Monday 15 November 2010

Lest We Forget

We seem to be moving towards a Remembrance Season rather than a Remembrance Day. This year it covered a four day period, with Armistice Day itself on Thursday and Remembrance Sunday yesterday. In between my next door town of Morley held its own "Festival of Remembrance" on the Friday evening (at which the Choral Society to which I belong was invited to sing) and the national "Festival" followed on the Saturday evening in the Albert Hall.

In my view spreading out the period reduces its impact and poignancy. The Guardian reported that many parts of the country fell silent at 11am on Thursday the 11th, though nothing much seemed to happen, or rather stop happening, here. Then on Sunday, still the "official" silence, those who had already made their observation could be excused for carrying on as normal. We need to make up our minds on which day the silence is to be and then join forces to encourage its observance.

We also need to think about the name. My dictionary defines a festival as "festal day,celebration, merry-making." There is absolutely nothing to "make merry" about millions of young people sent to be slaughtered and millions of families bombed out of their homes because politicians have failed in their diplomacy. The best alternative I can think of is a an "Observance" though I admit it does not pack much punch. The observance, for want of a better name, should have no martial music, uniforms, medals and marching in step, all designed to sanitise and glorify war, but should involve depictions of refugees feeling their homes, soldiers dying in agony,the mutilated struggling with their futures - to remind us that war is not noble but horrible.

Finally, there seem to be subtle moves to use Remembrance to justify present wars and drum up support for them. Of course it is right that those killed in conflicts since 1945 should be included in our thoughts, that we should mourn their loss and offer sympathy and support to their families, but we need to be careful to separate these feelings from actual support of all the conflicts in which they have been involved.


  1. "Subtle"?

    Nothing like making a point by the outrageously exaggerated use of understatement.

  2. I agree it ought to be confined to a single day; indeed, I would welcome the recent proposal by Damian Collins to make Armistice Day a public holiday, given that we have so few of them compared to neighbouring countries.

    That said, whilst I think there should be a formal observance, I disagree with you on the question of 'merry making'. Many of the soldiers who died, such as those who fought to prevent the occupation of Britain by a brutal, racist and oppressive regime such as the Third Reich (which I think was more about confronting and standing up to evil than diplomacy, as the comparative efforts of Chamberlain and Churchill show) did so in order to safeguard not just the lives, but the liberty of present and future generations. It seems to me that it would behove us to actively celebrate that freedom, and to enjoy the opportunities it affords us?

  3. Happily we can enjoy our liberty every day, as I do, but I think we should put aside one day to remember the horror of it all. Incidentally, the failure in diplomacy which led to the Second World War was at Versailles in 1919, as Keynes pointed out in "The Economic Consequences of the Peace."