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Remembrance Day and pacifism

10:55 am - November 11th 2010

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contribution by Elizannie

Every year I go through the ‘Should I buy/wear a poppy? Will it honour the dead or glorify war?’ debate in my mind. I have ranged through buying red poppies and wearing/not wearing them, buying white poppies and wearing/not wearing them, buying white and red poppies and wearing both.

This year there have been debates in the media about when is an appropriate time to start wearing poppies [red] and whether those on TV are wearing them just because they have been told to.


Wear a poppy if you want to – that’s fine. Don’t if you don’t want to – that’s fine too. But please remember the dead of all nations with honour.

Remember too those who showed another kind of bravery and stood up for what they felt was right and were conscientous objectors or pacifists, refusing to bear arms against their fellow wo/man. Believe me it is not easy. A subject for another day, perhaps.

As I have said before in these pages, pacifism does not mean one does not honour those who have died in the service of their country.

Remembrance days are not the days to argue about pacifism versus militarism but I would like to say that I feel that ‘remembrance’ should not be exclusive to a few days in the autumn but should be always with us.

This is why this year I have taken the decision not to wear a poppy, white or red – read on before you lambast me for this decision – but will of course honour the two minutes silence.

In honour of all who suffered, a fine poem from a fine poet:

Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918)
Strange Meeting

It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.

Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then ,as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall, –
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.

With a thousand pains that vision’s face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
‘Strange friend,’ I said, ‘here is no cause to mourn.’
‘None,’ said that other, ‘save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled,
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery,
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now…’

May the dead Sleep Gently and the living find Peace.

Elizannie describes herself as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, pacifist, socialist and Christian.

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Reader comments

1. John Meredith

“Remember too those who showed another kind of bravery and stood up for what they felt was right and were conscientous objectors or pacifists, refusing to bear arms against their fellow wo/man. ”

But since you go on to quote Wilfred Owen, don’t forget that he despised conchies as did, I would think, a large majority of those who died.

At The Cenotaph [Siegfried Sassoon]

I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
Unostentatious and respectful, there
He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
‘Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
Means; their discredited ideas revive;
Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
Men’s biologic urge to readjust
The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.’
The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph
Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh.

“Every year I go through the ‘Should I buy/wear a poppy? Will it honour the dead or glorify war?’ debate in my mind. I have ranged through buying red poppies and wearing/not wearing them, buying white poppies and wearing/not wearing them, buying white and red poppies and wearing both.”

Eloquently summing up the laughable left.

Wear a poppy to commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of people who came before us. It really is that simple.


Woe betide anyone actually think for themselves, eh Tyler? Typical raving rightie…

Great article OP. Personally I wear a poppy but I fully respect people who choose not to, or want to wear a white poppy instead.

5. John Meredith

I think that Housman pays the most poignant tribute:

Here lie we dead because we died not choose
To live and shame the land from whence we sprung.
A life to be sure is nothing much to lose
But young men think it is, and we were young.

Good article.I wear a poppy at this time of year but it’s something for everyone to make their own minds up about.

That said I could cheerfully strangle the secretary in my office who decided that the two minutes silence was the perfect time to noisily stack files.

@4 Mr S Phil

No, it’s typical of the so-called progressive left to think more about the statement they are making, rather than the meaning of that statement.

And frankly, if I have to explain that to you, there is little hope for your understanding of it.

Anyone who supports what the students and lecturers did yesterday should be wearing a poppy to commemorate the sacrifices made to keep that freedom.

You wuoldn’t get that freedom in lefty China.


Jesus Christ people, would it kill you all to show some fucking respect in this one thread and not use it to further whatever ideological hobby horse you happen to be riding today?

Chiiiiil, Duncaan.

Tyler, this isn’t really the day for point scoring, is it?



Everytime this year I feel a little stuck. I wonder how I can reconcile the collossal sacrifice of those that died with while acknowledging that those that did die in the trenches and on the battle fields of World War Two died almost completely pointless deaths.

“For their tomorrow, we gave our today” is a fine slogan, but the first world war wasn’t some battle of good versus evil; it was a collapse of the 19th century interstate balance of power. It was a stupid war, and donkeys sent millions of lions to die for King and country and for Kaiser and volk and for what? For a peace settlement so catastrophically vindictive that two decades later another generation of men had to die. A war which sprung from the Treaty of Versailles and terrible macroeconomic policy making is we should be ashamed for letting happen as much as to have fought in.

