Today is Remembrance Day and I shall not be wearing a poppy. The last time this happened I was probably in a pram and my mother went shopping with the family ration books.
The reason is simple, I am neither a politician nor am I in the pay of the BBC therefore I don’t see the need to start wearing a poppy in mid-October. Normally I wear a poppy on Remembrance Day itself and on what has now come to be called Remembrance Sunday. This week when I went to the village shops I found that there was no poppy collection tins. On our local Post Office counter were seven charity tins ranging from Yorkhill Children’s Hospital to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Nothing from the Earl Haig Fund or whatever PC name it has today.
This doesn’t particularly bother me, I don’t need a badge to help me remember or to show that I remember. It would bother our politicians and media manipulators.
In the last couple of days there has been a stooshie concerning FIFA, the English football authorities and the wearing of poppies. FIFA initially banned them on the grounds that they were political emblems. They had a point. What would our tabloids think if Argentina wore badges commemorating the dead of the Malvenas Campaign killed by colonising Brits? After a blitz of British outrage FIFA retreated and allowed them to be worn on black armbands by teams representing the home nations during games around Remembrance Day.
What FIFA initially saw as a political gesture the tabloids saw as a cultural icon. In this case surprisingly the tabloids were correct, but then so were FIFA. What has become evident is that wearing a poppy is not itself a political gesture, but not wearing a poppy is one. Not to conform to a cultural norm is often seen as a rejection of that culture and thus a political act.
The fact that I will not be wearing a poppy could be seen in many ways, mostly political. As I shall be in Glasgow on Remembrance Day I could be seen to be joining with those deluded Celtic supporters who support the psychopathic IRA bhoys in the bogs and reject the poppy as a symbol of British imperialism. I could be seen as a pacifist rejecting a symbol which according to some of them ‘glorifies war.’ I could more likely be one of the millions who just can’t be bothered, itself a political stance. Or I could be joining Jon Snow in his rejection of what he sees as ‘poppy fascism.’ If I were to be making any political statement it would be most likely to be with Jon Snow.
Perhaps to avoid whatever is the modern equivalent of a white feather I could wear the little ‘veterans’ badge that New Labour in one of its infantile fits of aping America pressed on all ex-servicemen. Once upon a time a veteran was someone like a Chelsea pensioner, today it is anyone who has worn a uniform at any time.
This highlights the disconnect between the armed forces and the public which makes the public vulnerable to emotional manipulation. In a day when everyone had either served in the forces or was closely related to someone who had there was no need for little badges. There was certainly no tabloid adulation of our “Heroes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gulf …” fill in the blanks.Neither was there a need for prattling politicians to praise “The absolutely fantastic job being done by our brave service personnel in…” whenever they mention the forces, especially when they are cutting defence budgets.
Ex-servicemen and women were just men and women who did what everyone had to do. In the fervid tabloid imagination prevalent today anyone who merely wears a uniform is a hero. Once to be termed a hero you had to do something heroic, not just what was expected. In my experience the people who actually were heroes were usually pretty quiet about it, embarrassed if anyone mentioned it.
There was a day when we accepted people doing their duty as normal. There was a day when we quietly showed our respect for those who had died or had their lives destroyed, especially those we knew. There was no fuss and emotional manipulation, just quiet, dignified remembrance in the simplest of acts, silence.
Today is Remembrance Day. At 11.00 I will think of what was paid for me and mine by ordinary men and women who did what they had to do. Next Sunday I will go to church and pray for those who still carry the scars of war. However, I won’t be wearing a poppy. Not because I’m making a statement about anything, I’m just a bloke who couldn’t get one close to the day.