“At this time of year we remember all those who have lost their lives in conflicts around the world both past and present. You can leave a message on a virtual poppy anywhere in the world to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”
Goes the ‘Plant a virtual Poppy’ appeal on the Royal British Legion website.
I can’t say that I like this association between performing the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and ‘our freedom’. It strikes me as awfully Orwellian for what is left unsaid – ‘at the behest of the state despite what the rest of you buggers have to say’.
Before going on to asking what ‘ultimate sacrifices’ had been made in wars, shouldn’t we be asking what oversights had led to the war? Or does the term ‘ultimate’ in ‘ultimate sacrifice’ serve as an implicit admonishment of those who dare to question beyond the unquestionable ‘ultimate’ – thus presenting it in terms of an, ‘you’re either with us or against us’ divide. So all it takes for a cause to be for ‘freedom’ is the death of a soldier who peeked above the trenches at the wrong time?
How much credit can we accord any soldier for not possessing enough knowledge or scepticism to second guess the politicians who dispatch them to battlefields.
It’s called ‘desertion’. Being a ‘traitor’. If you don't thump your chest and go, 'for Queen and Country!' and run headlong into gunfire.
This is the language for soliciting obedience in the face of the gun-sight of another. It is an ad selling heroism to fools. It is an attempt to microcosmicise the entire event till the individual begins to make sense of right and wrong in terms of her/is relationship with his friends and buddies in the trenches. From this we get definitions of ‘hero’ and ‘deserter’ and we lose sight of the possible aims of the state or how we are fighting for the existence of the ultimate form of fascism, the nation-state itself.
And is this not replicated in the homefront? Do we not similarly lose sight of the political and elitist intents around such wars as we get down in virtual trenches in our backyards and pray for the safe return of our daughters and sons?
Do we not, through this, ‘value war by association’, thus compromising our critique of our governments. Do we not come across as ‘traitors’ or ‘deserters’ if we do not accord them support and remembrance despite what we might feel about the intentions of the government?
Does it not become difficult to say, ‘I remember my sister’s and brother’s efforts in the war’, followed by, ‘the whole war was a damn mistake, and people were conned into it’.
I have no doubt that both world wars were for freedom. But I have to wonder after the degree to which we were fighting for the freedom to exist within less than ideal conditions, and with these ‘less than ideal conditions’ actually serving as the first cause of those wars, and those that came thereafter.
Is all progress to be defined in terms of how we’ve managed to make the best out of a bad situation, and thereby making less of ourselves?
So for myself, whilst I will certainly ‘remember’ the war dead way past the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I will not allow their deaths to go to waste by not considering why it might be an utter and abhorrent waste of life. The best honour we can afford the ‘war dead’ or iconic figures is not solely in terms of respecting their sacrifice or insights, but in learning through their oversights that led to their being in a position to be remembered as such.
Let’s not wait for the 11th hour to undertake this task lest the minutes that pass thereafter comes across as no different from that which came before