You can’t visit the Menin Gate and hear the Last Post played and not understand that this day needs marking, but what are we marking? There should be no worry for those who think that wearing a red poppy is glorifying war, go to Tyne Cot and you’ll see no one can glorify these wars. I hope everyone thought of the millions of wives, brothers, sisters, mums, dads of the dead and those that gave their lives at 11 today. The poppy is there to focus your attention, but if it distracts you then do without, but don’t forget those who died, even, or especially, if you think they had no reason to.

If any ask us why we died
Say: ‘Because our fathers lied


That said I could cheerfully strangle the secretary in my office who decided that the two minutes silence was the perfect time to noisily stack files.

There shouldn’t be any enforced minutes of silence at work. It’s bad enough at football matches. You might not have noticed that there are whole demographics out there who are almost have no poppy wearers in their community or age group.

@Dunc – Good point.

@Left Outside – I get your point re:WWI but personally I think with regards to WWII the cause was just. (We could go down the rabbit hole of “but-WWII-wouldn’t-have-happened-without-WWI” but I’d rather not).

@11 L.O.

You essentially make my point for me. The point is to remember the sacrifices made, the reasons for it and also the mistakes made, so we don’t make them again.

I view the author’s seemingly traumatic poppy choosing experience as symptomatic of a lot of left wing views. Making a statement yet totally missing the point.

when I saw the term wo/man I was sick a little bit in my throat, so thanks for that.

I think the correct term would be woman/man or just person

Whether or not you want to buy a poppy or wear a poppy if an old verteran asks, give them some money and thank them and their friends for what they did. I dont think it matters what you believe at that point, just what the misty eyed, proud looking old codger believes.


(It’s “Pill” not “Phil” but I’ll let it pass)

That’s not what you were saying though, the implication was that people shouldn’t think twice or thrice about wearing a poppy they should just pin it on regardless. Personally I’d rather people weigh things up in their minds about the meaning of what they choose to commemorate (and how) rather than mindlessly follow the herd (I particularly don’t like the fact that people (politicians mostly) start wearing poppies two weeks before the day itself). It becomes tokenistic otherwise like those charity wristbands that all the cool kids were wearing a few years ago. Also you missed the point that the OP was making: that she used to have these debates every year but goes on to say: “Wear a poppy if you want to – that’s fine. Don’t if you don’t want to – that’s fine too. But please remember the dead of all nations with honour”. I see nothing unreasonable or objectionable about that.

But Tyler, just “remember[ing] the sacrifices made, the reasons for it and also the mistakes made” is no way to avoid it happening again.

Elizannie’s thoughts on war and death and the pointlessness or meaningfulness of it all are mediated through what poppy to wear if to wear one at all, but she is thinking about the same things you and I are, that everyone is.

Elizannie seems to care about the signals which she gives out to people around, jsut like every other human being in the world. Being aggressive towards someone taking seriously the sacrifices made just because on other matters they are on a different side to you, is childish.

But we shouldn’t even be having this conversation because we all basically agree. I just think today, actually, just this thread, attaking atrangers because you consider them the “laughable left” is out of place. Do you agree? I’m not after an apology, just acknowledgment that you probably came across as a bit of a bastard to those just scrolling though the comments.

Just saw LibCon’s logo’s been poppyfied, good call sunny.

They died for many causes, just one of them was that we might be free to engage in debate, however futile, however laughable, however “inappropriate”.

I wear a poppy in remembrance of that fact.

2nd Lt Alfred Arden, 1895 – 1918

@ L.O.

I wouldn’t wait around for an apology at all. Frankly, the way Sunny has behaved over the student riots (lets call it what it was) was despicable. So yes, I am a bit angry.

The point I was really trying to make, was that the modern, so-called progressive Left wing viewpoint these days tends to be more about form than substance. The views tend to be dogmatic rather than data driven.

Limiting housing benefit *won’t* lead to ethnic cleanising, student fees are unfortunate but necessary, and will only be paid back over time etc etc (and lets remember who brought fees in in the first place – I was the first year of them, and the year above me at uni had no fees and many had grants. That was *Labour’s* doing), and Keynesian money printing is not a solution to the economc woes.

