W Stephen Gilbert
We’re entering the poppy season again. Soon we’ll be able to play the game of spotting the parliamentarian, business executive or home-based television presenter, especially in news and current affairs, who isn’t wearing the symbol of the fallen soldier in his lapel or on her blouse.
It’s a demanding game, because almost certainly there won’t be one.
The remembrance poppy is unique in this respect. No newsreader would dare sport an emblem supporting, say, Extinction Rebellion or Pride or breast cancer awareness. These symbols would be thought to compromise the broadcasters’ neutrality. But national broadcasting services are not neutral about national remembrance.
Meanwhile, successive Secretaries of State for Health daily wear enamel broaches declaring their support for the NHS, even as they collaborate in dismantling the very service that they cynically promote, but no other public figure wears one, nor would a television presenter be permitted to do so.
And we know from the BBC’s ham-fisted treatment of Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty that the evil of racism, about which the Corporation considers itself to be politically sound, is not a subject on which its tolerance extends very far. Its staff may oppose racism in a general sense, but not with specificity.
Since the last survivors of service in the Great War died and the respective centenaries have passed, the ubiquity of the crepe-paper symbol may be in a certain decline. Still, though, it has a practical significance.
Politicians have their electorates to impress and it’s a foolhardy MP who doesn’t grab a poppy at the earliest opportunity (some have even been suspected of saving their emblem from year to year in order to be the first sighted in the House).
Since Tony Blair’s premiership, the start of the parliamentary poppy season has slipped back. Blair evidently had to be dissuaded by his advisors from wearing his poppy at the end of August. This was a solecism, of course.
The poppy’s official run is from All Souls’ Day (November 2nd) until Remembrance Day, the 11th (a Monday this year). Proper people who respect tradition know this and keep to it. I’ll bet Her Majesty doesn’t wear an October poppy, nor any of the royal household.
Braver still would be the (as yet unseen) MP who forswears the poppy altogether or – worse yet, though widely misunderstood – counters with a white poppy.
The Women’s Cooperative Guild devised the white poppy in the 1930s to memorialise the non-combatants who died in the First World War and to stand as a symbol of peace.
Red poppyists are apt to blackguard the white poppy as a symbol of cowardice, appeasement, pacificism and every other unspeakable sin attributable to commies, lefties and subversives. Poppycock. It’s academic anyway. Where could you buy one?
You don’t see many poppy-wearers in the street these days because, quite frankly, you don’t see many poppy-sellers in the street. Only if you popped into a branch of the British Legion would you be able to pick one up.
In my 1950s childhood, as October turned to November, there’d be a poppy-seller on every street corner, vying with the penny-for-the-guy kids; but both figures have melted away.
Bonfire Night, Firework Night or Guy Fawkes Night (as November 5th was variously known) has been displaced by Halloween, an American device imperfectly grasped by British children. Those who fought in the Second World War are too old to stand on draughty street corners and their children and grandchildren aren’t so interested in Remembrance.
Thus wearing the poppy has become a phenomenon that you see on television, something public figures do.
The BBC always protests that poppy-wearing is voluntary among newsreaders, weather forecasters and other studio-visiting pundits, but it seems most unlikely that anybody fronting for the Corporation who declined to pin on the symbol would hold onto the job for long.
Some pretext would be found for the change, but it would be for defying what is clearly an unwritten house rule. The BBC regards the poppy as politically neutral, which of course it isn’t.
I have several objections to the poppy.
First, I dislike ostentatious displays of charitable donation. I think a sandwich board that shouts “I gave” is vulgar and self-serving, and that is what the poppy is, even if BBC people or MPs are ‘issued’ with poppies without any actual donation being made. The fact that I don’t wear a poppy doesn’t mean that I don’t make a donation to the British Legion. You don’t need to know whether I do or not. It’s my business.
Second, I don’t see why one has to conform to someone else’s timetable. When I was a student, I bought a poppy in November, put it away and then got it out again and wore it in April. I told those who enquired that if the fallen were worth remembering in autumn, they were just as worth remembering in spring. People got surprisingly cross. They thought I was taking the piss. Perhaps I was, I don’t remember. Mostly, I think I was making a debatable point.
Thirdly, there isn’t just a poppy. There’s a single poppy, a poppy with leaf trim, a poppy with double-leaf trim, a double poppy with double-leaf trim and, doubtless, a poppy corsage. This brings in an element of competition, particularly among MPs, over who appears more generous or supportive or ingratiating or pretentious.
So the poppy is not an affectless gesture, a simple show of respect, as BBC managers would have us believe. It is a surprisingly complex symbol of establishmentarianism. It identifies the wearers as part of a tribe, the tribe that, had it been of age then, would have been proud to join up and fight the Kaiser and the Hun or the Führer and the Nazis, even without all the modifications that hindsight brings.
If it weren’t for the fact that all factions of the Commons sport the poppy, from the unreconstructed militarists and self-defining patriots to those progressives and negotiationists who oppose incursions against other sovereign nations, we could accuse MPs of, in their own quaint expression, ‘playing politics’ with the war dead.
