“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Let's have no more flag waving.

With the Thatcher funeral out of the way we might have a bit of respite from self-congratulatory, tub thumping, nationalistic, quasi-military "occasions" for a spell. I swear to God, I hope the Queen outlives me. I don't think that I could cope with the funeral.
The next "event" looming on the horizon is next years centenary of the start of the First World War and I have no doubt that it will be milked for all that it is worth. Most people of my generation had a father who served in one capacity or another in WW2 but because my dad was quite old when I was born he spent only a brief spell in the army during the first year of the war and as a result I grew up listening, not to tales of D Day or the Desert Rats, but rather to the horrors of the Somme and Passchendaele. I fear that next years centenary will be an excuse for yet more jingoistic tripe about "ultimate sacrifice for their country" etc. etc. I have no problem with children visiting war graves and learning a little of the dreadful scale of the blood letting. What concerns me is the way that the horror is wrapped in the flag and given the authenticity of patriotism. The battlefields of the First World War were an obscenity, dreadful  killing fields where the ruling elite of Europe settled their differences with the blood of others.
Of course those young boys marched of to war willingly. A lust for adventure, a desire to see something of the world, the camaraderie of the Pal's Battalions, the poverty and drudgery of working life, all this must have combined with a misplaced sense of patriotism to ensure that there was no lack of replacements for the fallen. The Kings, Dukes and Emperors would have been no more than impotent characters from a Gilbert and Sullivan production without the compliance of Europe's workers.
There is much to remember about the First World War and much to learn from it. But none of it has anything to do with flags, the mealy mouthed words of politicians and prelates, muffled drums and the parade of medal bedecked old waxworks from Buckingham Palace. Lest we forget indeed.

1 comment:

Aidan said...

Just when did we start celebrating the start of wars? We celebrate the end of wars but that does not fit the Tory agenda as post WW1 and WW2 there was a huge rise in class-conscious working class activity.