Remembering the appearance of things

So it was Remembrance Sunday yesterday, warmongerers and advisors to arms companies put on their best suits and their blood red poppies and stood in silence in memory of those they’d killed in the furtherance of their careers and for the advancement of their bank balances. Tony Blair was there, bowed like a vulture weeping for the bones it’s picked clean. He prayed to his god that he won’t go to hell for the lives he’s lost and the deaths he’s cost. It was a ceremony best watched in silence, if only because then we wouldn’t have to hear the oleaginous voice over by Nicholas Witchell, casting establishment judgement in the BBC’s impartial way.

There was only one man who was being judged yesterday, and it was the one who wasn’t responsible for war and death. We live in a country where the powerful and influential see fit to question the motives of the man who doesn’t want to kill en masse, who will go to extraordinary lengths to preserve life and peace. This is the guy we’re supposed to be suspicious of, not Tony and his toxic tongue. Jezza gets so much criticism in the press that you’d almost think he was a member of the SNP. Almost, but not quite.

The big news was that Jeremy Corbyn didn’t bow as obsequiously as the Daily Mail and the Sun might have liked. The Sun is the paper that traduced the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, so that publication taking the moral high ground on respect for the dead is a bit like Al Capone complaining that widows completely ruin the spirit of Valentine’s Day or getting a lecture on care of the elderly from Dr Harold Shipman. Although if Jezza had prostrated himself full length on the ground in front of the Cenotaph, the poppy fascists would just have complained that his jacket was covered in mud and muck and how dare he disrespect the veterns by appearing in public in clothes that need a good wash. Our grandparents fought and died for Fairy non-biological you know. Jeremy Corbyn attracts more press acreage about his clothing than Kate Middleton does, discussion of the leader of the Labour party in the national media is the very definition of shallow.

You might think that the fact that an avowed late middle aged left winger who isn’t Italian has a sense of style that makes a Chums catalogue look fashionable is news in the same way that Nicholas Witchel is a vacuous brown-noser is news. Anarchodandyists like myself who believe in bringing about the downfall of global capitalism while being terribly well dressed are few and far between. Even so there was still more press discussion of the colour of Jezza’s tie and the state of its knottage than there was of the real scandal of Remembrance Sunday – the fact that General Sir Nicholas Houghton the Chief of Staff of the armed forces went on national TV in full uniform emblazoned with his blood red hipocripoppy and showed that he’s got little understanding of the democracy that all those service people died to protect. But then generals in splendid uniforms don’t tend to die in action, just the men and women they command.

Because when you’re a high ranking officer who briefs the press anonymously that you’d support a coup d’etat to overthrow an elected government if that government threatens your boy toys, or you’re an army chief of staff who goes on national TV in uniform and pontificates about the undesirability of a government that threatens your boy toys, then you cross the line and are no longer defenders of democracy who deserve the respect of the public. You become a threat to democracy who should be court martialed, because you’ve demonstrated that you put the interests of the armed forces above the interests of the country they’re sworn to defend. You make the people your enemy and you become the enemy of the people. This is the danger of the poppy fetish, it puts the armed forces beyond criticism or reproach, and when that happens democracy is endangered and remembrance of the fallen topples that which they died to uphold.

Who invited a general onto Andrew Marr’s politics show anyway? It’s not the first time that Andrew Marr’s programme has done a disservice to democracy in its pursuit of a headline. The general should have known better, and Marr should have known not to indulge him, because the thing about soldiers in a democracy is that when an elected government tells them to do something that’s legal, they do it. If an elected government tells the armed forces that it wants to get rid of nukes, then the only appropriate response from the armed forces is “How deep a chasm do you want them chucked into Sir/Madam?” In a democracy they are servicepeople, the clue is in the name. When they cease to serve then they become a danger that must be kept in check.