The Left’s arguments tend to be hysterical at the moment, with little in the way of solutions offered. More about positioning and posturing. The above article struck me as another great example of it. Making sure to make a statement, without dealing with the underlying isse.

I frankly don’t care what you do with your poppy. I *do* care that the proper respect is given to our glorious dead. The author seems to care more about what statement her poppy or lack thereof makes.

Do you understand why that might get my goat?

@21: Do you understand why your banging on about your various shibboleths (all of which already have perfectly good threads of their own) in a thread about remembrance, on Armistice Day of all days, might get everybody else’s goat?

You are the one disrespecting “our glorious dead” here, you self-indulgent wanker.


Is this thread about remembering the dead (and those who fought, and are alive)? If so, why was the first paragraph about the author’s personal struggles about how to cope with this rememberance, which did strike me as odd.

I suppose this could be seen as the author’s personal journey towards understanding rememberance, but on a thread on a blog, this still invites debate and reaction.

@22 Dunc

Full marks for totally missing the fucking point yet reinforcing it at the same time.

The point I was making had *nothing* to do with remembrance. It was about the thought process and positioning of thought (nay, I’m being too polite – most would call it hypocrisy) which I see in many Left wing commentators and politicians, described beautifully by the first paragraph of the above article.

I was a soldier for many years and choose to remember my fallen comrades on 11 November. I welcome others’ respect for the custom, don’t expect it and quite understand if folk choose neither to show respect nor refrain from their usual nugatory political bullshit on the occasion.

I know what I know, I did what I did and I’ve never had a sleepless night over any of it. I mourn my mates and all the comrades (in the proper sense) I never knew but who also fell, whether in combat or after and I celebrate the fact that their deaths had this meaning, in addition to all the others: they give a gang of lefty wankers a chance to posture like hard men on the Internet with no fear of reprisal. I suppose that’s not nothing.

By the by, I applaud the Left’s new-found relish for direct action. To embrace the praxis is to accept the consequence. Tactically and strategically imbecilic, really. 90% of the folk of the country will see the clown with the fire extinguisher on the roof and that’s your arguments destroyed, right there. Cretins.

@13 “There shouldn’t be any enforced minutes of silence at work.”

There is no enforcement, the noisy person during the two minutes silence, (two whole minutes, big ask), will face no official sanction for being an arse and although most people wear the poppy here there is no compulsion.

That does not however, prevent me from viewing this person as extremely rude.

When I read stuff like this article I understand why we on the left regularly get such a hard time.

In all the time that is spent hand wringing and worrying about what colour bit of paper to wear you could go out and do something practical. If promoting peace and reconciliation is your thing then there are charities out there that will welcome you with open arms. The Red Cross and Red Crescent have fantastic youth education programmes and would no doubt rip your arms off. If looking after victims of war is your thing then are even more charities that operate throughout the world and would welcome your help, whether than means going somewhere dangerous or shaking a collecting tin on your local high street this weekend. If looking after veterans this things the British Legion or St Dunstans or the like would no doubt find you something to do.

Whatever you do and wherever you do it you can make a dam site bigger difference then wringing your hands over what colour poppy you wear.

Oh and damon I agree, no one should be forced by any kind of rule to observe the two minutes silence. All of us in this world are free to be inconsiderate dicks if we so desire.

@Left Outside,

WW1 was no more shocking in the horrors of war than those which caused mass slaughter in every century preceding it.

You might recall the devastation caused by the slash and burn of Napoleon’s Grande Armee, or the 30,000 who died at Towton (a single-day record until the battle of the Somme), or the Peasant’s War…

All these people died for a cause, and whether we think the cause was just or not it belittles the debates the people settled in making their sacrifices to call them stupid.

Needless, avoidable or plain wrong on many levels they may have been, but stupid they certainly weren’t.

It is an embarrasment that the propagation of the Blackadder perception of history has successfully permeated mass society since it contradicts the vast majority of modern scholarship. But in a media world dominated by television it’s easy to respond to the surfeit of documentary media evidence in the first war of the televisual age and conclude the violence was somehow extraordinary.

