Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

Remembrance/Veterans Day, has always been a holiday that has deeply troubled me. My feelings of unease stem largely from the fact that I believe the vast majority of wars have been entirely unnecessary and they have been instigated by a ruling elite for the primary reasons of increasing their wealth and power. These elites have consistently convinced average people that the military cause is, for one reason or another, noble and altruistic. So average people pay for the wars and fight the wars, while the rich and powerful seldom fight and make huge profits. Remembrance day continues to pay tribute to soldiers who died supposedly protecting some noble cause, but they actually died to pad the pockets of people who never do the fighting or dying. The First World War is the greatest case in point. WWI was really nothing short of a conflict for colonial power between the ruling-classes of various European nations and yet we celebrate it as though it were divinely inspired.

I have seen hundreds of war memorials over the years in a number of countries but I don’t remember seeing a single one that honours the millions of innocent people that have been killed who couldn’t or wouldn’t fight and have been the real victims of war. This is because, whether we want to admit it or not, our culture, like most cultures, is enamoured by the whole idea of military conflict. We think there is something inherently beautiful, romantic, and splendid about being a soldier and we celebrate war constantly. Organized sports, so prevalent in our society, is really just a glorification of military conflict in a more palatable and acceptable form. The uniformed soldiers of sports are like battalions in war who train like soldiers are organized like soldiers and go into ‘sudden death’ if there is no clear winner. Civilizations like the Romans understood this and made no pretence about the nature of organized sport. No one wants to remember the civilians and non-combatants with memorials even though these people didn’t volunteer and have been, by far, the largest group that have suffered in war. I honour those few veterans who actually want to remember war only so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. But I have seen very few veterans, particularly in Canada, who have been activists against war. Most of them seem to say that they abhor war but are the first ones to rally around the flag in the cause of another, usually neo-colonial, military effort.

Today I call on everyone to remember the millions of innocent people, many of them children, who have died because most men can’t grow-up and still want to play soldier and are willing to kill for the benefit of men like Dick Cheney who are multimillionaires because they start wars with no regard for suffering of others. For those of us who really oppose war, let us reclaim Remembrance day for the real victims of war and mourn our aggressive nature that allows us to be led by A-type men who, though they would never admit it publicly, secretly love war.

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