real remembrance

Poppy Day thoughts after some personal stuff… Post-tour malais kicked in worse than usual, despite being delayed a few days by the excitement of the US election. I guess it was A) a fantastic tour B) cut short in its prime and C) we hung with some of the loveliest people, so I’m really feeling the lack of Hoodrats, sitting at home catching up on boring paperwork. We reunioned yesterday to catch Johny in Cottonmouth Rocks play some gothy bash in Brighton, alongside Mr Jack Cooper, Vile Imbeciles and Restlesslist. Absolutely lush bill. Not a duff moment, despite The Hope’s mediocre set-up. Young Thomas White was there with a big sexy beard and Restlesslist all dressed up as ladies which was almost as disturbing as Vile Imbeciles’ normal stage outfits.

I head for Europe in a fortnight – on the train, thank God – which will be a markedly different kind of adventure, driving Frank from Paris to Vienna, before we get chauffeured around Italy, playing solo and duo shows all the way. I’ve never driven in mainland Europe before, my only experience of left-hand drive is a few nervous trips around Los Angeles. I did make it from the 101 Café, up the 101 to Eagle Rock at night in the pouring rain without killing anybody (or spilling my spiced chai latté shake) but everyone’s hands were very sweaty upon arrival. So I’m not convinced the Gard du Nord pick-up in the centre of Paris at 4pm-ish is the ideal place to start… nor the Swiss Alpine roads in November the ideal place to continue. Hopefully we won’t meet Clarkson, James Bond or some super-rich Euro speedfreak coming the other way on a twisty bit, or it’s ravine time for us all.

Anyway.

This is the week we remember veterans, however I’ve always been profoundly uncomfortable with the dominance of the Royal British Legion‘s red poppy, especially during the years they used “wear your poppy with pride” as an aggressive slogan. Of course, I have absolutely no problem with people who decide for themselves to wear the red poppy but, similarly, I hope nobody has a problem with my decision not to wear one and to wear instead a white poppy, if I can get hold of one. I suspect, if I had a profile high enough to be on any BBC TV programmes this week, of any kind, it would be an interesting pre-air issue. They really seem to force presenters and guests to don the poppy. I’ve written to them to ask about their policy and, if I get a decent response, will let you know what they say.

Two contrasting problems with the red poppy.

First a pro-soldier argument. I think the red poppy signals tacit acceptance of the MOD’s abject failure to ensure the life-long welfare of veterans and their families. The very idea that we need to, even in part, provide for soldiers out of charitable donations is a disgrace, if the state (which is us) is to employ people and send them into battle. It should go without saying that they are looked after for life and their families are similarly supported. Anything less is disgusting – the duty of care is mine through taxation, not charity.

By embracing as an establishment a charity responsibility in that area, we both absolve the government of responsibility and, at the same time, distract attention / donations from other, equally (or even in my opinion more) deserving frontline professions such as firefighters and nurses. 

Secondly, an anti-soldier argument. The real victims of war are civilians. Soldiers decide to take the job – we don’t have national service any more and the army is a well-paid career in comparison to many. And they aren’t employed to die or get injured (armies aren’t armed and trained to lose), if we’re honest about it, they’re hired, trained and armed to kill people, subjugate and control those they don’t kill, and destroy ‘enemy targets’.

Civilians in war zones have no such choice. Particularly in recent years, when our armies have been sent to foreign lands to engage in highly politically-motivated invasions, occupations and military actions which have nothing to do with any direct defence of our own British sovereignty – and were sold to the British people and MPs on a bunch of fat lies – we show an astonishing lack of interest in civilian deaths and casualties by comparison. Half the time, we don’t even count them. They’re the ones I think we should be remembering.

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3 responses to “real remembrance

  1. Good points Chris, but remember that ill-educated young people from poor communities are over-represented amongst the rank-and-file of the Armed Forces. These young people often have little choice, and the prospect of a good career in the army can be very tempting, especially if you’ve been fed a line since you were a bairn about it being a good and virtuous thing to do. Army recruiters also often target poorer communities, fundays, school events etc. but none the less you’ve made some very valid points here.

  2. You’re of course right Roscoe. I hadn’t forgotten though, just didn’t think it had enough bearing on my point to adjust what I was trying to say.

    I would even argue that the enormous establishment weight given to the red poppy is a PART of the very exploitative recruitment process you describe.

  3. Good points Chris. However i have one point. I believe the 1st and 2nd world wars were very different to any wars we have been involved in since then. In fact you can’t even call many of them wars, more like invasions. Many people in the 1st and 2nd wars saw it as their duty to fight and if you objected you could be killed or like many, shunned by the community and seen as a coward. I have massive respect for anyone who fought in those wars especially the 1st world war and if i knew that any funds I was giving from buying a poppy we going to just 1st and 2nd world war veterans I would be more likely to buy one. As for soldiers injured in say the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, well they made a choice to join the forces, no one forced them to. They cannot expect to join the forces and then claim compensation when they get injured like many of them do. One final point, by wearing a poppy i feel it somehow indicates that you are in support of any war/illegal invasions we are involved in.

    I’d be interested to hear the bbc’s response to the poppy wearing policy.

    Have a nice tour when you go, driving a left hand drive helps on those roads. 🙂

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