Unlike the writers at the Huffington Post, I don't believe that you can "win" debates with simplistic aphorisms issued on Twitter. And unlike Brett Wilson, I don't believe that simply calling people "morons" constitutes actual political argument. And I don't believe that the people behind the so-called white poppy movement are morons in any sense of the word. But people who question patriotism and patriotic rituals have always been prime targets for those with emotionally charged nationalistic feelings. Such people are irrationally offended by those who have the gall to call into doubt the rituals that are connected with our history as a national or international entity. But I will not be silenced by the likes of Brett Wilson, a man who claims that our involvement in past wars defended our freedom, but who takes that freedom so lightly that he genuinely seems to want to silence those who would disagree with him.
First of all, let me say that, despite what Brett Wilson (or anyone else) says, my reasons for wearing the white poppy, as well as my objection to the red poppy are not based upon my belief that the red poppy somehow celebrates war. Rather, I believe that there are more sophisticated, historical and political issues at stake here. Now, I have heard a number of vet in recent years object to the red poppy campaign, as well as the contemporary nature of Remembrance Day, because of the political nature that it seems to have taken on. One such vet was well quoted by Mound of Sound in his blog today. These kinds of objections to Remembrance Day are significant. There is no question that an a good argument can be made that contemporary politicians have taken advantage of Remembrance Day, politicized it in a way that robs it of the purely honorary essence that it once seemed to have had. However, though I have had veterans in my family, I am not a veteran of an orthodox military event. Thus, my objections take a different kind of form.
Let me address the most controversial nature of my objections to contemporary Remembrance Day. I understand that these opinions might be considered provocative, but they are not, I believe unreasonable. I believe that the wars of the last hundred and fifty years or so have almost all been essentially bogus. Instead of being about "freedom" or democracy they have mostly been creations of wealthy classes which are designed to accumulate profit and jockey for global economic position. To fully develop this argument would require a great deal more space than is available to us here. But a number of radical thinkers have developed such arguments in the past and these include writers like Franz Fanon, Howard Zinn, Eric Hobsbawm, Bertrand Russell, E.P. Thompson, Jean-Paul Sartre, and many more. It is for this political and historical reason that I believe that the white poppy makes sense - in my mind it still honours the veterans, but not as victims of foreign wars, rather as victims of our own political and economically powerful classes that have used men for generations as cannon fodder in struggles for economic dominance.
Leading off this political argument is another important objection I have to contemporary Remembrance Day rituals. It is this, public discourse never tires of telling us that it is to our Veterans that we owe our so-called "freedoms" and "democracy." The various wars that were more or less spin-offs of the supposed battle between 'capitalist' and supposedly 'communist' nations were, I believe largely manufactured by political classes that were once again defending their economic power. Many of these were colonial-style wars fought in the "third-world" in which the people were victims of a global economic war that had nothing to do with democracy or freedom. The war against fascism might be said to be a war that defended our "freedoms" and "democracy," but even this war was, according to Roosevelt (one of its greatest proponents) entirely preventable. The rise of fascism was largely supported by the economically powerful in most nations (including England and the US) until they had no choice. In other words, fascism was (even according to most the economically powerful) a natural extension of capitalism. And those who really opposed fascism (like Roosevelt himself) had a very big job getting the economically and politically powerful to support the war. And perhaps most importantly, the rise of fascism (at least in Germany) was in large part a direct result of the Treaties of Versailles which failed to consider the longterm impact of war reparations. The upshot of this argument is that I believe that the people we really owe thanks to for our "freedoms" and democratic rights are the activist (many of them trade union activists) who spent their lives fighting for democracy, and human rights against the rich and powerful who did everything they could to limit democracy and human rights in our own countries. The wars of the past hundred and fifty years or so had little to do with democracy or human rights. While the soldiers of the Western allies, for example, were busy fighting World War One, their governments were actively suppressing democratic and human rights movements at home. The rights of universal suffrage, the rights to a safe workplace, the rights to minimum wage and pension, the rights of minorities to be equal before the law, etc, all these rights were not a result of fighting in foreign wars, but were the result of generations of activists fighting their own governments and wealthy classes. Here is the simple fact, if it were not for trade union activists not only wouldn't you not have the right to vote, your could still be shackled by your employer and children could still be forced to work 16 hour days.
Thus, bluntly put, I believe that Remembrance Day is little short of a kind of collective scam designed to bestow legitimation on wars that were not about freedom or democracy but were about making money and profit for a very elite economic class. I wear the white poppy as a protest against the common nationalist scam that have been most of the past wars and role that Remembrance Day plays in covering up this scam. It is actually an age old story - the powerful want us to believe that the wars we fight are "very sadly necessary" but noble in their righteousness. Because if people stopped believing this they might actually look closely at the causes of the wars and the class system that they all to often protect.
No one, least of all Brent Wilson, is compelled in anyway to agree with me. However, if such really believe that past wars were fought to defend our "freedoms" then they should be the first to defend my right to say such things and wear the white poppy even if they disagree. However, more importantly, to disregard these arguments out of hand is, I believe intellectually dishonest. While Brett Wilson and his ilk seem to be perfectly content throwing around simplistic aphorisms in defence of mindless patriotism, I feel disposed to study history and interpretations of that history by intellectual giants who prefer talk about the negative effects of reactionary, nationalistic, jargon.
There was a period in my youth, after the Vietnam War, that the majority (or a good sized minority) was skeptical about the motivations of Governments and elites to be involved in foreign wars. These times seem to have slipped away and people have forgotten even recent history. Brett Wilson's simplistic patriotism will not silence me, nor should it silence the white poppy movement because if my analysis is even partially correct than it is incredibly important that we make that discourse public, and if my analysis is entirely wrong then silencing the white poppy brigade would be the ultimate insult to veterans who supposedly fought so we could say whatever we want.
Good Morning America ....
4 months ago