Friday, 11 November 2011

The radical face of Remembrance ?

Looking back at past posts I notice that at this time of year I always seem to say something about remembrance. Why is this ? For starters for anyone not entirely happy with the world as it is, then there is no better illustration of the fucked-up way our societies are run than war in allits poignancy. And when this poignancy connects with family history and personal experience it is a powerful way of making the big ideas human and digestible.

And that's why it pisses me off so much that remembrance is claimed by the political Establishment. All the pomposity of the cenotaph ceremony  - and the poppy one-up manship of public figures (by the way what is it with those special VIP super-size poppies that seem to get more prevalent each year?).

Remembrance is about ordinary people and it certainly isn't about armies and governments.

I've spoken before about how despite the remoteness of 1918 the whole remembrance thing is still very firmly rooted in the image of the  Armistice of the Western Front: 

There used to be a myth propagated that the armistice of 1918 came about  because eventually right prevailed over the horrible Huns. Now this seems to have been replaced with a idea that the powers that be of the war-weary protagonists had some sort of brief moment of clarity and so agreed to stop the slaughter.

Bollocks. The end of the Great War came about because the German ruling class decided that they would rather make peace with their counterparts amongst the allies than fight on and probably lose a revolution against their own people. They had the salutary lesson of the Russian revolution only a year earlier. And in fact at that time things might have gone very differently  when the French army mutinied en masse and their ruling class also had a wobble - saved only by the US turning up to save the day.

If there is a lesson to take from the Armistice it is not just that war is horrific - it is that just occasionally  ordinary people can take their fate in their own hands.

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