As it is, we are faced with a solid wall of convention, the poppy-wearing class.
It is odd that such a tiny proportion of the general public now identifies with that class by the most direct and simple means, themselves wearing a poppy. Perhaps there are the stirrings here of a genuine anti-establishment movement.
There is a wider and more shaming context for the obedient gesture that public figures eagerly engage every autumn. The fact is that those who willingly (and sometimes compulsorily) go off to engage in combat on behalf on these islands enjoy pitiful thanks for it.
The physically, mentally and psychologically maimed receive support far from commensurate with that quality that is bruited abroad with promiscuous abandon in Remembrance celebrations – their sacrifice.
For 98 years, the Royal British Legion has attempted to fill the gap in support for the war-affected left by successive governments. That the Legion is no longer able to provide sufficient largesse is illustrated by the launch of Help for Heroes twelve years ago. There are numerous other smaller, more targeted organisations that raise funds for veterans.
Political leaders worship at the altar of ‘our boys’ when war is being waged, but every generation systematically neglects its boys once hostilities are over. From the shell-shocked of World War I to the front-line troops disabled by the chemicals and explosives they are exposed to in modern warfare, the casualties are of no interest and are even a nuisance. They seek in vain compensation for the sacrifices they were required to make.
Kipling’s superb poem, Tommy, which created the Joe-Soap-for-a-soldier name of ‘Tommy Atkins’, catches the ambivalence of society to the battery-fodder soldiery, even a century ago. This is its last stanza:
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!
– Epitaphs of the War 1914-’18
Kipling was aghast at the conduct of the First War and found expression of his feelings again and again in poetry. This simple, devastating couplet is the whole of a verse entitled Common Form:
If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
No society has any use for the maimed regular or the demobbed conscript because he reminds it of its stupidity and aggression. The bellicose Mr Blair was no less inattentive to those who returned from war service injured in mind and body than any prime minister before him or since.
Indeed, his government, unlike those of most EU countries and even the US, until very late in the day gave no financial assistance of any kind to its own citizens injured or bereaved by terrorist action abroad. The trumpeted War on Terror was not, it seemed, conducted as a war on behalf of human decency.
This leads us to the thorny issue of charity in its wider applications. Civic-minded people among the ranks of the comfortably-off pride themselves on the time and financial support they give to what are speciously termed ‘good causes’. Members of the entertaining classes (actors, musicians, comedians) promote themselves through their ‘charitable work’ for public honours that their talents would not by themselves be sufficient to earn.
What these ostentatiously civic-minded people are doing is releasing governments from the obligation to help the disadvantaged. If fund-raising drives and telethons can bring in respectable levels of donation, governments can forget about supporting those who may not vote for them and set about lowering taxes for the wealthy.
Does that suggest that the citizenry should give up giving to charity? There will always be those in need, however buoyant the general economy, however progressive the ministers deploying financial support and investment.
But we live in an age when the chasm between the secure and the vulnerable is so wide that charitably-supported food banks are necessary in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world, to prevent starvation among the poor, and when the unprecedented number of rough sleepers contains a high proportion of those who have fought in combat that their governments sent them to face and to whom the sound of the Cenotaph celebrations rings hollow.
Moreover, there have been shaming scandals concerning the exploitative behaviour of charity workers, particularly that of Oxfam operatives in Haiti. Questions have been raised about how far charitable funds reach those for whom they are intended and how much is creamed off by over-remunerated managers and corrupt politicians.
Those celebrities who parade themselves as role models of generosity are too often found to demand payment and other considerations for the services they purport to give freely.
The participation of public figures in charitable drives is part of an exercise in peer pressure. This kind of emphasis has become the primary tool in fund-raising.
On social media now, people solicit for charities as if you have a bounden duty to contribute when sending them birthday wishes: “For my birthday, I’m asking for donations for…”
This is peer pressure, designed to make you look or (at least and perhaps better) feel mean if you keep your hand in your pocket. But one person’s charity isn’t necessarily another person’s, nor is one obliged to be seen to contribute – I might prefer to donate without anyone knowing about it.
Indeed, many of us give on behalf of good causes on a regular basis without even being aware of it. By buying lottery tickets, one supports a range of projects from Wembley Stadium to art-house movies, as well as charities.
Insofar as international charity – now a business worth billions of dollars – has become a substitute for governmental responsibility, it is a treacherous participant in the public discourse.
Next time some twinkling game show host bounds on at the top of the programme with a poppy in his lapel (always provided of course that the edition wasn’t recorded back in February), take a moment to ponder what his motives might be. They may be rather less philanthropic than he would have you believe.
