Saturday, 10 November 2007

Remembrance Sunday





Though not a traditionalist in many ways I always buy a poppy to remember the fallen. I try to impress on my two kids the sacrifices made by a generation of young men. There is a Common near here with ditches and I try to help them imagine what it must have felt like to be in one of them ready to meet probably fatal enemy fire.
When we went to Scarborough recently I took a picture of a First World War Memorial, which you find all over England, often surrounded, like this one, with wreaths and people.
Once I was on a camping holiday and I remember staying up all night to read Sebastian Faulk's 'Birdsong', which is about the experience in the trenches and remember being a bit chastened the next day. Another good response is, of course, 'Blackadder' (a comedy) which is very moving and has the sergeant reflecting how they are going to get out of it before they go over:'We are going to have to be cleverer than a fox that is a Professor of Cunning at Oxford University'.
Of course, all this was probably a complete waste of young lives, 'lions led by donkeys', as they were. Probably parallels can be drawn with the current war in Iraq. That is why I like the rebellious artistic responses to the War, preultimate among these being Dadaism, which poked fun at the kind of blind obedience to the prevailing bourgoise mentality that led to the deaths of the predominantly working class Pals Battalions. As Wilfred Owen put it, the old lie - Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori . I like this moustache drawn on the Mona Lisa. This healthy disrespect for authority fuelled the artistic movements which led to Postmodernism and ultimately to movements like punk. Although young lives are still being sadly wasted in the armed forces, I would argue that it would be very difficult to find sufficient numbers of young men willing to undertake a similar task on such a scale as the one faced in 1914-18 now, in the West, at least.

14 comments:

Bobbie said...

I try to imagine world peace. A life with no war, no maiming, no children crying in the streets, and no mothers at home crying for their babies. It would be a wonderful world, wouldn't it?

Frances said...

I hate war and violence in all its forms. That makes Remembrance Sunday really difficult as there is a tendency to look at the loss and heroism rather than the criminal behaviour of the military thinkers. The loss is dreadful and the continued failure to alter perceptions all round the world about the effectiveness of violence as a tool for change is terrifying.

Bev said...

I agree, Frances. Celebrating Remembrance Sunday is perhaps a contradiction in terms if you are anti-violence as I am too. I have just been watching them all at The Centotaph commemorating the lost, the same powers that be who continue to send young men to war.
However, I think the fallen should be remembered in some way, and I like the symbol of the poppy.

dianeclancy said...

Hi Beverly,

This is a powerful post - thank you! As a kid I read and read anything about WWII that I could find. (novels that is). I was gripped by the effect on people's lives and the way they dealt with things.

I am sure that is part of why I have been a peace activist since I was 19 or so. War makes me very sad ... people get so caught up in the ideas of the war and make such terrible sacrifices ... and I do want to honor the those.

But I have no respect for rich men who got out of service themselves and then send others to war. So many of those who started this Iraq war never saw combat.

SO many people (vets and civilians alike) are still suffering from all these wars.

I wish we could get it together!! I have so much respect for those who are working actively for being in the wars and doing peace there!!

Thank you again for this post.

~ Diane Clancy
www.dianeclancy.com/blog

Bez said...

I hate war and conflict.

I used to attend the memorial with my late dad in Cleethorpes.
WWII had to be fought, its not like Iraq.
My dad always had a tear in his eye, he lost his best friend called Wallace in the War. He was a teenager, but got shot down in a spitfire. My dad was more fortunate and survived working on a minesweeper.
Its not a perfect world but men like Wallace made it a better place to live.
...and I think you are quite right Bev about the majority of young people today.

Bev said...

Thank you Diane, for your very considered comment. I admire anyone who puts their money where their mouth is and actively tries to do something about issues like these by peace activism.

Also thanks for your comment Bez. Your Dad must have had some stories to tell after working on a minesweeper. I suppose the Memorial Hall in Cleethorpes must have been built in commemoration and is still in use, those I notice on a recent visit they have demolished The Winter Gardens!

Camplin said...

Dada revolt!
Peace = everyone thinks the same, therefore no conflict.
War = everyone must think like me, therefore everyone dies
Cooperation = you don't have to think like me, but I would sure like to talk, therefore innovation

Bev said...

Bez, moving to hear about your Dad's friend. Didn't respond before as it seems somehow inappropriate to respond to something like this on a blog comment!

Bev said...

Camplin, I do like a bit of Dada. I'm going to your blog now.

Bez said...

Surely peace can exist with cooperation and not just homogeneity? I still dont think the rise of Hitler could have gone unchallenged either.
Wow Bev, my blog might be the shortest on record but yours is getting very erudite.Think I'll stick to science, I cant keep up with the artistic references.
I was just reflecting on the human cost of war in my comment, fair game for you to say as you will, its your blog!
Sad day when the Winter Gardens was flattened!

Bev said...

Bez, I'm just making light social chit chat with Caplin. He is a visitor after all.

Bev said...

Bez, I would go to your blog too if you put more on the b*****d.

Lisa Sarsfield said...

I love the way you have put the fallen leaves with the poppy. It shows that we do not need to go to extremes to get a message across effectively. Recently a war memorial monument was damaged in our area for the 2nd time in recent weeks. The spokesman said that it was a sad testemant to the breakdown in society. He said that the youths were abusing the freedom the soliders had fought for. He's so right.
There poppy is used because it came from a song about fallen soliders in the poppy fields (I think!) so that with the fallen leaves makes quite a good impact on the viewer. Thanks for sharing!

Bev said...

Lisa, thanks for the background behind the poppy. It is such a poetic symbol, I think.

I hadn't really thought about my poppy as any kind of art. I just put it on our patio table in the back garden because I often take pictures on it because there you get the best light. There were already a few fallen leaves on it, and rain, and I admit I rearranged a few of the leaves. Looking at the pic later I saw a cross shape (made out of the table pattern design)coming out of it. Although I am not a Christian apposite, somehow.