray a shred of critical introspection with regards to the huge mistake that these wars might have been, and which might very well argue for its replacement with, ‘our pitiful dead’, ‘victims of ignorance’, ‘victims of class and national fragmentation’, or, my preferred, ‘victims of war’? And isn’t ‘the state’, and the ‘behest of the state’, in opposition to all other states, the final unstated virtue that is espoused on Remembrance Day, with ‘The Glorious Dead’ being enlisted to detract us from the foundations upon which such a cenotaph can emerge?
I recall how Hitler, as a paradigm, was not really a sharp contrast to the perspectives that abound in various ways prior to his emergence as illustrated in bigotry in the colonial era; the division and relationship between the ‘civilised and uncivilised’; pseudo-scientific race theories; the perspectives comprising the protestant work ethic; the slaughter/enslavement/employment of the different, weak and marginalised; the perception of the western elite and population that they were, relatively, the ‘chosen people’; and so on, and wasn’t surprised that this served to conceive a Hitler who was a systematic and coherent articulation of all that came before. So I cannot but wonder how the accepted rituals of Remembrance Sunday serves to weaken the argument against the National Front’s right to place wreaths a poppy’s flick from that of the Queen’s given that both subscribe to division distinguished only by habituation, and not really virtue.