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Lest We Remember

Posted on: Saturday, 10 November 2012

War Memorial, Brussels, taken on a recent Grand Walking Tour with les parentes (mine).

T'other day I came across another gem on Facebook (yes, another, I know. I've debated taking a Facebook holiday - perhaps a permanent one - but it is serving a genuine purpose now that I live in another country, so I'm resisting. For now.) 

It was a picture of a war memorial, with 'IF THIS OFFENDS YOU, PACK YOU'RE (sic) BAGS AND F*** OFF' written across it in bold typeface. 

Oh. Now that is lovely, thought I. 

I actually don't have the strength to go into the whys and wherefores of the moronic thought processes - or lack thereof - that drives people - people with jobs! With bosses that they're friends with on faceyb! - to post such complete and utter rubbish on their profiles. Suffice to say I'm going to roll my eyes and move on. 

Bedders is convinced that I'm such a left-winger that I'm opposed to Remembrance Day and see it as a load of right-wing nonsense. Not at all. 

Well, not completely. I did start to take a a slightly cynical view of the Army, mind, at University when their careers talk consisted of plying students with cheap wine and talking about how lucky officer trainees would travel the world and learn how to snowboard YAH-SNORT-YAH!


I just think we need to remember the right things on the 11th November. 

This quotation from Alan Bennett's The History Boys is one of my favourites:

"We don’t like to admit the war was even partly our fault cos so many of our people died. And all the mourning’s veiled the truth. It’s not “lest we forget”, it’s “lest we remember”. That’s what all this is about – the memorials, the Cenotaph, the two minutes’ silence. Because there is no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it."

Solemnity and dignified remembrance has its place, but is also a very effective way of deflecting attention from the real issues pushing for war, particularly recent and ongoing conflict - namely greed and other sordid political motivations. W H Auden summed it up pretty succinctly when he wrote of "dictators" and the "elderly rubbish they talk/to an apathetic grave". 

So let's remember it all tomorrow. The bravery of those who have died fighting, in their mind, for a noble cause. But also the innocent, the occupied and the disenfranchised, both then and now. 


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