Armistice Day

Today at 11:00am as in most towns up and down Britain there was a service at the Memorial Theatre in Frome to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

The service was solemn, dignified and well attended, the front of the theatre festooned in red poppies. A day, perhaps, to give thanks for the relative peace and prosperity which we as citizens of the UK enjoy today. Also, a day to remember the people, mainly young men, who gave their lives to protect our nation.

The service gave voice to the oft expressed wish for peace throughout the world.

But also, remembrance is a politically contested space and the right wing press nationally did not miss the opportunity to engage in a spot of Corbyn bashing. Last year, he was criticised for not bowing correctly. This year it is for his coat and undersized poppy badge.

During parts of the Armistice day service in London, Corbyn was flanked by Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May.

Tony Blair had the Iraq war, Cameron the obliteration of Libya, May is happy to sell billions of pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and is unequivocal about her willingness to press the nuclear button should the need arise.

These leaders are therefore beyond the kind of criticism reserved for an avowed man of peace such as Corbyn.

Someone else who has come in for attack is Aaron Bastani of Novara Media for having the temerity to question the Royal British Legion. In a recent video Bastani drew our attention to the uncomfortable fact of 13,000 homeless veterans in Britain and how this sits alongside the huge annual income generated by RBL (£150 million), which also has assets valued at £300 million.

Bastani’s criticisms are echoed by veteran Joe Glenton in a recent piece in the Independent:

It is testament to the lamentable state of public debate in this country that what should be a sombre and thoughtful annual commemoration, during which we reflect on the glory-less truth of death in war, has become instead a carnival of dumb obedience where even the mildest critique is liable to be crushed under an avalanche of blood-drunk gammons.

It would seem that in this country Remembrance is not so much a thoughtful pause in a violent world poised on the threshold of nuclear annihilation so much as a corralling of the public imagination on the real nature of war, which, if looked at rationally, must be the most stupid and wasteful way to resolve the tensions and conflicts that exist between the peoples of the world.

The image of a small group of children holding aloft giant red poppies whilst wearing T-shirts bearing the phrase “Future Soldier” should really shame us all. But this along with dancing red poppies, poppy cheese and butchers counters decorated with poppies are all part of modern Remembrance.

Surely we can and must do better.

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