I can accept a description of the aristocratic generals such as FM Haig as callous figures, but in devising effective counter-tactics to make 1918’s 100-day push to force the German Reich into collapse through the military-economic blockade and which resulted in abdication of the Kaiser it was a victory for methodical organisation and multi-lateral coordination which built on the coalition system of defeating unilateralist racist and nationalist aggression, reinforcing the principle of internationalism which underpins the humanitarian world order and maintains general conditions of peace to this day.

It is also highly revisionist to argue the objective of the allies was to wring the last drop from the Central Powers at Paris (even if French and US intervention reversed the principles of negotiation in the six months between the opening of the treaty discussions and their conclusion).

WW1 stands a triumph of free popular democracy over imperial state expansionism.

The fact that we remember the dead should be proof enough that the events are worth remembering – there are many wars which are conveniently forgotten by everyone with a political axe to grind.

Lest we also forget the effort made by the allied populace in 1914-18 was fundamental to breaking down class, religious and gender barriers, and it was the reestablishment of these social divisions which proved the ultimate justification for the allied intervention only a generation later.

You can argue your right-wing macroeconomic reasons all you like, but economics is the means of measuring politics, not the process of formulating it. Politics is decided first by ethics.

I don’t think remembrance equates to glorification, as we only need to consider the course of history followed by in the countries which were defeated during WW1 (Russia, Austro-Hungary, Turkey and Germany): if we had just rolled over revolution would have been followed by civil war, followed by pogroms and persecutions and genocide. And that merely in the human landscape.

Remembrance equates to gratitude. I am grateful I will never need to fight the battles of our ancestors – for they are won.

Failure to challenge and resist evil makes you complicit in it.

Or perhaps you don’t fully comprehend what conscientious objection consists of.

@ 27 Akela

I totally agree with you, and you’ve made the point I was trying to very succinctly – Thank you.

I suppose this could be seen as the author’s personal journey towards understanding rememberance

Watchman finally discovers reading comprehension! Mark your calendars folks, this truly is a day to remember.

but on a thread on a blog, this still invites debate and reaction.

There’s a difference between “debate and reaction” and “wanking over your hoary old collection of pet gripes about the left”.


Thanks for recognising my ability to read. Many of my teachers will be thrilled to hear it finally developed… 😉

And I am not sure there is a difference between debate and reaction and rehearsing your favourite gripes – it’s what we all do, wittingly or otherwise.

And if you are serious about making this a thread about respect, could I suggest stopping the swearing? I doubt many old soldiers mind, but it creates an odd impression.


Would you be able to explain to me what the proper respect is?

For example, someone gets a poppy and wears it because they’ve seen a load of other people are. Someone doesn’t buy a poppy, but partakes in the two minute silence and conscientiously remembers the fallen soldiers.

I may have got the wrong end of the stick, and I apologise if I do, but your rationale seems to be Poppy=good, no poppy=bad. You mention the article writer being more concerned about the statement made by wearing the poppy or lack thereof as if it’s a bad thing.

I personally, think its a legitimate worry amongst some people. I only wear a poppy on armistice day, something which I’ve picked up from my Grandfather, but for the last week i’ve had some people aggresively want to know why i wasn’t wearing one. Surely as long as the rememberance is done in the person’s heart/mind/other that is the most important thing rather than whether they’re displaying it publicly? The fact people feel pressurized into making sure they’re rememberance is public is the issue that should be addressed. Not whether they’re wearing a poppy or not.

Most of the stretcher-bearers in WWI were Quakers who were Conscientious Objectors who refused to use weapons. THAT took courage.
Please do not put genuine Conscientious Objectors in the same category as cowards.

I agree that remembrance is for all year round, but I think having a specific time each year to make a symbolic *public* declaration that we remember – and care about – their sacrifice is important.

Falco and Akela @ 26 and 27.
I was just making the point that it means different things to different people – even if it shouldn’t. In Northern Ireland a red poppy is the mark of a Unionist person and you will not see a Nationalist wear one.

In inner-city areas with large black and minority ethnic populations, it could almost be the mark of a white nationalist, in the way that I have suspicions that St George’ flags hanging off balconies of blocks of flats in East London simethimes might be.

