Remembrance Sunday, apparently. So England indulges in its annual orgy of sanctimonious ritual.
I’d be interested to know how many of the people whose path you crossed today were not wearing a poppy: one or two? A dozen or so? 30%? I would certainly be one of them.
Nobody – but nobody – has more respect than I do for the millions of poor bastards who fell in the hideous conflict that I insist on calling The Great War, because “WW1” simply doesn’t cut it. No one nurses more anger on their behalf than I do. No one has stood with more humility before the Menin Gate trying to get his head around the fact that those 55,000 names are only the British and Common-wealth dead and only from the three battles of Ypres and only from the Western Front.
But these days I don’t trust anything that smacks of institutionalised sentiment and that war has long since become an institution. This year’s commemoration has been shamelessly politicised to hell and back.
And there is too something unhealthy about the way the Brits wallow in bloody metaphors every year in November. The rest of the world moved on as the horrors of the 20th century unfolded and perspectives changed. Everywhere rule books have been torn up and rewritten as countries restructured their institutions through other wars and revolutions.
But not in Britain, which, beneath a boozy veneer of prosperity and a deeper, shocking layer of poverty, is still the semi-feudal hotchpotch it was a hundred years ago, and still run by and for a small club of obscenely rich men. Sanctimonious pageantry is but one means among many of keeping the plebs in their place. In fact Britain has not had a good shaking up for a thousand years—and it shows.
The vast majority of today’s be-poppied citizenry know very little about The Great War: the pitiful reasons for which it was fought; the extent to which the UK was unprepared because the politicians didn’t have the balls to face up to reality; the way it was fought; and the God-awful fucking mess that was the Treaty of Versailles. My mourning is not a once-a-year affair, it’s part of me; but I prefer to keep it private. I don’t need to prove anything. Especially not to the Brits.