The army has no role to play in policy making. It’s not up to generals to decide whether the country has nukes or not. But even more shockingly, the general’s intervention was supported by Maria Eagle, Labour’s own defence spokesperson. Labour is no stranger to internecine warfare. Maria could teach the general a thing or three about back stabbing.

The UK has got armed services where there are more admirals than ships and more generals than regiments. The defence services are overblown, oversized, and their senior officers are over privileged – and still overwhelmingly come from the same small social groups which are likewise over represented in Parliament and in the media. They protect themselves from criticism, hiding behind a poppy and the service of working class kids who are thrown out into the streets once their time in uniform is up, left to the mercy of mental illness and work assessments while Davie Cameron bows his head and wears a blood red poppy.

Increasingly the army is beyond criticism. When that happens, democracy dies, and the army kills what it has pledged to protect. The UK’s democracy has always hung by a slender and tenuous thread, and yesterday General Houghton took a swing at it with the sword that army officers still wear on ceremonial occasions. But it’s not his motives which were questioned, it was the guy who wants no more wars. This is the UK, the shallow land where the powerful remember that all that matters is the appearance of things, not their substance. Britain cares only about how things look, not about what things mean.


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37 comments on “Remembering the appearance of things

  1. […] Remembering the appearance of things […]

  2. jimnarlene says:

    The thing that really annoys me, about poppy week, is all the talk of sacrifice.
    Those young men and women did not sacrifice themselves, it was state sponsored murder/suicide.
    To dress it up in any other way, is to fool the next generation of youngsters, as you prepare to ” sacrifice ” them on the alter of “punching above our weight”.

    • Guga says:

      To translate “punching above our weight”, it really means being bootlace boys to the American Terrorist State. In the event that you do not know what a bootlace boy is, it means being so far up the American’s arses that only the bootlaces are showing.

      As for the war criminals like Bush, Obama, Blair, Brown and Cameron, and their Cabinets, they are all quite happy to sacrifice not only the servicemen, but also hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, including men, women and children.

      • hektorsmum says:

        These days we have more civilian casualties than military ones, this is not to disrespect those who serve but simply is the way things are. The other thing most people forget is that World War One and Two there were conscripts, I know many volunteered but if you look at a world where communication was handled much as they would really prefer today, manipulated, then you realise why wee laddies did.
        Now the Military are all volunteers, nobody makes them, well poverty does, it was always a means of escape, certainly in Scotland, we supplied people to other countries armies, Russia, Sweden and of course France.
        I think we should not stop remembering, but it should be tempered with reality. How do the other countries of Europe do it, I know that many are not militaristic like here.

  3. says:

    Reblogged this on Bampots Utd.

  4. diabloandco says:

    Exactly – we must have the rest of the world tittering at us , all this mock reverence, poppy parading drivel.
    I am sad for those who mourn men ,women and children killed by UK US foreign policy .
    I am saddened by the hypocrisy which puts a lesser value on the innocents killed by our hooray henry approach to other sovereign states.
    I am sad for the returning young soldier especially the limbless and brain damaged , but do we need to parade them as some sort of example of the wonders of Britishness.
    I have worn a poppy every year up until now – I will never wear another .I will continue to contribute to any fund which helps the injured and the families of the dead.

    As for Mr Corbyn , if the corporate media is so busy trying to demolish him that those south of the border are beginning to wake up to the lies and manipulation , then it can only be a good thing.

    • macart763 says:

      They are simply ensuring the man is unelectable come the next GE and by they I mean both Conservative and Labour meeja chain tuggers.

      The fella doesn’t stand an earthly of being elected PM in the current climate and narrative created by Parliament and corporate media. Much like the referendum, the fix was in before the mans arse hit the new office chair in Labour HQ. Labour isn’t Labour anymore and however hard Jezza tries, he won’t be able to turn the clock back forty years. The movers and shakers within the party are as wedded to the corporate and establishment complex as the Conservatives and with a damn sight less honesty.