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what does wearing a Red Poppy – mean ?…..sure, I could wear one, it’d perhaps be seen as s symbol of solidarity with those destroyed in War….but to myself, as the wearer, it’d just be a red flower shaped piece of paper…..as thats all I see when others don them – anyway, I prefer to, otherwise I’d feel surrounded by ‘ vampire junkies who see this Death Cult as some form of protective barrier, so’er appeased in allowing the bait and bleed to continue – and just to reinforce the “they did it right”, they can even ball out and drop another few of ‘thems’ in the hope of (not always the case ) keeping it going – anything but Suffer to “Become”, with continual tears and a ceaseless scream, a 365 living, walking Poppy – a this shell, through the spectacle reflects…………… .
In my family town last week they were selling poppies in the covered town centre, Asda and Liddl!
As a youth we were harnessed each year in constructing the poppies and even hanging out in the uncovered shopping centres selling them.
You maybe surprised to hear that I do not were it anymore- there aren’t any first world war survivors left and very few second ones – they were conscripts.
The modern killers ain’t defending, they are attacking and invading. They are robotic and don’t engage with equally powered enemies, they drop bombs and murder from a far of safe distance. The fewer special forces are no better than mercenaries.
Exactly my sentiments. As a leftist Millenial, it’s not only a question of why would I support these cowardly murderers, but why would I want them to be supported? All the pretty, touching, stories about the WWI/WWII boys have almost no current relevance here, my defining political memory is of the invasion of Iraq. If they’re suffering and the government they enabled (they were not fighting for ‘these islands’ and people probably aren’t thankful because we never asked or wanted them to go invade other countries in the first place, it has FA to do with the majority of the British public) won’t help, good. It’s nothing to the suffering they inflicted and they can think themselves fortunate they still won’t be charged with war crimes. I don’t care what they were doing precisely, joining a fascist organisation is inexcusable.
Have you ever wondered why our media always goes into a frenzy of tearful commiseration over “those brave souls” who gave the ultimate sacrifice – while caring not a jot for the ones who hobbled back in pieces? It is because the former contingent are conveniently dead and are therefore capable of being replaced by glamourous pictures of their youthful still-living selves. The latter, on the other hand, are an embarrassment who will dangerously alert everyone to the actual realities of warfare.
I was astonished a few years ago on a country walk, when we came to the edge of this small town in Southern England, and walked through this private car park. I have never seen so many posh new cars and limousines in my life. I assumed it must be some really high tech, very profitable private company…but no. It was The HQ of one of The Biggest Charities in The UK. So I dug deeper, and found much the same, across most of the large charities based in the UK. I said to my wife – look where over 50% of your monthly standing order goes. We both on occasion give to small charities, but my wife does much better than that. When travelling alone, and asked for money, she says no, but can I buy you some food? What would you like?
They say that Oxfam owns enough houses to join Oxford to Cambridge. They certainly own a beautiful Georgian crescent in Summer town where the Oxfam it’s live in secluded splendour when not travelling first class.
A friend of mine does the marathon for a heart charity.
He chose them because only 48% of money collected goes on overheads, less than any other major charity.
Princes Wills and Harry set up a charity for southern Africa AIDS orphans, and raised £2 million.
Only £7,000 was disbursed to the orphans.
The rest went on websites, offices etc.
I’ve just read this article by Peter Hitchens and I think he hits the mark perfectly.
I think Hitchens is full of patriotic shit. He thinks the Falklands war was a genuine just action. It was the first demonstration of modern weaponry against an inferior force. Hitchens probably revels in the unquestioned bravery of professional soldiers attacking machine gun posts manned by conscripts, that was part of it but it never needed to happen. I remember the thoughts of a sailor who was terrified of being hit by a cruise missile….he was and his ship went down. He wondered why they were sent to “the arse of the world” to fight for Thatcher’s honour. Meanwhile, we watched as first generation missiles zig zagged to their targets and all along the “war” could have been halted through diplomacy….they still had diplomats who weren’t spies then.
I agree wholeheartedly with your views on the Falklands War, and – that being so – I would likewise beg to dispute Hitchens’ interpretation of that conflict. But I was prepared to cut him some slack because I agree with the other 95% of the article. I thought it would be unfair to not post his article because I happened not to agree with a relatively small part of it which doesn’t actually have a bearing on the overall point he is trying to convey about hypocrisy, and the West’s history of lying and distorting the factual history of events which have led to military conflict.
Hitchens himself says in the article with regard to Iraq:
“There we saw that it was also true that patriotism, loyalty, idealism, nobility and sacrifice could be abused in a bad cause by liars”.
And quoting from his Twitter account on 30 October 2019:
“The Syrian war was started and sustained by deliberate intervention (and intransigence) from the West and the Gulf. They bear the blame [for the number of deaths in Syria]”.
By his own admission Hitchens is “the most patriotic person I know” . But not blindly to the point that he refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing by ‘the West’. He must be given credit for his intrepid (but unsuccessful) repeated efforts to extract directly from the OPCW their justification for covering up the ballistic report on Douma; repeatedly expressing his disbelief that the UK mainstream media have failed to report on the alleged cover up; and publicly questioning the lack of evidence supporting the official narrative about President Assad’s alleged war crimes. He is one of the few mainstream journalists who has spoken about this on the BBC (Newsnight?) and was, naturally, ridiculed and accused of being an Assad apologist.
