With irony heaped upon irony, this year’s Poppy Appeal was started in the UK at the Radway Green facility, owned by none other than BAE, one of Europe’s largest arms dealers. High ranking officials from the company that rakes in billions from international wars watched as veterans laid down wreaths. The excruciating irony of their presence passed unnoticed in a country that seems to have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of remembrance. The Poppy was originally created as a symbol of the horrors of war by a generation of people who, all too vividly, had experienced it.
I fully appreciate that whilst there were clearly defined moral distinctions of right and wrong regarding the combatants in WW2 and why conflict was unavoidable, however many other wars we and our allies have been involved in, do not carry the same clearly defined paths. The Poppy is in danger of becoming the panacea for the difficult task of reviewing whether what we are doing is right or wrong.
Call me disrespectful if you may, but like Harry Patch, the last British WW1 veteran who died last year, I find the wearing of poppies by British Government Ministers, with their notorious attitude to support of veterans quite sickening and full of hypocrisy. War is futile and always will be, meanwhile these Politicians and companies like BAE continue supporting wars and then ignoring the tragic human cost attached in the vainglorious pursuit of their own careers.
Having said this, there are great reasons for supporting (in the UK) the Royal British Legion, a great institution with a noble cause at heart, but I truly fear for what is happening to us when the likes of the skin crawling Simon Cowell or the saccharine Cheryl Cole decide that a common or garden paper Poppy is no longer fitting and feel the need to wear poppy pins encrusted with Swarovski crystals.
As the UK heads for this Remembrance Sunday, we should remember that those Politicians we will see on TV in Whitehall looking suitably grave and serious have cheerfully authorised the decimation of jobs, welfare and public education, whilst showing a complete ineptitude towards the armed Forces. They have sacrificed the life chances of a generation of young and working-class people while making rhetorical sops towards "the national interest", and that is not remembrance, nor is it any way to honour the memory of the Great Generation. Like Cowell and Cole, this is, in fact, just show business.
May you be in heaven 30 minutes before the Devil knows you are dead