      At least with the blue tories you get exactly the type of elitist sociopath you’re expecting.

      • fillofficer says:

        i was screaming at the tv during the ebc news report. it was a carefully edited piece to discredit an elected official. so here we have the beeb, the tories, the military & the blairites all conspiring to keep the english government in power till..ever. get us out of this crap & nicola – time for action

        • macart763M says:

          If you think that left you beelin’, then check out the link I’ve left below.

        • As someone who used to admire the armed forces in my younger days, I look at the like of Houghton and his kind and all I see now are disgusting fascists who could not hold a candle to the citizen soldiers who faced the fascists in the 1940s.
          Many of the survivors must look at these rats and wonder how the brownshirts got in through the back door.
          We really do need to escape from this lunatic asylum of a failed empire and fast.
          I’m no longer thinking of UDI as that bad a move…

  5. Jim Morris says:

    The poppy is also a fund raising tool to provide care and support for those who survived the horrors of being part of the military. This is essential because the governments who demanded their “sacrifice” refuse to support those who did not pay the ultimate one with their lives. There are lots of jewellery sparkly poppies on show this year, I sincerely hope this means lots more money for Poppy Scotland and its sister organisation down south. Is there a Poppy Wales and a Poppy Ireland?

  6. I’ll tell you what really choked my dug last night; whilst I enjoy going for Sunday dinner to my erstwhile in-laws, it does mean that I get subjected to BBC Pravda. To get to the point, when I heard the announcement of the ‘Strictly Glenn Miller special’ , I near got the dry boak! I mean, why not just call it the Strictly “wasn’t WW2 just a cheery Big Band party” Special?
    But aye, I did get the sub-text of that fucking donkey’s veiled threat.
    Sorry, General, but you just became the enemy to be defended against. Anyway, white poppy has been openly worn over the weekend with no discernible negative reaction to date. In fact there were an awful lot of folks not wearing any poppy round these parts yesterday.
    Quite possibly they dissolved in the constant pishing rain mind…
    And finally – Anarchodandyism. Thank you for brightening my world with a marvellous new term – I shall be using this in future where an appropriate opportunity presents itself.
    Still chuckling! 😆

  7. macart763 says:

    A powerful post Paul.

    The rich, the titled and the powerful start wars and the poor fight them and suffer through them. If those entitled and privileged souls who stood in front of the cameras yesterday wish to honour those who serve properly, perhaps one day they will simply choose to honour the covenant by deed instead of empty words.

    No more illegal wars or wars of resource. Provide proper care and support for those personnel who return wounded in body and spirit from service and perhaps remember who they as politicians serve and what they do in our name.

      • hektorsmum says:

        I agree, the US used to support their returning GI’s much better than the Establishment have ever done here. I was surprised to hear from my Friend whose husband is an ex-marine that he was having difficulties getting his medication paid for. My Father in Law came back from WW2 with a cheap suit and suitcase, those in the States went back to the chance of further education. It was ever thus, read any book about the Napoleonic Wars and you will hear about the servicemen with lost limbs begging on the streets or hoping some philanthropist would help out, some did but the one thing that never did was the “British Government”.

        • morvenm2014 says:

          Indeed, the 1824 Vagrancy Act was introduced in England and Wales to deal with the embarrassing spectacle of homeless ex-soldiers and sailors begging on the streets. According to Wikipedia, unbelievably, this act was used as recently as last year to prosecute three homeless men who took food from a skip at the back of an Iceland store in London. The CPS later dropped the case.

        • Guga says:

          Don’t forget, the English government used to deduct the cost of the blanket dead servicemen were buried in from any back pay they were owed. Nowadays they do give them a free body-bag, but not much else.

    • macart, around this time of the year I always remember the bit fae “Black Adder goes Forth”:
      Melchett: Don’t worry Lads we’re right behind you.
      Blackadder: Yes, about thirty miles behind us.