Sorry to reply at such length. But what I am trying to say is that the fact he is ‘patriotic’ does not mean that his motives aren’t well intentioned simply because so many others are prepared to go to war over lies and xenophobia in the name of patriotism.
First of all, I do not think the Falklands should still belong to the UK.
However, Galtieri was a brutal dictator who murdered many of his own people. Do you think the ordinary ciizens of the Falklands deserved to be attacked in the way they were?
Galtieri gambled and lost. It was his choice to invade the Falklands, and apart from the Belgrano, he had modern military equipment – Mirage, Super Etendard aircraft and French made Exocet missiles, all of which were state of the art at the time.
Galtieri was not interested in diplomacy, he attacked the Falklands because he saw himself as a latter day Napolean.
The RBL is a propagada arm of the arms companies. They are funded by them. Their role is to promote war. Not remembrance. Veterans for peace. http://vfpuk.org/
What a complete disgrace the media poseur poppy wearer are. WWI was concocted with relentless precision and persistence by the British, by its so-called ‘Secret Elite’, a cabal that went back as far as Cecil Rhodes and run by Alfred Milner. Its membership including Edward VII, Churchill, Lloyd George along with other key members of the ruling class. Its aim was to destroy the number one existential threat to British capital, Germany. All this is well established and described in Docherty and McGregor’s Hidden History, and by Quigley, in his The Anglo-American Establishment.
If this true history of the origins of WWI were ever allowed to leak into general public knowledge or consciousness, there’d be far fewer poppy wearers.
Karl Liebknecht remarked that, ‘Like a cyclone, imperialism spins across the globe; militarism crushes peoples and sucks their blood like a vampire.‘ Not only are the intended victims of imperialist war ruined, but its erstwhile supporters also are — they are politically crushed, and any disloyal ‘blood’ well and truly sucked out by the militarist vampires.
For those who didn’t or won’t support imperialism’s wars, adventures or provocations, the crushing is somewhat more material and physical. Not one man, not one penny for the imperialist war machine!
And then there is the endless relentless sanctimonious sermonising about “the brave souls who gave their lives for us” i.e. the sad disposable fall guys of imperialism. And if you raise any objection, you are condemned in the utmost morally righteous tone. The latter is the giveaway. The more heated the moral froth, the more hypocritical the cover up.
But what saddens me is that whilst it is true that millions died because ‘our leaders lied’, one thing is more sickening than the sanctimonious sermonising about ‘those brave souls who gave their lives for us’ and that is the sanctimoniousness and moral superiority of the left who by scorning the whole process of remembering prefer to sweep the whole sacrifice thing under the carpet.
The whole “sacrifice thing” was for the sake of the leaders that lied i.e. the sacrifice was for them. And the “whole process of remembering” serves the purpose of indoctrinating the masses once again into “sacrificing” themselves for their leaders’ material gains. In short the whole “remembrance” thing is remembrance of a lie which is relentlessly told to fuel further lies.
Well, you’ve clearly got it all worked out so you cab dismiss it can’t you?
It’s the sanctimonious and morally superior rimjob right that sweep the whole truth thing under the carpet.
Too glib an answer to be anything than another form of sweeping the truth under the carpet.
You can watch the ‘truth’ next weekend in glorious technicolour at the Cenotaph proceedings. Prince Philly, Charles, Andrew will be there with their array of quality street styled medals pinned to their chests. The amount of salad dressing on show from these three alone must mean they’ve fought in more wars/battles than GI Joe, Captain America, Rambo and Biggles put together. Sacrifice indeed. Behind them you’ll have the Saxe Coburg Gotha’s political defence shield. Mass mudering warmongers, invaders and occupiers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Saint Theresa et all, bowing their heads in shame/guilt/counting the loopholes on their Gucci shoes/wondering if they’ve left the gas on. At one point the BBC hack will mention how lovely, beautiful and dignified the queen looks all dressed up in black ( like Ozzy Osbourne in drag). As soon as this shameless spectacle is over and all the crocodile tears have dried up, they’ll race off in chauffeur driven limos to try and catch the beginning of the Everton v Spurs match. Glib enough?
Apologies. Everton v Spurs is this Sunday. I have no idea which 22 millionaires will be kicking around a spherical object next Sunday afternoon for no particularly poignant reason…..now that’s glib!
Here’s how all imperialist wars should be ‘remembered’ under a future workers government:
1. Those war criminals still alive, along with their material backers and beneficiaries, will be hauled before tribunals of the war-wounded and maimed, civilian and military, to face charges of using them as cannon fodder for imperial and capitalist gain. Those found guilty will serve their remaining lives performing manual, unskilled but necessary labour which could only be a living hell for such ‘loyal’, imperial parasites.
2. The true origins and motives of each participant in all imperialist wars will be exposed — secret planning of false flag attacks, diplomatic maneuverings, and secret communications, treaties, agreements and alliances — will all be given wide publicity. New war histories will be written and taught based on the new information.