It would only take someone from Channel 4 news to spend a few hours in Tower Hamlets, Wembley, or Brixton to do vox pops with people passing on the street, to find out. (I’m guessing) that for some black and minority ethnic people, it’s seen as a thing that white people do, or that perhaps their mum or elderly auntie does, but they were of that generation of immigrants who still look up to the queen.
Anyone who has the poppy sticker on their car year round with the logo ”Wear your poppy with pride” I have always found a bit suspect, in the same way that Joseph Harker of the Guardian has said that he find white blokes in vans with England flags hanging up behind the driver to be a bit dodgy.

Ask some black college teenagers if they think of wearing a poppy and if not why not – and you could get some interesting answers.

Some Celtic fans were certainly ouspoken about their players wearing it on their football shirts.

@ 35 damon
There have been dozens of Victoria Crosses awarded to “black” and Asian soldiers (and several to Irish Catholics, Celtic fans please note) so anyone who equates wearing a poppy with ethnic origin is either ignorant or promoting a racist agenda.

“it could almost be the mark of a white nationalist”

Whereas in reality it is nothing of the sort. Pandering to those so stupid or ignorant that they believe that wearing a poppy is some kind of threat does not strike me as a good move, projecting such beliefs onto people with no evidence is downright peculiar.

38. Chris Baldwin

I probably buy poppies most years (though this time I didn’t get round to it), but I rarely wear them. If people want to, that’s fine. I worry a little that some see the poppy as an expression of patriotism and almost a shibboleth when it should be neither of those things. Broadly speaking though, I’m sure the poppy appeal is a positive thing.

I don’t usually reply to comments to things I have written, preferring to let the piece speak for itself. But in reply to no1, John Meredith, I would like to allow Wilfrid Owen to speak for himself:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 – March, 1918

John77 @36.

There have been dozens of Victoria Crosses awarded to “black” and Asian soldiers (and several to Irish Catholics, Celtic fans please note) so anyone who equates wearing a poppy with ethnic origin is either ignorant or promoting a racist agenda.

I can assure you that Irish people fighting in the British Army is controversial in Ireland.
There is even a song I know that laments the Irish dead of WW1 and asks what if they had died in the struggle for Irish freedom.

‘Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Sulva’s waves or the shore of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep where the fenians sleep ‘neath the shroud of the foggy dew

The Brittish army is quite multi-racial these days, but I’m not sure how much the inner city black and minority ethnic youth who are seven times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, identify with Johnson Beharry from Grenada, the Gurkhas, guys from Fiji, or even British BME people who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I remember hearing Celtic fans chanting for Argentina during the Falklands war.

As for my observation about who wears poppys and who doesn’t, I can’t help what my eyes tell me every year. Why would people who weren’t born in this country think of it particularly? It is a particularly British tradition.
Or people who suffer racism and discrimination, identify with Prince Phillip acting as head of the Royal Navy laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall?
Maybe many do. I don’t though.

@ 40 damon
Since Philip is a Greek who served at the risk of his life in the Royal Navy during WWII to free Greece from the Nazi invaders (his countrymen had beaten back the Italians) as well as to defend his adopted country, I DO think that a lot of those suffering racial discrimination (especially but not solely the Greek and Greek Cypriot communities) should identify with Prince Philip.
Is you just trying to irritate me or is he genuinely stupid?
There is a well-known (and true) story about a sailor whose mother was delighted that he got posted to serve under Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten because she assumed he would be safe because they wouldn’t send the King’s cousin into danger (this was before his brother got killed on active service) – he was sunk twice, but survived and got picked up by other RN vessels.
The song you quote is crude propaganda and has minimal contact with reality – I could quote Kipling back at you instead of that parody (“Wild Geese” is a Kipling poem about the Irish Guards fighting for France again in WWI – it is really disappointing that a scientist has to teach people about English literature)
“The Brittish army is quite multi-racial these days” – more suggestio falsi (and a failure to spell “British”) – how many of the soldiers fighting the Japanese were ethnic English/Scottish and how many were Indian? The first time a “black” man won the Victoria Cross was in 1857, more than 150 years ago. The Gurkhas are probably our best soldiers (although the Black Watch disagree with me).
You don’t identify with valiant warriors who defend you from racist murderers – well I do, but I was the wrong age to fight; what appalls me is that you suggest that it is racist to commemorate those who died to protect the rest of us from a racist regime. Have you no shame?

