Friday, 11 November 2011

No poppy for me

Half the population are going around wearing poppies just now, and the other half seem to have them on their car. It's a fine thing that people want to show respect for the thousands and thousands of young men and women that have gone to their death in war... And it's also fine that we all collectively shut our mouths for a couple of minutes once a year and ponder the goddamn hellish misery that is war.

But I'm afraid I can't join in. I can do the silence alright, but the poppy thing just doesn't feel right. I don't doubt the genuine feeling of those around me wearing one, but it isn't for me.

I was listening to the radio a couple of evenings ago. Item 1: David Cameron and Prince William have appealed to FIFA to let England players wear a poppy on a black armband for tomorrow's friendly against Spain. FIFA have agreed. Item 2: A soldier has been killed in Afghanistan.

Does no one else see the connection? Am I the only person who listens to the radio feeling sick? I'd be feeling sick anyway at the thought of another poor (wo)man dying for no reason, but for this news to follow the previous nonsense.... (And, yes, it FOLLOWED it - the poppy thing was a BIGGER DEAL as far as the BBC were concerned.)

David Cameron wears a poppy, and lectures FIFA on the importance of it. But he's the **** who's sending these young people to their death. He has the power to bring them home and yet he carries on regardless. The whole poppy thing has become, to my mind, a grand charade. Establishment figures witter on at great length, in solemn sobre tones, about the ``great sacrifice" made, and ``ultimate price" paid, by these ``fine men and women". They died ``serving their country", and we are ``proud", and so on and so on.... Ordinary folk stand and listen and take it in, and are taken in.

These people, David Cameron, Prince William, whoever the hell else, are telling lies. There is no glory, no great sacrifice, no noble cause. Young people are dying in dirty ditches in far off places because the great and mighty of this country can't keep their stinking fingers off other people's treasures. These soldiers are not serving their country, they are serving mammon. They have been trained, and are paid, to use extreme violence so that the people who run this country can extend their power.

It was ever thus, and so, sickeningly, I guess it will ever be.

Wilfred Owen said all this much more beautifully and horribly 95 years ago: they lie to us, they whisper sweet nothings in our ears, but it is not sweet and meet to die for one's country...

Dulce et decorum est
Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest 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
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes 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, 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
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.