3. Fitting remembrance will be made for the 30 million Soviet military and citizens who died defeating the nazis in WWII.
4. Fitting remembrance will be made for those in China who died fighting multiple imperialist depredations there, from Britain to Japan.
5. Fitting remembrance will be made for those in India who died fighting British imperialism there.
6. Fitting remembrance will be made for all the other victims of genocidal imperialist aggrandisement, from the Middle East to Asia to Africa to Oceania to South America.
7. Fitting and proper care and compensation will be provided for those and their families wounded or killed serving in imperialist adventures .
8. Fitting and adequate compensation will be paid to the overseas victims of imperialist wars.
This isn’t a sermon.
‘Lest we forget’…….selective amnesia when it suits them.
‘Never again’…….have they ever f*cking stopped!?
Yep, the hypocrisy is astounding. I recall that the BBC , during its usual hypocritical coverage of Remembrance Sunday, previously had an interview with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson at which she tearfully mourned the “terrible” loss of life in the World Wars. A few weeks later or before, she’d been on Question Time champing at the bit to sustain the bombing of Syria.
I stopped watching/listening to the BBC news channels and it’s various ‘current affairs’ programmes in 2003. One of the best decisions i’ve made post millennium.
Perhaps a black cross would be more appropriate.
To signify the CRUCIFIXION of so many human beings in the name of nationalism and greed.
Given past experience, you can only have a very jaundiced view of major charities.
There have been instances of fraud and theft with Help For Heroes, though I can’t think of any British Legion scandals.
This is not the case with other major charities.
Save The Children gave their Humanitarian Of The Year Award to none other than our very own Tony Blair. They also ran bogus vaccination campaigns in Pakistan for the CIA, collecting DNA samples to target drone strikes. As a result, local people tended to shoot first and ask questions later whenever they saw genuine health workers. Polio, which was on the verge of being eradicated, made a serious comeback.
The Red Cross raised, or were given, $500 million to provide relief after the Haiti earthquake. All there was to show for this were 12 scruffy prefabs. The money seems to have evaporated and ended up in the Clinton Foundation. It probably paid for Chelsea’s wedding.
Oxfam’s main activity was running sex parties where poor black kids were forced to have sex with animals.
Amnesty International cheerfully peddled all the lies used to justify the destruction of Libya. The hordes of Viagra fuelled black rapists that led to African migrant workers being lynched from lamp posts.
Human Rights Watch was the biggest cheerleader for the bombing and invasion of Syria. Roth lost no opportunity to agitate for another war for his State Department paymasters. There is a revolving door between US officials organising torture and rendition and the leadership of HRW.
Cancer Research always strikes me as extremely dubious. A lot of great people give of their time and energy and raise millions at coffee mornings and barbecues. But every week we hear of someone who can’t get a cancer drug because of a £50,000 cost or whatever for a course of treatment. This is always justified by the drug companies because of high development costs for drugs. So where does all the money go? Why are we paying twice through charity and the NHS simultaneously being ripped off?
Charities seem to be one big racket.
That’s not an excuse for not putting your hand in your pocket. Local charities and things like food banks are often worthwhile and probably avoid a lot of the abuse.
But by and large we are being taken for a ride.
Terry Woebegone used to get a standard £100,000 appearance fee for tugging at people’s heart strings on Children In Need. The Diana Charities were a vehicle for junketing around the world on Concorde by her relatives and hangers on.
So BLiar wanted to extend the poppy season all the way back to August? Interesting. Did he feel it was like a magical talisman to enhance his power? I’m sure a natural sycophant like him would understand the emotional blackmail mechanism perfectly. And there is a magical power in the poppy. That’s where opium comes from.
Charity is opium for the rich: it surely makes them feel good, but it doesn’t stop them from being greedy. And since most charity is tax-refundable, it is not the rich who give charity, but the taxpayer through the hands of the persons who owns the charity.
Proposed treatment: make charity an official crime, and make the rich pay their fair dues through taxation, after which the taxed money is given by the government to communities which are in need for it as defined by an election programme
I might prefer to donate
– Snorted coffee and spluttered their drink all over the place, google and facebook executives (among others).
“numerous .. organisations that raise funds for veterans”
Not only to raise funds for murderers, they also measure public support for wars [of aggression] in order to tweak propaganda efforts that stimulate public scoundrelism (also known as patriotism).
The Lark Ascending was written by Vaughan Williams in 1914. The piece was inspired by George Meredith’s poem of the same name about the skylark. Vaughan Williams composed parts of The Lark Ascending whilst watching troop ships cross the English Channel at the outbreak of the First World War, in which Williams served as an ambulance driver. The entire piece is about 15 minutes in length. Here’s a clip from the middle part of it…
Another tonic for the troops:
“I’d like to explain why you fine young men
Had to be blown apart to defend this mud hole”
Another Vaughan Williams piece related to WW1 is his 3rd symphony which he dubbed “The Pastoral Symphony” – although it’s nothing like Beethoven’s 6th. It was inspired by hearing a wartime bugler play and it sounds like a landscape of ghosts. It isn’t one of his most popular works but it’s my own favourite.
