Allied War Cemetery Germany
Such a symbol, so taken for granted…
You will not see a poppy in my profile nor on my person. The whole circus has lost all meaning when you consider we are STILL at war. It might not be Europe imploding on itself again, and call me paranoid if it doesn’t seem to you like a reunified Germany is going for the [economic] hat-trick but it has become a debacle has become consisting of nothing more than a nation-wide display of ostentatious sentimentality: a popular affectation of imagined grief over soldiers and civilians killed in a pointless war while more people on both sides die in pointless wars that we started. I refuse to involve myself in hypocrisy.
This article by Robert Fisk probably says it perfectly. Remembrance Day is not mourning the passing of servicemen and civilians. It mourns the passing of the Imperialist British Empire, for which we are reaping the consequences even now. A war which ended which the forced peace of the Treaty of Versailles on the 11th November 1918 to end an unwinnable war: a treaty so punitive against one part of the Central powers that it resulted in another world conflict 28 years later.
We may wring our hands at the horror of it all but how many of us, without a special interest, truly comprehend the context of what went on? The class-politics and strict social hierarchies, or Germany’s struggle as a new nation in 1871, for ‘elbow room’ and fear of being surrounded? The British Empire was still fairly strong but the the Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires were struggling to hold on to power at all costs. Serbia wanted independence and the Austro-Hungarian empire had from around 1912 been determined to end the matter. With assistance from Germany and a promise that Germany would prevent Russia from involving themselves (thus keeping Russia’s allies France and (indirectly) Britain out as well), all they needed was an excuse. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (July 1914) by one member of a single terrorist (NOT STATE ENDORSED), provided that excuse. however, Germany betrayed the Austro-Hungarian Empire by declaring war on both France and Russia at the last moment, subjugating the Serbia to a secondary concern.
France also wanted Alsace Lorraine-back from Germany, so previous grievance existed between them. A European arms race and the complex arrangement of treaties and alliances (The Triple Alliance and Entente Cordiale) made the First world war, not inevitable but not avoidable either, at least not in Britain’s case: we should not assume a universal experience. With each party pledging to attack another nation in ‘defence’ of the others, as well as the general attitude toward warfare and glory, WW1 was highly likely given the mood, but they did not have the hindsight of two global wars not to mention other bloody and drawn out conflicts. School history lessons barely scratch the surface, and the nationalist twaddle of the tabloid press at this time of year really does bring to mind the last verse of a poem by John McCrae, ‘In Flander’s Fields’, which is thought to have been inspired by the death of a Canadian 2nd Lieutenant in 1915 (Ypres) when prior much of the war was yet to occur.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Even now, while at war in the Middle East can we not now see that the ‘War to End All Wars’ has not lived up to expectation. The best way to remember the fallen servicemen of a pointless war is not to gather round a stone monument and cover it with paper flowers, muttering prayers and singing hymns (when many don’t even believe in God let alone go to church) and pretend that it makes the slightest difference to what is actually happening. The best way to honour those men (1914-1918) is to not send yet MORE men and women to die in wars, adding to the body-count.
WE HAVE NOT LEARNED A THING…
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares(2) we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest(3) began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots(4)
Of tired, outstripped(5) Five-Nines(6) that dropped behind.
Gas!(7) Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets(8) just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime(9) . . .
Dim, through the misty panes(10) and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering,(11) choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud(12)
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest(13)
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.(15) – Wilfred Owen, 8 October 1917 – March, 1918