  8. mealer says:

    That’s a reasonable,moderate,liberal and sensible post but in UK 2015 will be considered as a hard left rant.

  9. Brian Powell says:

    The rise of the military in the UK is where we have been headed for some time, aided and abetted by Labourites like Jeremy Corbyn.
    He is not one to rally behind.

  10. hektorsmum says:

    An excellent summation of the way things are here in Britain of the 21st Century, or is it the 12th.
    I wonder if Jeremy will sack Maria Eagle, if he does not he is setting himself up for the fall.

    • John Edgar says:

      Hektorsmum is spot on. JC has to sack Angela Eagle. She supported publicly Houghton’s comments against Corbyn. She has publicly snubbed him before. Yet he just slinks into the shadows. Nae smeddum there. Perhaps he will go by Christmas or there will be a putsch. Where would that leave the “branch”?

  11. Maureen says:

    Well said Paul,Macart and all.

  12. […] Source: Remembering the appearance of things […]

  13. Gavin C Barrie says:

    Only to add : I agree with you Paul.

  14. Dave Hansell says:

    The points Paul makes here are underlined by another event which took place over the weekend, the British Legion televised event at the Albert Hall.

    During WW1 over fourteen and a half thousand Merchant Navy seamen lost their lives. In WW2 the number was around 32 thousand. Yet the British Legion saw fit to snub Merchant Navy veteran representatives at the Albert Hall event. For sure they allowed them to be involved in the mustering up outside, but only sent six audience only tickets to the association representing the Merchant seamen veterans, as they did last year (Parade bosses ban civilian hero’s, Morning Star). It seems the official view on remembrance is that hero’s come in two classes and only those considered first class hero’s are worth remembering.

    It is also worth pointing out that the majority of battlefield uniform casualties, both injured and dead, were largely civilian volunteers rather than standing professional forces in the two World Wars. The point being that the 70,000 official figures of UK civilian deaths in both of these wars hides the fact that the majority of battlefield casualties were in reality a civilian army and should be remembered as such.

    When I arrived at Catterick 43 years ago for basic training the first thing we were told was that just because, as tradesmen, we were only getting half the basic training of a standard infantryman (6 weeks instead of 12) it made no difference whether you were a cook a clerk, a mechanic or a lineman, your were a soldier first and a tradesman second. Three weeks in during the Geneva Convention/rules of conflict lecture the same theme was used, it does not matter whether you are an officer, an NCO, or a private, you are a human being first and a soldier second was the summing up.

    Perhaps some of egomaniac ‘ s in the General Staff need that lesson. They could certainly do a lot worse than listen to this interview


    The poppy fascist mentality of selective rememberence is also evident in the current argument in the City of Oxford where objections are being raised in Council planning over the proposal to erect a memorial to Oxford volunteers who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War.

    What makes this Ruritanian militarism so sadly pitiful and pathetic, particularly in the context of Trident, is that there s so little productive capacity and infrastructure left in the UK after 40 years of neo liberalism that not only are we not worth targeting with a single nuclear weapon no one would notice the difference unless it occurred in the City of London.

    Almost a hundred years ago in the aftermath of the so called Great War, when instead of homes fit for hero’s we got instead hero’s fit for homes (even as kids growing up in the 50 s and 60 s we often saw the shells of old WW1 veterans muttering and shouting in the streets, left to fend for themselves), it was observed that we were lions led by donkeys. These days it seems we are led by Muffin the Mule.

    Although some days it’s difficult to determine whether it Arthur Mullard or Arthur Daley running the show.

  15. Dan Huil says:

    Couldn’t watch it. Collateral damage.

  16. Jan Cowan says:

    An absolutely brilliant post, Paul. You voiced my beliefs exactly. You really are one unique word-smith.

  17. Probably the most intelligent piece of writing I’ve read on the subject.

  18. Hetty says:

    Excellently written. Thanks.

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