Pedantic point: The VW work wasn’t “THE Pastoral symphony” but “A Pastoral Symphony”. VW obviously wanted to avoid Beethoven!
Once you realise it is a custom that is approved by the Establishment, you will see clearly the propagandistic essence of wearing a poppy!
A remarkably well balanced appraisal of the ‘Establisment Poppy’ by Stephen. Promulgating the good old Noble Lies that cause too many to rally around the flag. In defence of an Empire that treats them as bond slaves and attempts to bleed them dry by tax farming, usury, and rentier econometrics. Which make us ‘Great’: some of us. Myths to die for? The old lies are the best: “Dulce est decorum est …”
Kipling was probably the least representative of the War Poets: having only left Bateman’s in Sussex for London to write war propaganda for the government. Until his son died. That made it more real for him. Though he never seemed to blame himself. There is no sense of self-doubt in the famous couplet quoted. He offloaded his guilt (John was unfit to fight: Kipling got him a commission anyway) on the Establishment …everyone else in power pre-war. He himself did not lie. He created the Noble Lie. What else would expect from a war propagandist; creator of mythology for the glorification of Empire; white supremacist; racist; staunch imperialist …who wrote “The White Man’s Burden” as a homily to US colonialism?
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done
Sassoon was maybe not that much better: but at least he was there. ‘Mad Jack’ they called him. He captured the emotion and release of Armistice 1918 from live first person experience. And immortalised it …”the singing will never be done”. Not for another 21 years.
It is hardly an original question: but what if we stopped believing to Noble Lies – and did not show up to secure the poppies of Helmund for the CIA? Or the Iraqi oilfields? Or the oilfields of Dier-ez-Zor? We’ d have to commit to an alternative to oil for a start. Then Venezuela can rest easy: knowing that our lifestyles do not require the plunder of the Orinoco Belt just to keep the trucks running. So that we can have global value chains that supply 80% of goods to us a support 1 in 5 jobs worldwide [WEF]? We’d have to commit to localism. And alternatives to diesel transport and logistic systems: which would prove problematic. So we would have to commit to voluntary simplicity. And degrowth: to relieve the relentless pressure on the Earth System to supply mass biophysical flows. So we can have ‘sustainable growth’ Noble Lies. Which would save the Amazon from becoming wood pellets and soya bean plantations for our ‘net zero carbon’ clean air Noble Lie.
By consuming roughly two thirds less; sourcing what can be sourced on an impoverished planet as locally as possible; slashing our hydrocarbon anchored energy consumption; being as economically circular as possible (rethink; refuse; reduce; reuse; recycle; replace) within thermodynamic limits; minimising waste and pollution creation (again, thermodynamically constrained); creating space for biodiversity; and generally doing a lot more with a lot less – though dematerialisation or ‘decoupling’ is impossible – so we are looking at a neo-agrarian agroecological society; and humanely cutting our population (Malthusian! Malthusian! …always a tricky one to mention); then a renewable energy sustainable energy society might make sense. Not least because it ends the need for internecine resource wars; hybrid wars; corporate revolutionary pseudo-Jihad proxy wars; state terrorism; Hobbesian *bellum omnium contra omnes* war of all upon all wars; etc.
We in the global resource bougeoisie drive the wars – and fight them too. Granted: the spoils are shared asymmetrically and exponentially unequally. But we agreed to that too: until recently when we turned to ‘progress populism’ (whoever can create the most plausible imaginary route to impossible growth gets the vote – ecology be damned). That is why we have Poppies. It is part of the belief set we maintain to keep this from ourselves. It is part of the lies we tell.
To expose this socially engineered fabrication: we must degrow, depopulate (gently, gently); and divest from all the constructed Noble Lies …including eternal expansionism. It is the false expectation of 20% of the high consuming; high polluting; high emitting resource bourgeoisie – that’s us, all of us – that drive the wars. So we invent the myths of Empire – the Noble Lies of ‘them’ and ‘us’ – to deceive no one but ourselves. If we want to end all wars: we have to disbelieve.
“If any question why we lied,
Tell them it’s because we lied”
…only to deceive ourselves.
Niiiiiice one, BigB: delusions of grandeur, bordering on insanity, studying the reality of ‘infinite growth’ on finite resources.
I hear the CIA are gonna’ start a new trend of wearing an opium poppy: –
after marketing commercialisation.
The usual M.O. – Crowd Cloud Seeding 🙂 ending in tears.
Everything serves double duty. That is it will serve the meaning for you that you hold in your heart.
Others make their own choices according to their current sense of themselves and their reality.
I watched a documentary on Putin this year in which I was alert for the messages he gave out – ie for propaganda or deceit. Insofar I did – it was towards upholding a national identity that was willing to focus on strengths rater than focus in old hatreds and divisions.
The practical reality is of maintaining a workable sense of self and society is an ongoing balance of interests. There are backgrounds to world wars that are still ongoing and are morally toxic to even consider.
