Readers may notice that I have popped a RSA poppy on to the banner.
Back in my youth I decided that there were things that were worth fighting for when it became necessary. It is a viewpoint that I have never had to change, and it shows in what I do. If you want a society worth living in, then you need to make sure that it either stays that way, or moves towards it.
I am part of a very long line of my older relatives who’d decided to get involved in everything from the wars NZ got involved in, to the similar involvement in unions, churches, and school boards taht make up the backbone of our civil society. In one way or another many of my younger relatives do so as well.
I was a soldier in the late 1970s being trained by the veterans of Vietnam, and have maintained my interest in our military ever since. I monitor the police and how they operate within our community. Because if there is a real sickness in our body politic, then that is where the real effects will manifest itself first. Periodically they retreat into a fortress mentality. We appear to be in one of those episodes right now.
I spent decades volunteering to help the best politicians I could find. That was because the idiotic ones make stupid decisions that will drive us into unnecessary wars and conflicts both external and internal.
Which is why I could never support John Key. He was the jingoist moron in 2003 who wanted to send NZ troops into active combat in Iraq for a war that had no valid reason. Apparently because he thought a few dead soldiers was worth it for a trade agreement. He appears to have just as little appreciation of the reasons to deploy troops now. But in my view, John Key hasn’t ever been notable for putting himself in harms way for others, or even considering others who aren’t like himself. He isn’t someone who can command respect from me.
If I could find an usable image of the NZ version of the white poppy, I’d pop one up on the left of the banner. While soldiers and even ex-soldiers aren’t known for being pacifists, that is sometimes hard to tell. They are realists who train with weapons a lot and are acutely aware of what they can do. Consequently they are extremely well aware of the costs of war. Wasting their lives for the unthinking egotistical stupidity of politicians, like a George W Bush or a John Key, isn’t high on their list of priorities. Trade agreements for farmers are not something that is worth dying for.
These days, I swipe the time from my busy life to carry on operating this blog. We need as many open and robust discussions as we can on the way that we run our society. So despite having the hassle of the occasional legal threats designed to silence this site, the irritation of maintaining the security on systems open to the internet and the trolls who exploit that, and the whine of the fans in summer in my living room – The Standard keeps running. For eight and half years so far.
In my view the alternative of having a society reliant on media corporates controlling public debate is a far higher cost.
Just at present my personal hero is Harry Leslie Smith, who at well over 90 these days keeps writing in The Guardian. In particular this post from 2014 “This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time”
The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war’s General Sherman once said that “war is hell“, but unfortunately today’s politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.
Still, this year I shall wear the poppy as I have done for many years. I wear it because I am from that last generation who remember a war that encompassed the entire world. I wear the poppy because I can recall when Britain was actually threatened with a real invasion and how its citizens stood at the ready to defend her shores. But most importantly, I wear the poppy to commemorate those of my childhood friends and comrades who did not survive the second world war and those who came home physically and emotionally wounded from horrific battles that no poet or journalist could describe.
However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one’s right to privacy.
Most years I head off to a war memorial to remember my families dead and maimed, and those emotionally scarred Vietnam veterans that I met in the late 1970s. But like Harry, increasingly I’m getting irritated with the trend towards armchair generals using such remembrances as a push to sacrifice by others.
Besides, I look at the people turning up at the memorials and question what they are doing to make a better life for our young ones.
We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life.
I can tell you it didn’t happen that way because I was born nine years after the first world war began. I can attest that life for most people was spent in abject poverty where one laboured under brutal working conditions for little pay and lived in houses not fit to kennel a dog today. We must remember that the war was fought by the working classes who comprised 80% of Britain’s population in 1913.
This is why I find that the government’s intention to spend £50m to dress the slaughter of close to a million British soldiers in the 1914-18 conflict as a fight for freedom and democracy profane. Too many of the dead, from that horrendous war, didn’t know real freedom because they were poor and were never truly represented by their members of parliament.
Personally, I have no intention of allowing my society to return to that level of serfdom. Nor should any of you who read this post. Don’t go to a memorial. Go and find something useful to do.