Fair points about Prince Philip in WW2. It seems he served honorably.
I have been at the Whitehall Cenotaf ceremony myself in recent years. I watch the ceremony the night before from the Albert Hall. Last year I went to see the soldiers back from Afghanistan parade through my town. I’m not sure about the 1857 Victoria Cross though, I looked it up and it was won at the Relief of Lucknow.
But as a Londoner, I have seen with my own eyes that you don’t see many poppies amongst London’s BME population. I didn’t raise that for any other point than it seems to be the case.
I don’t know Southall in west London that well, so maybe if anyone from over there can say if Sikhs – who were very much involved in the British and Indian armies, are seen to be noticable poppy wearers.

WW2 is obviously different, and one must have great empathy for WW1 and the slaughter of the trenches, but it was completely stupid for the people of Europe to be killing each other for their own imperialist nations. Post WW2 it all looks rather dodgy again.
What was Paddy Ashdown doing in Borneo in the early 60s? Suez, Aden, The Mau Mau rebelion in Kenya. My problem with the red poppy is that it brushes all that under the carpet.

I think what puts some people off wearing it is that its so conspicuous, and seems so establishment – like on Question Time right at this moment.
There was something in what Channel 4’s Jon Snow said I think.


I have to confess to being somewhat at a loss as to how my comments led to your reply to me. In case my typos (of which there are several) didn’t make it clear my points, in short, were

1. Whether you wear a red poppy, white poppy or no poppy just chose, quit spending time and energy wringing your hands over it and spend that time and energy doing something practical and peaceful for whatever it is you do believe in.

2. Causing unecessary noise while others observe the two minutes silence equates to being utterly inconsiderate, regardless of whether the silence means something to you or not. Black inner city kids are perfectly capable of understanding that concept and to claim they are not is patronising nonsense.

@ 42 damon
It requires a trivial amount of courage to wear a poppy when fashionable people criticise it for being “so establishment”. Think about what was needed to go back into the trenches every day, let alone the RFC (my elder great-uncle joined the RFC when they let him out of hospital, telling his mother that it was safer than the army – if you look at the statistics it was the only job more deadly than being a lieutenant – maybe he thought he’d rather die than be buried alive again).
I do appreciate your rational response, so rare on these blogs.
I know nothing about Paddy Ashdown in Borneo, but one of my friends fought against the attempted communist takeover of Malaya in the 1950s by murder and torture. Neither of these (nor the Falklands war which I think matches Thomas Aquinas’ definition of a justified war, nor the invasion of Iraq which I think does not do so) affects my personal commitment to honour those sacrificed their lives to enable us to live in freedom; buying poppies does nothing for them but does provide some care for those who risked their lives and survived badly injured (those, like my younger great-uncle who were injured less badly are expected to cope, as he did).
FYI my grandfather suffered from asthma so was ineligible.
Stupid is not quite right. The “Great Powers” had set up a series of alliances that should have deterred and prevented any risk of war – until Serbia condoned the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire and refused to allow the extradition of the culprits for trial. Architects might tolerate the assassination of Prince Charles, but would you sit back and do nothing if Al-Quaeda took over Belgium and sent over a hit squad to kill the Queen and Prince William?

Fair enough Akela. It would depend on what kind of place you worked in I guess.
I had in my mind of trying to do such a thing in McDonald’s in (say) Croydon.
Or some people stopping and standing in the high street at 11’O Clock, and other people walking past thinking ”WTF?” as they didn’t have a clue why.
Then getting it, realising it was that remembrance poppy thing, and just going to themselves ”whatever” and carrying on.
Or at Croydon’s further education college where the police have a few times turned up with metal detectors because of occassional knife crime in and around the College involving students.
This might sound like it’s going off topic, but it’s is a typical London borough and I went to the college myself in the 1980s. Just doing a quick qoogle search brought up this which made me laugh – as that’s what it’s like.

Nothing too serious usually, but I don’t think wearing poppies and thiking about the Battle of Crete is really something they ever do.

46. Lennard Collins

Honour the dead, our leaders & peers proclaim. Wear a poppy, lay a wreath, take 2 minutes from your time to do these things.

