Is It Time To Remove Politics From War Remembrance?
|The Wave sculpture at Shoebury until June 2017.|
So this year up until the 25th of June, there is an 'art' display on a barge pier at Shoebury near Southend where I live. The sculpture, called The Wave was originally part of the Tower of London's display a few years back, which was made up of nearly 900,000 poppies; a poppy made for every British serviceman lost during WWI. The Wave, along with another similar sculpture made by the artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, are currently touring the country. Between these two sculptures, they use up just 10,000 of the original poppies from the Tower of London. Just imagining each of these red flowers as a young man plucked from his prime and denied a long and fulfilling life is upsetting to see.
When I visited the site though, it got me thinking of something. Now whilst I do think that it is our civic duty to remember those who lost their lives serving this country, my problem is that during all of our remembrance services devoted to both of the world wars, we only ever recognise the lives laid down by own soldiers. Rarely is anything ever said about the collective collateral damage during both world wars, no prayer is said specifically for children killed Allied bombing raids over Germany for instance, yet people's hearts wretch over the thought of an eighteen year old British soldier, who was killed in a hail of gunfire. The question is; are not both lives as valuable as each other? And if so, why do we not mark them as equal?
Ironically, just down the road from Shoebury, there was a German air raid in the height of WWI that left multiple civilians dead all across Southend, but one account in particular that I read stuck in my mind as being particularly horrific. In nearby Southchurch (a mere mile or two away from this monument) a mother and daughter were sat at the dinner table ready to eat their supper when a German bomb suddenly came crashing through their ceiling, killed them both. The husband, was apparently the sole survivor, and was present to witness the bodies of his young family afterward. I can't even begin to imagine the grief that would have left him in. But of course, no memorial or poppies exist for those victims today, nor for the other thirty people killed across Southend that day.
The point I'm making here is that in war there really is no 'good side'. Reading through the local newspapers whilst I did the research for a local WWI blog post I did a few months back, you couldn't help but notice the hatred it whipped up against the Germans with such blatant usage of propaganda. Reading it today, it almost comes across as satire. War, as I think we all know, seems to rely on the dehumanisation of your nation's enemy - because realistically its the only way to get naive young men on either side to fight a war for you.
During WWI alone eleven million military personnel, and seven million civilians were killed during the first of two industrial scale mass-murder the world had seen. Eighteen million deaths, and twenty million wounded for no real obvious reason other than sociopathic leaders who lacked skills in diplomacy.
Whilst I hate to try and detract from the sufferings of British personnel whilst they were serving the Empire, I do feel that by this day and age, the respect shown for our Armed Forces by our nation's Government is purely faux and upheld purely for modern political reasons. Our politicians send underpaid and under-equipped currently serving British soldiers into morally corrupt wars, and then ignore the needs of ex-servicemen suffering with homelessness, PTSD or war wounds when they return. But those same politicians stand solemnly to place wreaths come Remembrance Sunday, expecting us to believe their hearts are in it.
Even worse though is the fact that they involve our war dead in modern day politics. "They died for freedom" asserts the politician, as we sit and watch some dystopian nineteen-eighty-four society emerge around us.
The freedom to what? See the country our ancestors died for get ethnically cleansed? To see a society where the rape of white English girls by Muslim paedophiles was suppressed by not only the local Government, but by members of the British Police as well? A society where you could end up in prison for training a pet to do a nazi salute? No, they did not die for freedom; most of them died because they rather naively trusted the Government at the time. Fortunately, due to the internet the truth is a little more hard to suppress these days, and so you would have to be a total idiot to say with some conviction that we are living in a completely free society.
But this is why I argue why we should take out the politics out from remembrance. The ceremonies and poppies exist today purely as a post-war nationalist circle-jerk, its use continued because it remains useful to the state when it wants to pretend to give a monkeys about the British people and its traditions (whilst it simultaneously deconstructs anything British around us.)
I am not detracting away from the suffering experienced by British Armed Forces during both world wars, but I'm merely saying that all life is sacred. The life of German soldier was worth no less than a British one, as were the civilians on either side. I find it very strange that even a century on, we still rate the life of a soldier as being more important than that of a mother and child who sadly have no memorials, and no public recognition. The situation in Germany, for obvious political reasons, is even worse, and I do feel sorry for them that they aren't encouraged more to remember those who they lost. Personally, I think its time that all those who died in war should be recognised and respected equally, without false aspersions to try and defend modern day politics with the bravery of dead twenty-somethings and teenagers.
(Video available to watch on this subject here.)