Sir Robert Fry is still getting it in the neck. Four days after the Lieutenant General, a former commander of British forces in Iraq, commented on mawkishness over the military he is still being criticised.
In the midst of all the comment on whether this response to the military is healthy or not there are few signs of any thought as to why this “excessive reverence” for the armed forces exists. The reasons for this mawkishness lie in the post-Christian culture of our times.
We have nothing greater than ourselves and so we must manufacture heroes.
Badly housed at home and sent abroad by mendacious politicians to fight unpopular wars, poorly equipped and led by incompetent commanders; this is the general consensus regarding the armed forces today. The war in Iraq has destroyed trust in politicians and service leaders. In a victim culture service personnel are seen as the ultimate victims.
Yet the armed forces play an important role in public consciousness.
With the erasure of Christianity from the public conversation there is held to be nothing more than the physical. If there is nothing beyond this life then the idea of dying for a cause is both less persuasive as a concept and when it does occur is seen as a greater sacrifice.
As a society virtues such as altruism, self-sacrifice and heroism have been replaced by a self-focused desire for instant gratification. The heroes of today are trivial celebrities with their fifteen minutes of fame. In a culture awash with manufactured emotion and sentimentality an obsession with the marital affairs of singers and sports stars has taken the place of respect for the simply good.
Virtues such as heroism, altruism and self-sacrifice have thus been displaced by fleeting indulgence, while true feeling for others has been replaced by maudlin sentimentality. The Dianafication of Britain is nearing completion.
In the face of such cultural corrosion the armed forces remain one of the few focal points of vanishing virtues. Despite everything, discipline, courage, service, sacrifice and stoicism are qualities to which people still respond. The sadness is that in today’s Britain they have no avenue to display such a response other than through a media which turns genuine respect into a relentless search for ratings.