I will say to all, the tradition of remembrance day is built upon a foundation of lies and was begat by liar’s offspring in 1921 to assuage the more malleable masses who existed in those not so distant times.
Remember the millions during 14-18 who were forced, through propoganda, shame and, finally, law to horrific deaths. Young friends made to fight other young working men from across Europe and their so called “Empires”.
Remember too the vile & hawkish officer class who made sure these young men had no memories but ill ones to carry with them to their death. Treated no better on the battlefield than fodder or the slaves whom this country had proudly emancipated a century earlier.

Wear a poppy? No, I dont think so. Not again. Afghanistan is another unjust war. I won’t be glorifiying this current crop of volunteers who, with a tiny bit of research, could see that what they are doing is wrong. And if they still choose to fight, well….

Honours the heroes like Mary Seacole, Like Siegfried Sassoon, like the child who stands up to the bullys by turning up to school every day and facing them across the playground. The pacifists during the early years of the 20 Century who faced the daily taunts of abuse, violence and likelihood of imprisonment for saying “No! I will not fight your war” Mohammad Ali. Honour him.

Lennard – A Gulf War Veteran 1991

Well said Lennard Collins.
If Britain had fought in Vietnam, we’d have just had David Dimbleby talking of those veterans the way he has just done about all of Britain’s colonial engagements post WW2.
And legitimising it.

I should have expected some of those posting on Liberal Conspiracy to know some 20th Century history, but it appears that the minority were all absent attending Remembrance Sunday services.
None of those who fought in WWI are able to answer the offensive and inaccurate post by Lennard Collins but there are still some people who have known some of those who fought and our second-hand knowledge is far preferable to his smears and outright lies.
Firstly the large majority of those who died were genuine volunteers (the main recruiting poster merely said “Your country needs you”). Secondly it was predominantly the officer class who were cannon fodder as they were expected to lead from the front, which is why the life expectancy of a second lieutenant in 1917 was three weeks, as anyone can see from looking at a few War Memorials. Officers made up just over 1% of an infantry battalion but more than 5% of deaths. Thirdly the other ranks do NOT report having “no memories but ill ones to carry with them to their deaths” and were NOT treated as no better than slaves – one of my great-uncles enlisted as a private, the other sailed home from Canada as soon as he had served out his notice in order to enlist as a trainee-officer , and when he was buried alive when a trench collapsed his company dug him out at the direction of his batman who told them “my officer always sat at the top of the trench” so that they could get to him before he died of suffocation.
The courage of conscientious objectors? Quakers who acted as stretcher bearers have my unlimited admiration, those like Bertrand Russell who made a great play of refusing to fight and later *demanded* that the British government defend him from the Nazis get my contempt.
I do not have data on Conscientious Objectors (not my subject) but The Peace Pledge Union say 6,000 of them (1% of the volunteers who died) went to jail and does not say claim that a single one of those died. Honour them as heroes? Why don’t you learn some english including the meaning of hero?
Oh, and children do not stand up to bullies by facing them across the playground unless there is a wall of kids with morals and guts standing between them (as Bertrand Russell demanded). “Stand up” to bullies means exactly want it says: you have to stand up (instead of literally or metaphorically kneeling down) in front of the bullies until they realise that their threats (whether or not carried out/attempted) will not achieve their aim. This has been shown to work millions of times (and always, eventually if not always immediately, worked for me despite my moderate size); it is easier if one has a modicum of guts and/or a high pain threshold and those of us with both could and did protect smaller/weaker kids and pacifists who could not or would not protect themselves.

49. Lennard Collins

Dear John77
I must congratulate you, sir, on your fine and measured response.
Kudos to you, Mr 77, for finding courage enough to use selective quotation to prop-up your own personal assertions while completely missing out the whole point of the argument!
I am satisfied that others who read my words, agreed with or not, were able to do so in verbatim and took the time to understand the plain English that I put down in text.
One single word I excluded, by mistake, was the word “Senior” which should have prefixed, “Vile”. Obviously some readers used this omition to completely vindicate their naive belief that the mass murder ordered by the Generals & above simply didnt occur. And, to make it clear, by “above” I mean the politicians.

