The things we can’t forget this Remembrance Day

Alexei Sayle on top of a picture of Poppies outside a church
Alexei Sayle

One drink I used to really enjoy was the US whiskey liqueur called “Southern Comfort” but it has become quite difficult to find it in in pubs and bars over the last few years. I think it might be something to do with the logo on the label which is of a man in a white hood holding a burning torch! A more popular US whiskey, available everywhere, is Jack Daniels. The adverts for it on posters in tube stations and so on make great play of where the drink is made, which is a town called Lynchburg in Tennessee. Now towns are often named after what went on there aren’t they? Like “Queensferry” where there was a ferry the queen used, or “Minehead” where there used to be the entrance to a mine. So Lynchburg – a town in the Deep South – you think “hmmm….”

Apologists for the British Empire are proud that we outlawed the evil of slavery in 1840, twenty years before the United States. But then I think to myself :“we bleeding started it in the first place!” To expect praise for stopping doing something you shouldn’t ever have been doing seems a bit much! And what people don’t mention is that slave owners throughout the British Empire were massively compensated to the tune of something like £10 billion in today’s money. That’s a bit like after WW2 us saying sorry and making restitution to the Nazis. You can imagine the TV ads: “Been involved in creating forced labour, torture on an industrial scale and laying waste to an entire continent…then you may be entitled to compensation! Call Genocide Lawyers For You!”

I’m aware that there is a tendency to use WW2 as an example of bad things happening and sometimes that can be lazy writing. But in my case I would consider myself an expert on the subject because I obsessively watch TV programmes concerning that conflict. Programmes such as The World at War, World War Two In Colour, and World War Two With The Muppets. I am often moved to tears by accounts of such military engagements as the Second Battle of El Alamein, where British and Commonwealth forces drove the German Axis troops into headlong flight. Then it struck me that El Alamein is not in either Germany or Britain, it’s in Egypt! Its a sign of the arrogance of European powers that for centuries they’ve been prepared to settle their disputes on a whole other continent! Say what you like about the war between Iraq and Iran – it was at least conducted in Iraq and Iran. It wasn’t fought in Colchester!

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Also for a long time I didn’t share the lefty dislike of Remembrance Day. It seemed to me to be, by and large, with the ceremony at the centontaph and the laying of wreathes and the aging veterans with their medals, a solemn, healing meditation on the cost, pointlessness and suffering of war. But in recent years all that has begun to change. Nowadays, while ex-military people form a substantial part of the homeless and prison populations and military charities squat on huge amounts of money they refuse to spend, Remembrance Day has become all about competitive giant poppy wearing. All about endless military displays at sporting fixtures, promoting a simplistic and brutal celebration of militarism and a wallowing in cheap emotion and sentimentality, plus vacuous round the clock coverage that says nothing.

Conspicuous flaunting of patriotism is meaningless if it’s not accompanied by an awareness and acknowledgment that war is a terrible aberration which causes nothing but suffering. And a realisation that campaigning for a better, fairer world does more for our veterans that any amount of empty jingoism. But actually I think there’s worse to come. After all, Capitalism is endlessly creative and inclined to monetise any event. Just as Halloween – once a simple celebration of the coming of Autumn – is now a massive shopping opportunity, I can see the giant corporations taking over 11 November to see their profits through till the mass indulgence of Christmas. I can imagine adverts in a few years’ time screaming: “Why not get the beers in for Remembrance Day?” “Mussolini costumes for the kids now on sale at Asda!” Or “Dominos have created a Special Armistice Day Pizza of ham, pineapple and shrapnel!”

Featured image via Adam Richardson for The Canary / Facebook – Alexei Sayle

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  • Show Comments
    1. Your viewpoint isn’t jingosim, and you may want to pin a White poppy instead of the Red.
      Its either the Red Poppy for a simple social remembrance of the horrors of war but in the context of the military jingoism one hears now or you haven’t thought about it enough. Having a different opinion about war may mean your a Red?
      I’m the offspring of two generations who were in the great wars, and were appalled by the human leadership which created the slaughters upon innocent soldiers in the first place. And this doesn’t mean a capitulation to the evil darkness for it takes a unusual courage to question what went wrong, learn from our mistakes, and see through the charm offensives that war persuades with one with. An interview up close with the devil isn’t for everyone.
      This is possible wiith the liberties we have gained through the hard sacrifices of war.
      There is no evidence of learning by this social group leadership upon observing what is happening in Iraq, Sryia, to the Kurds or elsewhere, and I think this is trouble brewing.
      I’d say their unimaginative mental hardware , and with fear always present means we are looking at a biology problem.
      Fossils are fascinating to wonder about, and as fossil creation happens so slowly in this case by eons of vacuous sentiment replacing sediment as the means. This is a biology lesson I’m sure so no one need to feel its personnal.
      An excellent documentary about WW 1 created by Isabelle Clark/Daniel Costelle called Apocalypse 1 , a 5 part series using real film footage of WW 1 , and with computer magic it’s in colour. It received many government grants in order to be made , and wasn’t financed by a private coompany like Disney World.
      It has a different attitude that only comes from perceptions realized 60 years later.
      Memories are priceless to learn with. I don’t know how you’d learn without any.
      I like Polish vodka made from potatoes, or the clarity found in Jamieson’s Irish whiskey.

      A accurate representation of WW 1 created by

    2. Like the song says, “Dress me up for battle when all I want is peace. Those of us who pay the price come home with the least.” Harvest for the World. The Isley Bothers.

      Like many women of her age (born 1905) my grandmother lost her father in WWI when she was a young girl, then she lost her husband in WWII when she was a young mother. She lost the two most important men in her life at important times in her life yet died with just six quid in her purse.

      Let those who gain from war fight the war.

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