Monday, 14 November 2011

Call to Remembrance

The long weekend of "remembrance" which has just passed has been the usual uneasy mixture of national pride, nostalgia, sanitisation of the effects of war, and mourning. What I believe should be its principal purpose, an acknowledgement of the horror futility of wars, which occur through the failure of politics, is barely acknowledged.

I applaud the British Legion's attempts to transfer the remembrance events (sure the term "celebration is a misnomer) to the 11th November rather than the nearest Sunday, which is something the French do, and it is a public holiday, perhaps meant to be observed in the original derivation of the word, as a "Holy" day. However, when I "observed " it in my year in Pau in 2005 the mixture was very similar to that in Britain. There were detachments of the French armed forces,, lots of "Garde-à-vous" and "Repos," a band playing bursts of chirpy French military music, and a dignitary in a cap with lots of gold braid whom I first supposed to be an admiral but later realised was the "préfet," who gave out medals on behalf of the President of the Republic.

Public attendance at the event was sparse. A young engineer whom I asked said that for him and his generation it was "just another day's holiday."

So changing to the correct day is not in itself enough. In my view the it is time to change the character of the day from one which effectively celebrates national pride and past military glory to one of repentance and reflection. There should be no marching in step, military music and "the usual shallah-humps and shalla-hoops," no politicians, no singing of nostalgic songs: just lots and lots of reminders, pictorial and otherwise, of the futility of war, the refugees, the loss of life, the mutilated, the widowed and nowadays widowered, the fatherless and motherless. No comforting hymns - just an acknowledgement and bleak reminder of the horrors when politics fails.

1 comment:

  1. I Totally agree with this comment.
    As a Christian pacifist, I could acknowledge the day in the form suggested. As it has become I find it increasingly difficult