Also, I believe “Propoganda” covers volunteers who joined up. Even the most inept historian is aware that conscription didnt occur till later in the war.
Forgive me Mr 77 for any lapses in written English that may have occurred. I have to type quickly, you see, as I have a young daughter rushing about the place. How awful of me & thank you for pointing that out.
My personal basis of heroism, incidentally, rather depends on the circumstances at the time. It may indeed be a soldier, but what I was trying to say was that many, many people in this battle-centric country, when asked about heroes, default automatically to something involved with guns, and war. Understandably, I suppose, given this countries colonial past.
I personally imagine the film footage of Emily Davidson sacrificing her life in the battle for Universal Suffrage when I think of a true Hero. But thats just me.
Finally, Sir, I must congratulate you once more, but this time on having read Bertram Russell’s work. A fine fellow, for a toff, but can I suggest that a rebuttel looks more weighty if it contains the citation of more than one author in the argument; works in academic essays too, and, like another area with which I was once familiar, Military Strategy exams.
I have strong opinions and beliefs in certain areas, and I welcome challenges from those with counter-arguments. What I DONT appreciate, is a repose fuelled by hot-heads who either fails to understand the words laid before them or, as I suspect in this case, deliberately choose not to.


@49 Lennard Collins
I did not miss the point of your argument – I merely pointed out that lot of it was based upon a tissue of lies that you picked up from reports of a war of which you could have no experience if you were still in the forces in 1991. I can only quote things I know rather than inventions by some third party. So my “selective” quotations are (apart from your own words) only those that I know to be true.
I am sorry if you find my comment about your English objectionable – I did not intend it as such but I was temporarily irrational: having witnessed a genuine hero living in pain from the time I was born (it was probably worse earlier) until 50 years after the end of the Great War; I find the description of those who, with no religious or moral reason, refused to fight and took the safe, but occasionally uncomfortable option of risking jail (a very small minority actually went to jail) as heroes grossly offensive as well as inaccurate. In my view you are debasing the word – someone who lives with and works despite the pain from his wounds for the rest of his life should NOT be compared with someone who makes a fuss about chickening out.
Emily Davidson was not a heroine – she was a lunatic who put back the cause of women’s suffrage by a decade or more (maybe you didn’t talk to many people who remembered Edwardian England when you were young). Anyhow she did NOT battle for universal suffrage as that did not apply to men when she died: if you had chosen Nurse Cavell or Flora MacDonald as an example you might get a more sympathetic response from readers who understood the references; if you got your fact right, you might get a more sympathetic hearing from me.
Even if I wanted to do so, I do not have the space to quote from Bertrand Russell and, since his theories were disproved before I started to study mathematical logic, I have no wish to do so; I limit myself to observing his ridiculous political arguments (unlike unsound mathematical theories, political arguments cannot be disproved).
As you may gather from my earlier post, I intervened when I saw bullies attacking my sisters or friends or other kids before you were born but that is not the same as being “hot-heads who either fails to understand the words laid before them or, as I suspect in this case, deliberately choose not to.” Even children can have cold courage that give those unable to defend themselves a chance to escape.
I CAN understand your words – I believe that they are wrong.

PS I hope you meant to put “Senior” before “officers” instead of “vile”
Everyone tells me that we won the “First (1991) Gulf War” thanks to superior technology (but I know that would not have been any use without the soldiers); in WWI the Germans had the superior technology: please think how much worse it must have been.

Lennie, you might like to know you’re not alone: I agree with you. I am a pacifist. Wars are wrong and those who fight them are wrong, not heroes. I was alive in WW2 and there hasn’t been a day since when England wasn’t involved in a war. Each one causes another, and until men refuse to fight so it will go on.

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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Remembrance Day and pacifism

  2. Lia Leendertz

    This is nice. Kind of how I feel. RT @libcon: Remembrance Day and pacifism

  3. Sam Maher

    Or what they said, far more eloquently than I. RT @libcon: Remembrance Day and pacifism

  4. Ginger Knits

    RT @lialeendertz: This is nice. Kind of how I feel. RT @libcon: Remembrance Day and pacifism

  5. Claire Butler

    A thoughtful piece RT @libcon Remembrance Day and pacifism

  6. Claire Renyard

    RT @libcon: Remembrance Day and pacifism

  7. Chera Cole

    RT: @ponddrop: RT @lialeendertz: This is nice. Kind of how I feel. RT @libcon: Remembrance Day and pacifism

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  10. Graham Steed

    This is the kind of hand wringing nonsense that gives the rest of us on the left a bad name

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