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Patriotism, stupidity, greed and Remembrance Day

I usually feel conflicted on Remembrance Day – which I suppose is natural, given that it’s about war.

On the one hand it’s hard not to empathize with those who have lost loved ones. On the other, given that war is so often about greed and stupidity (the greed of arms manufacturers, the stupidity of leaders tasked with diplomacy) not principle, it’s hard not to get angry. Yes, the Second World War had to be fought – otherwise the hell of Hitler would have imprisoned us all – but so many wars are not necessary. So many are needless, inconsequential and futile -  with only the rich military industrial complex benefitting.

Lives are too often lost in the name of patriotism and freedom when they don’t have to be.

Here’s Wilfred Owen:

Sonnet

On Seeing a Piece of our Heavy Artillery Brought into Action

Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great Gun towering towards Heaven, about to curse;
Sway steep against them, and for years rehearse
Huge imprecations like a blasting charm!
Reach at that Arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse.
Spend our resentment, cannon,-yea, disburse
Our gold in shapes of flame, our breaths in storm.
Yet, for men’s sakes whom thy vast malison
Must wither innocent of enmity,
Be not withdrawn, dark arm, the spoilure done,
Safe to the bosom of our prosperity.
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

 

For information about touring the Western Front, click here.

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2 Responses to “Patriotism, stupidity, greed and Remembrance Day”

  1. Steve Says:

    I agree completely and feel the same way about it. I think the day has been hijacked for honoring the military and pouring out propaganda about current conflicts. The only remotely “just” war I know of was WW II, which had to be fought but still involved a great deal of injustice, inhumanity, and hypocrisy on the part of the “good” Allies. Since then, I think wars have all been fought for undisclosed economic or political purposes and justified with a confusing mix of patriotism and “worthy” aims (which change with circumstances). Take the current war in Afghanistan. It’s been going on for ELEVEN YEARS! So it’s taking us more than twice as long to beat the Taliban and small terrorist groups than it took to defeat all the armed forces of Germany and Japan. Wow, those terrorists must be tough! And WHY are we there? Wasn’t the original purpose of the war to bring to justice Osama bin Laden, who was hiding out there? He’s dead now. Then the war aim shifted to overthrowing the Taliban. Why? Because they sheltered Osama and they were just a “bad” government? The USA shelters terrorists, too, but that’s ignored. Sure, the Taliban have some backward customs and unjust laws, but so do other Middle-eastern countries that are US allies, such as Saudi Arabia. Anyway, should we take it as a principle of international law that it is okay to invade a country if we disapprove of its government? Isn’t all this actually a violation of international laws? But we’re really doing good over there, helping females get education for instance–in some limited areas. But does it ever work to try imposing different political systems and cultural values by force? We can’t change their culture. The people have to do that for themselves. Anyway, is OUR greed-driven corporate democracy and materialistic culture so great? Speaking of that, it is no coincidence that these wars in Afghanistan and Iraq happen to be in the part of the world with the richest reserves of oil and natural gas. Why are we REALLY there? There’s nothing noble or honorable about it.

    Remembrance Day should be for remembering our VICTIMS and advocating AGAINST WAR, not celebrating current wars and their deluded supporters. That would also be the best way of honoring soldiers who had to lose their lives fighting for peace and sacrificed in needless, greed-motivated wars. Or else we should just rename the holiday “War Day” to clear the air of the stench of bullshit.

  2. Nigel Beale Says:

    Well put Steve.

    Playing the cynic: it’s a bit like big medicine fighting disease: no incentive to find a cure – lots to develop a treatment.

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