Virtue signalling is of course acting as if one had it, but virtues are qualities of being that shine and share in resonant recognition that holds social or cultural consciousness – whereas the masking in forms of virtue feeds a cynicism that – on recognising the hypocrite – hates and attacks the truth the mask was passing off as.
I look outside the narrative mind – indeed to look from a new place upon it.
Great destruction is catastrophic to our sense of self-continuity – whether man-made or assigned by guilt as ‘humanly deserved’ or simply the shock of no longer sharing life together or even having the same life – because everything has changed.
While grieving is grievous, the original sense of mourning is a releasing into Life – a greater Life than my terms, conditions or expectations and demands. There is an honouring of the dead in Life that aligns us in love and love is our primary connection and communion within ourselves and among ourselves.
Grievance that refuses Life is a kind of blind hatred that ‘knows not what it does’. This seeks vengeance or vindication in its own terms and worships the pain of lost love and power as the driving force for defence set against reliving or re-opening to Life perceived as treacherous – and therefore deserving its own ‘coin’ in return.
Sustainability for self-illusion must hide or pass off in the forms of social acceptance and reinforcement. And so wherever a light shines, the forms of its expression become attractive to those who seek to gain by association or indeed mitigate a fearful sense of isolation and self-conflict for which they may have no reflection or articulation – and so suffer ‘mental illness’ in secret within a society that is set IN the mask and AWAY from its own conflicted purpose and desire.
So yes – there is a denial of Light that compels sacrifice to maintain the conditions of darkness – or the lies that must be asserted and enforced to hide the already lies on which we stand as if solid ground. And yes it operates a hateful agenda of using our minds against ourselves – and each other. But do we GIVE it the power to deny our right to a natural Communion within our self as with our lives and everyone who lives in us?
Seeking moral high ground is the first sign of a lack of awareness of a deeper integrity – that we do not make or manufacture – yet shines forth under the conditions of aligning in transparency to it – to a love that moves us though we know not how.
Our narrative continuity is an invested self-identity played out in the flux of always shifting appearances – but if we choose to take it FROM our past, we shall repeat its themes – via every kind of attempt NOT to.
The nature of a naturally felt Communion within Life is of Presence – always arising anew.
Apocalyptic revelations of ‘what lies beneath’ echo back to great catastrophes that shaped or structured our thought and development of consciousness. ‘Gods’ or Power set over Life being associated with Terror and Destruction. Terraforming of the earth was WITHIN humanly recorded memory – but set in a frame that is incomprehensible to the Human developments of such consciousness AFTER the stage was set to a stable Cosmos in which a Foreground Power became background to our psycho-physical expression of its emulations and appeasements in human thought and behaviour.
We now live AS IF our current sense of World is the same as what has been for millions of years. But we MAKE our prequel as the frame of support of a present sense of definition and control – and if you intuit Orwell here you are not altogether wrong.
The mindset of control is rooted in denial of its own chaos, and is stamped upon the presence as a mask that reiterates its theme under the attempt to control, defend, atone, or amend.
Yet I marvel that “Behold I make all things new!” – as applied to terraforming events that literally made raised up and moved or levelled mountains is also true at the deepest quality of awareness of Existence.
While we may think with Heraclitus that we are never in the same river of the same man – to feel and know the newness or nowness of each moment as it own is a quality of resonant recognition – which even a moment or a touch of – can completely shift our experience of our day.
Yes – I am aware of much ‘Hidden History’ of deceits that pains the heart to contemplate – and yet I also see that we each and all live our choices within the frame of our living, and I cannot make yours or another’s. But unless we step outside the dictate of the frame, we shall not have perspective or freedom to transform it.
Manipulation seeks to engineer our thought and reaction to serve hidden agenda – that must sacrifice transparency and accountability to an overriding dictate – however presented or structured.
Listening in the Heart is a willingness to pause of the mind of its own spin and open a true connection.
The ‘territory’ around the awareness of Life whole may be every kind of fear.
Running off as if a separate ‘whole’ is a false inheritance.
But despite the Wasteland of war in pain of loss, in debt and death, the poppies bloom.
Consider the lilies of the Field…
Won’t wear a poppy now. Apart from WW2 our so called “wars” today amount to nothing less than blatant criminal activity on behalf of those seek enrichment from it. Truly sickening.
Apologies. that should be “seeking enrichment”
My grandfather was an ambulance driver in WW1. He had nightmares about what he’s witnessed for the rest of his life. Growing up, I always bought a poppy as the proceeds were going to men who, though no fault of their own, were enlisted to fight in world wars. All those men are now long gone and not many are left from WW2 either.
I seriously object to ‘help our heroes’ and the various wars, openly and surreptitiously, British military have engaged in over the past 5o years or so. To me, the poppy now symbolises British imperialism. It is remarkable how brave footballers from Ireland and Serbia who have refused to wear poppies on their shirts have been vilified in the media. It has all gone far too far.
