Poppies and ‘Heroes’

6 veterans of Britain’s armed conflicts around the world – Northern Ireland, the Falkland Isles, Afghanistan and Iraq – wrote a letter to the Manchester Guardian on the 5th of November, defending Armistice Day from the onslaught of this year’s Poppy Appeal.  The appeal of the poppy…  A group of squadies block the pavement outside a pu in Highbury, shaking their money-boxes and giving ’em out.  “The true horror and futility of war is forgotten and ignored,” say the veterans.  Forgotten.  This post is about memory.  And military heroism.  But who are our heroes and how should we remember them? 

This year, pop sensations The Saturdays launched the Poppy Appeal from a military barracks in Colchester – surely their craziest gig to date!?!!!?!  And a real PR coup d’etat was claimed by the organisers of this year’s Appeal when the judges on a popular Television programme – The X-Factor – were also compelled to don a poppy. 

You can also furnish your wardrobe and home with jute poppy bags, poppy jewellery, poppy T-shirts, poppy scarves, poppy caps and ties, matching poppy cufflinks and poppy tie-slides, not to mention more permanent lapel badges.  This int ghost style.  I reserve complete malice for the people behind the idea that somehow buying into the remembrance of the World War dead.  Does the image below not depict a horror of sort??

In short, I believe remembrance has become subsumed by a commercial imperative, and thus, a super-stylised event and the brand is becoming more important than the memory of millions.  Millions of dead soldiers.  The mud of No-Mans Land.  A row of young men being mowed down by mechanical machine gun fire…  

What is promoted today is a sterilised vision of remembrance and a knee-jerk, superficial display of supposed loyalty with ‘our boys’ helping to undertake the imperialist conquest of some foreign land.  The veterans again: “There is nothing heroic about being blown up in a vehicle. There is nothing heroic about being shot in an ambush…”

The ghosts side with this view.  And are sad to witness a national and cultural forgetting.  A forgetting that is going on whilst the vicars of England lead their congregations in prayer, whilst the Prime Minister stands, contemplative and sad by the Cenotaph, whilst the shoppers in Westfield London stop and think about death for a minute.  They all say, “We Shall Remember Them.”  Armistice Day today.  Britain fell silent.  I have not bought a poppy. 

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