Springingtiger's Blog


Remembrance

I don’t like Remembrance Day. Since I was young I have had the irrational tendency to cry at the very thought of the Great War; I say irrational because, although I was not alive then, nor personally affected by the war, it upsets me.

I remember,  as a child in Yorkshire,  the grandfather of one of my school mates sat all day in his chair.  He lost the use of his legs in the Great War. Later we had a flat in Threshfield,  our downstairs neighbour was an invalid. He had fought at Paschendale,  one day,  three days after a gas attack,  he was driving a field tractor to the front when it started to rain;  the rain released the gas held in the soil, he could never again breathe without effort until his eventual death in the 1970s.  The towns of the North raised the “Pals” regiments; the young men of a town like Bradford would march away together to war, very few returned, a town could lose a generation of young men in a single battle.

In English Literature we studied “Men Who March Away” The poetry of the First World Way, I read Robert Graves’ “Goodbye To All That”, and Siegfried Sassoon’ s two memoirs. At school every term ended with a candle lit service to commemorate the boys and masters who had died in the service of their country. The service of their country? The problem with studying the poetry of war is that the background reading soon reveals the truth; the majority of young men who died, whatever they believed,  were not serving their country,  they were sacrificed to the political and commercial ambitions of powerful and greedy men. They fought for a land “fit for heroes to live in”, but they returned to the same slums and the same exploitation. When in 1926, the workers struck against wage cuts the same men who had sent them to fight were happy to send the regular army against the strikers.

The politicians promised “the war to end all wars”, but within two decades  they were sending another generation of young men to die. I don’t think, in my lifetime we have ever known peace. Even at home we lived with the threat of nuclear extermination.  Now the “”Cold War” is over we are living with the threat of terrorist attack,  brought upon us  once again,  by our politicians and commercial leaders; just as they used the “Great War” as an opportunity to sieze the oilfields of Mesopotamia, they now use the “War on Terror” to exploit the oilfields of Iraq and are poised to take Iran’s oil next. It has always been the principle of the government in Westminster to put profit before people, and as long as we accept the right of businessmen,  bankers, and their political lapdogs in Westminster we accept the sacrifice of our young people to their greed.

When I look back at the Great War I weep tears of regret, but when I look at the legacy of the politicians who sent the boys to die, my eyes burn with tears of anger. If it requires lives to be sacrificed to end wars, does it not make sense to offer the lives of those who would make war? Sadly,  whoever’s life we give it, War is a hungry monster that will consume as long as we feed it. The only way to end War is to starve it. Not one more life, not one more celebration; and certainly not a celebration such as David Cameron proposes, to feed the romantic lust for glory that allows Westminster’s politicians to dupe young men into suicide.

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