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Remember…what exactly?

Today we quite rightly remember the Great War, but two developments this year I find quite disturbing. Everyone on the radio this year seems to feel obliged to say something like “and of course we remember today the thousands of men and women serving now in Afghanistan and Iraq…” and this is usually supplemented by something to do with how, and I quote the bishop of the armed forces, “they are serving for the same reasons, to protect our rights and freedoms…”

I thought that what we remembered on this day was the complete waste of life that the Great War was; the culmination of years of European strutting and political backside sniffing, empire building, and technology idolatry. What we remember is that thousands of young men looking for glory or an excursion from the valley were sent to meaningless deaths.

If this is the case, then we can look at today’s similarly meaningless platitudes in several ways.

1) The bishop is correct, they did go for the same reasons, but these reasons were wasteful of human life, not to ‘protect us’.

2) The bishop is correct; we should have looked back on the Great War on behalf of the present day army, but not when they are already deployed and it happens to be 11/11. We should have looked back on the Great War and not sent these people in the first place

3) The bishop is correct; there is a connection between these deployments, but not because they are fighting for freedom, but because these wars found their genesis in the disgusting behaviour of the ‘great powers’ as they scavenged the corpse of the Ottoman Empire and took a ruler to the rest of the world.

All this comes back to the point that these are meaningless platitudes. We annually wheel out all three of our WW1 veterans without thinking ‘Oh look, these young men could even have been alive today. That’s how much life they were robbed of’. We ponder war without really thinking anything at all. The paradox is that we remember the dead {not glorious; just dead} who serve us even now as a warning, with an empty state ceremony, empty because they want to shirk responsibility for the fact they still do the same. We as citizens all admire and treasure our veterans and mourn their loss, we really do. It is the unreformed State that keeps reminding us to ‘remember’. This year I think they are the ones who should be told to remember. The guns did not ‘fall silent’, they just waited for the next time. The dead did not ‘fall’, they were blown to pieces. They didn’t fight for queen and country or the rolling hills or any other cliche; they fought for their lives and the lives of their friends once the adventure turned to nightmare.  

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