Couldn’t agree more
If the Poppy, in its modern day evolution, stood for remembering the horrors of war and hence never again – it would be acceptable to me.
If that was its true meaning today then most if not all politicians and media should be banned from displaying it.
In Canada the government had the audacity to re-name sections of the public highway ” highway of hero’s” – because they saw it fit to parade fallen men and women ,sent to unjust wars in the pretense of defending the freedom of its people – instead of holding these political imbeciles accountable as criminals of war.
Never mind the fact that the government then went on to ignore the ones wounded in all this absurdity.
I now live in a very solidly Tory town. Last year, the council made a huge poppy slogan on the walls of the town hall to the effect ‘they died facing the foe’. I felt like editing it to read ‘they died facing people just like them. The foe was behind them in Westminster and the City of London’.
Poppy wearing and guilt tripping.
Beware of being coerced into something, or face shaming.
If something feels right, then generally speaking it is right – holding doors open, helping the elderly or infirm across a road, saying good morning.
Poppy wearing to me, just doen’t feel right – because of the almost endless wars which we have been fighting, the millions of people who have been slaughtered.
What caused the First World War?
Well, it wasn’t the assasination of one man – Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, it was far more complicated, yet simple, than that.
It was caused by the power struggle between the most dysfunctional, interconnected families in history – the royal families all around Europe.
It was caused by the dramatic increase in military technology, particularly the navies and the construction of large numbers of “Dreadnought” type ships.
The militarisation of large empirical countries – Russia, France, Germany, Britain.
The assasination was just a tiny spark, which may have helped start the inevitable.
Had the First World War been – “The war to end all wars”, then maybe I would wear a poppy today, but it clearly wasn’t, because only six months after 11th November 1918, Winston Churchill was using chemical weapons against the Bolsheviks in Russia.
No, you can keep all your poppies, they are just empty gestures.
Would you like one of the pack of white poppies I had delivered this week?
This is a discussion I’ve had many times with friends etc and the author covers the main points and one or two others.
The thing which I’ve noticed or perhaps woken up to is the glorification of war, the veteran parades, 24 hour TV coverage of these. And much of the poppy wearing is about WW1 – a war 100 years ago. And a war which was pointless in terms of getting involved and military tactics causing massive losses. A better marking of this pointless war is not wearing poppies but learning from the stupidity to prevent modern day wars of aggression we are fighting and the blowback when Russia is pushed too far.
I’ve noticed this with the minutes silence too. When at work my employer was holding them all the time. Once there was a shooting in the US we held silence for. This at the same time scores of Lebanese civilians were killed in a bomb attack in Beirut which didn’t even get a mention on the news.
I dont mind traditions etc and marking more recent events including WW11 but poppy wearing is all a farce. Obviously difficult to not come across as disrespectful but once you really think about this, it is the poppy wearers who are the ones not thinking, not learning and not showing respect to all.
The poppy phenomenon is all the more curious in that WW1 has now become an object of critical concern as with the Balckadder Goes Forth series. You can have cute comedies about ww2 but not one that went so far as to question the entire foundation of the war. But I have noticed that, with the centenary of WW1 there seems to have been an enormous effort to, so to speak, revise the revision – as with Max Hastings and Michael Gove.
“Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray”
Penny Lane, Lennon and McCartny.
The poppy has been loaded with meanings beyond its origional one of remembering the dead with a reference to the poppies of Flanders (they grow where the ground has been churned by artillary fire).
This in response to massive national and individual trauma.
The military only wore it because they too were remebering, so a seperate “peace poppy” is redundant since at least in its origional conception is was not militaristic.
Of late it has become politicised in the way everything is now by teams of PR people etc., who seek to imply that the dead must be honoured by going to war, a sentiment which many of the dead would not agree with.
“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13)
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.(15)
Thought to have been written between 8 October 1917 and March, 1918”
The BBC left out the words “The old lie” when quoting this poem at the last rememberance day.
You are right about charity.
“so a separate “peace poppy” is redundant since at least in its original conception is was not militaristic.”
But what matters is that is NOW seen as glorifying armed forces personnel, each one of whom is called a hero, as in the government supported charity “Help for Heroes”.
This has long been a bugbear for me. The lapel badges are very reminiscent of the one’s Soviet officials used to wear and as soon as the Soviet Union ended they made the custom their own. I recall a Tory MP’s derision for the practice when Soviets did it, they couldn’t wait to appropriate it for themselves.
This article eventually gets to the nub of the issue: social justice, which can only be delivered with certainty by government, not by sporadic, variable and uncertain private charity. Which is not to decry the value of generosity as a human virtue.
Someone once said that in a truly just society, charities would not be needed.
True, which is why I do not give to British charities, normally giving to Palestinian based charities. It is so ironic that the wars we have created and fought in recent years have been in support of the Palestinian oppressor.
Oh no ! don’t mention them, you are antisemitic, you mustn’t mention Israel.
I shall wear my Palestine lapel badge tomorrow at the pub watching rugby, together with a white poppy.