Is It Time To Remove Politics From War Remembrance?
|The Wave sculpture at Shoebury until June 2017.|
This year up until the 25th of June, there is an 'art' display on a barge pier at Shoebury near Southend which is in my stomping grounds. 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 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 doing a tour around the country. Between the two sculptures they use up 10,000 of the original 900,000 from London. Seeing just a fraction of that total created for the Tower of London is upsetting to see and imagine each being a young man plucked from his prime and denied a long and fulfilling life.
Here's the thing though. Whilst I do think that it is our civic duty to remember those who lost their lives serving our country, my problem is that during all our remembrance services devoted to both of the world wars, we only ever recognise the lives laid down by own soldiers. Rarely is anything said about the collective collateral damage during both world wars. No prayer is said specifically for a young girl killed by the Allied bombings of 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?
Ironically a mile or two down the road from Shoebury, there was a tragic German air raid in WWI that left multiple civilians dead all across Southend, but one account in particular that I read stuck in mind as it fills me so much horror. In nearby Southchurch, a mother and daughter were sat at their dining table ready to eat their dinner when a German bomb came crashing through their ceiling and killed them both. The husband apparently being the sole survivor and being there to witness the bodies afterward. I can't even begin to imagine the grief that would leave you in. Of course no memorial or poppies exists for them today, nor for the other thirty people killed around 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 WWI blog post I did a few months back, the propaganda against the Germans, and the deep hatred it whipped up for them was so ridiculously obvious that today it would probably come across as satire. War seems to always rely on the dehumanisation of the nation's enemy - because that is the only way people will fight a war for you, because war is as it always has been, fought by ignorant young men on either side.
During WWI alone eleven million military personnel, and seven million civilians were killed during the first industrial scale mass-murder the world had seen. Eighteen million deaths, and twenty million wounded for no real reason other than for the fact that our national leaders unfortunately often possess sociopathic tendencies.
Whilst I hate to try and detract from the sufferings of British personnel whilst they were serving their countries, 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 political reasons. Our politicians send underpaid and under-equipped British soldiers into morally corrupt wars and 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 on memorials come Remembrance Sunday.
Even worse 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 by 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 of the day. Fortunately, due to the internet the truth is a little more hard to suppress nowadays, and so you would have to be a total idiot to say with some conviction that we are living in a free society.
This is why I argue why we should take out the politics from remembrance. The ceremony exists purely as a post-war nationalist circle-jerk which has continued to be used 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, and 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 even worse. I personally think its time that all those who died in war should be recognised and respected equally.