Just a couple of days ago, former First Minister Jack McConnell said that the referendum campaign should be suspended during the Commonwealth games. Jack doesn’t want the yes campaign to benefit from any upswelling in Scottish patriotism the games might generate. But he’s been entirely silent about the UK Government’s intention to host a series of events designed to highlight British patriotism. Hypocrisy much?
Early in August this year, the UK Government plans to hold a commemoration of the start of World War 1. Despite the fact that London is the invariable scene of UK national commemorations, David Cameron and the Tories have decided that Glasgow is to be the focal point of the planned commemorative service, which will feature military parades and enough Union flag bunting to string up all the war mongerers who in their eagerness to teach the Kaiser a lesson caused the deaths of millions.
I can’t recall a previous occasion when such a high profile UK national event was held in Scotland. But we’ve been assured that the decision to hold a mass demonstration of British patriotism in Glasgow is entirely unconnected to the fact that the Scottish independence referendum will take place just four weeks later. No really, the UK Government has said it’s pure coincidence, and they wouldn’t lie about something like that, would they? Jist hing oan a wee minute while A dae up the buttons at the back ae ma heid.
The UK has never before held an official commemoration of the start of any war, but the decision to hold one in Glasgow for WW1 has absolutely nothing to do with the independence referendum, and only bitter and twisted secessionists could possibly think otherwise.
The hundreds of thousands of lions who were led to brutal and early deaths by the donkeys of Westminster were told they were fighting for the right of small nations to decide their own futures. But it was a lie, in reality they suffered and died so that the powerful could maintain their stranglehold on public life, so that the rich could stay rich and the poor remain poor.
Westminster may have been able to rely upon the naivety of the public during WW1, but this is 2014 and we’ve had 100 years to digest the duplicity and habitual lies of the Mother of Parliaments. Of course these events are nakedly political and a blatant attempt at emotional manipulation. Despite the official hype they will indeed be a celebration of Britishness, one held at a politically highly charged time when the question of Britishness will be foremost in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Scots.
The Glasgow event will form a central part of the “emotional case for the Union” which Cameron and Better Together say they’re going to make between now and 18 September and as such is a cynical and opportunistic attempt to lay claim to the sacrifice of millions of dead service people and civilians, and co-opt it for the modern political ends of Westminster. Whatever the noble dead of WW1 sacrificed their lives for, it wasn’t so that Westminster politicians could continue to abuse the trust and faith of their descendants.
During WW1 white feathers were handed out to those who were regarded as cowards by the official propaganda – those who protested against the war, who refused to succumb to the jingoism used to batter the reluctant into compliance. Westminster’s opportunism gives us the chance to reclaim the white feather as a symbol for the rights of small nations to decide their futures peacefully and without interference from those who glorify war for their own personal and political ends.
The symbol supposedly originates in the belief amongst afficionados of cockfighting that a cockerel with a white feather in its tail would be a poor fighter. In August 1914, Vice Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather which aimed to shame men into enlisting for the slaughter in the trenches by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform. He obviously viewed ordinary working class men as some species of creature to be used in a blood sport.
In 1904, 10 years before the War to End All Wars, Fitzgerald wrote an article calling for war with Germany in order to destroy the German navy and ensure the continuation of British naval supremacy. He didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the millions of deaths which would result, after all he wanted to maintain British naval supremacy so that Britannia could continue to rule the waves and despoil and exploit Africa, India and a quarter of the globe. That’s the real reason the UK declared war on Germany in 1914.
Fitzgerald’s deployment of the white feather was as cynical and self-serving as Westminster’s decision to hold a commemoration of the start of Fitzgerald’s longed-for war just as Scotland stands at the threshold of a historic referendum on the country’s future.
The only appropriate way to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of a world war which led to the deaths of 16 million and the maiming or wounding of 27 million more is with shame and disgrace. It was a crime perpetrated by governments and the ruling elites upon the ordinary people who suffered and died for the arrogance of those who believed they had the right to rule. Westminster politicians ought to have no part to play – they are the heirs to the warmongers of 1914, but they will be central to the commemorative events. They continue to send young men and women to fight, die and kill in their pointless and self-serving wars. It’s like commemorating the outbreak of the bubonic plague with an exhibition of pedigree rats and a flea circus spectacular.
So I’m having my own wee protest about the futility of war and to express the hope that we can live in an independent country dedicated to peace, and which eschews nuclear weapons and disavows militarism. I’m starting the Bonnie White Feather Club. There are no membership lists or fees, no office holders, and no annual general meetings.
All you need to do is to wear a white feather during the month long commemoration of the centenary of start of World War I this August. The bonnie white feather represents peace, freedom from the manipulations of a Westminster which glorifies war, and the right of the small nation of Scotland to choose its own destiny. It represents the wish that never again will our youth perish in foreign lands for the glory and vanity of politicians.
I’ll wear my white feather with pride.