This Sunday, the great and the good of British politics will stand together in Horseguards Parade in London, laying wreaths of remembrance at the Cenotaph. Each of the three main party leaders will be there, the next more determined than the last to seem as sombre and as grave and as proud as can be.
A little over ten minute walk away, the Unknown Warrior will continue to decompose in splendour at Westminster Abbey, as he has done for 94 years, in grand marble-inlaid contrast to those other unknown warriors, even now being found and exhumed and brought to rest from a hole in a field.
We don’t know anything about him, so it’s impossible to know what the living man who became the honoured corpse would make of it all. A conscript? A volunteer? One of the Pals Battalions, who’s mowing-down in the mud annihilated an entire generation of working-class men in some towns and neighbourhoods? One of the almost-one-in-three of Oxford students who died, in pain and frightened, violently and prematurely, in one of the four years between 1914 and 1918? 300,000 British and Empire soldiers that we can now say with certainty died in the war were still – optimistically, gloomily – “missing” when he was laid to rest in 1920. Informed speculation tells us that all the candidates to be the Unknown Warrior (for there was a grim selection process) were killed in 1914, but how true this is… it’s as unknown as the identity of the Warrior himself.
It’s difficult to imagine that he sleeps easily with such warmongers paying lip-service to him and his comrades. It’s easy to visualise his bitter disappointment that the war to end all wars never did such a thing. His horror that young British men in the 21st century are still being killed and maimed, but to defend American foreign interests, and to promote a UK which pretends to be the British Empire, is a dead cert.
Cameron, Brown, Blair, Major, Thatcher – you have to go back to James Callaghan in the 1970’s to find a UK PM who hasn’t been involved in a war with another country. Each – including the Falklands – was desired, planned for, embraced, and foisted on the British people as just another one of those “good” wars that Britain does. The truth is the UK has only ever fought two “good” wars, and they were both finished before 1946.
Everything that’s good eventually turns to shit, and out of bad shit grows beautiful flowers. The UK turned its “good” to shit the day it decided that just siding with America no-matter-what, calling yourself the Allies and stuffing World-War-II-in-Colour onto the TV endlessly was enough to satisfy public morality, without checking if the war in question was legal in British law. Out of that shit, the poppies continue to grow and breed; now, they cover the moat of Windsor Castle. Each one is not enough to understand the waste of life, the ruin of limb, the bringer of nightmares so real, they infest the daytime.
Poppies were chosen because they covered Flanders fields. They’re a metaphor. A life, blooming quickly, all red, cut short, spread all over Belgium and France, literally. That symbolism seems to have been forgotten. The fashion now is to have a poppy adorned, as if a soldier’s dead body intertwined with little spiky leaves is somehow less obscene.
You can understand poppies growing in Belgium and France. The kinds of poppies the UK has intentionally planted in Afghanistan and the Middle East – are they as wholesome? Everyone knows what poppies sown in Afghanistan yield.
David Cameron likes poppies. He likes the way he can pretend that they cover a facade across the Broken Britain he rules over. He likes the way nobody can say anything in the least controversial about the UK during poppy season for fear of being shot to pieces by the Daily Mail. He likes the way they let him believe he’s superior to Angela Merkel. Most of all, he likes that they do all that, and they cost him almost nothing.
Can anyone explain why ex-soldiers need charity, if full government support is so full and supportive? Why it’s necessary for the public to pay for the care of those men the government ordered into battle and now treat like they’ve done something wrong? Ex-servicemen are among the most shabbily-treated people in society. The public has unimaginable levels of support for them and will raise any amount of money for them. How can those two facts be squared?
Why is Erskine Hospital a good cause, rather than a sub-department of a government ministry?
Westminster’s mentality can best be summed up in two words. Waterloo teeth. Teeth – actual teeth – which were raked for years from the mouths of those British soldiers who died defeating Napoleon, in Belgium; soldiers who’s memory was defiled by anyone who did not participate and get their false teeth made from the mouths of soldiers slain at Waterloo. Poppies? Much more sustainable.
Or, if you prefer – why pay them what they warrant when we can get them to do what we want at the cost of their lives and then make money selling souvenirs of their sacrifice?
Our Remembrance Poppy is helping the UK government avoid the responsibility of caring for the distress they themselves have created for too many years.
Our 16 and 17 year olds – ha! naïveté! Our 12 and 13 and 14 and 15 year olds – are being targeted for military service by a government which sees national service as a cure for a whole catalogue of their own sins.
We’re being made to take part in a national exercise in Daily Mail hysteria for the brave men of the trenches – all long-dead now – who’s most sincere collective wish was that wars would stop; Westminster politicians will put wreaths on their graves, but they won’t stop committing war, they won’t stop the dying of our soldiers, and they don’t want to provide for those who managed to survive whatever hellhole Westminster ordered them into. Why should they? None of David Cameron’s children will ever be in the front-line.
Years ago, there was a white poppy. It’s near-forgotten now, but it recognised the bravery, the sacrifice, the death, of all those young men, and expressed the same gratitude toward them. It also said “Enough is enough”. You almost never see it now.
We aren’t supposed to expect a war end to all wars anymore. We just routinely fight those wars which, we’re told, prevent ‘real’ wars coming close or blowing our houses down. Don’t ask why we fight them, or why those wars keep getting closer. That’s not important. Don’t ask what happens to our sons. For them, for everyone, there’s charity. As optimistic and as gloomy as “missing”.
What price a “love all UK servicemen, hate all UK wars” Saltire poppy? At the very least, next year, Nigel Farage won’t be standing in Horseguards Parade, wearing one.
– Loxia Scotica