Selective memory

6 11 2009

The Daily Mail, or Daily Xenophobe, is in another frothing temper. This time it’s over the issue of wearing poppies, or to be more exact, whether you have a poppy embroidered into your shirt or you don’t.  Thankfully some people can see through another attempt at playing the politics of shame by right wingers. Ironically, those on the right never seem to like it when those on the left play the “bleeding hearts” card.

The “Poppy Power” campaign of the Daily Xenophobe could be called “Poppy Fascism” when looked at from a certain point of view. The hectoring vilification, through the creation of a hostile atmosphere, of anyone that prefers calm consideration before acting is precisely the type of society that British soldiers fought against in World War 2. (Incidentally the poppy helps to represent the loss of life in that war too.).

It’s slightly distasteful to think that the vilification of people, far far stronger than today’s example, also took place during the Great War itself. For example, whenever people didn’t automatically leapfrog down the street to join the party in the Belgian mud. The really distasteful bit of it was that it was usually carried out by people that didn’t want to fight, i.e. rich newspaper owners, or weren’t allowed to fight, i.e. women. They simply urged everyone to join the jolly throng while they sat at home. If a soldier happened to be on leave from the front and they chose to wear a civilian suit they could be presented with the ultimate symbol of cowardice, a white feather. Incidentally footballers were also vilified in 1914 for appearing to want to carry on playing football instead of joining their country for the big game.

It’s not really the fact that the Daily Xenophobe is campaigning about people wearing the Poppy that is the problem. People should remember the sacrifices that people of previous generations made for liberty. The problem is the tone of the coverage that is the main problem.

People on the right seem to view the first half of the twentieth century as a period when Britain proved they were great by beating the Hun twice. “WE MUST BE PROUD!!! PROUD TO BE BRITISH!!! PROUD OF THIS SCEPTERED ISLE!!!……” If you don’t view history in this way you’re committing emotional treason.

Let us not forget that during the First World War almost an entire generation of males in Britain were wiped out. This generation was sacrificed by general staffs clinging to outdated tactics, unwilling to adapt to new weaponry and stationed in relative  luxury while their comrades slogged around in the mud. “Lions led by Donkeys” as the cliché says. (Yes, yes, yes, the great victories of 1918 were due the brilliance of those in charge.)

To add insult to the injury the sacrifices of this generation were callously ignored by the ruling classes. The status quo was retained; “Right old Bean, you’ve done your bit and the country is proud. Now shuffle off back to the factory where you belong, Jeeves will see you out!”. This situation remained unchanged until after World War 2; witness the General Strike and the Jarrow March.

It took the loss of life from the two most destructive wars in human history to achieve a degree of social justice in Britain. How can anyone be proud of this? The fact that soldiers had to go through years of unspeakable suffering should make people angry. The Daily Xenophobe’s anger is aimed in the wrong direction, quelle surprise.



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