Be a good little soldier

Our caring sharing all in this together Tory government wants to spread the benefits of militarism to the poor. Traditionally in Scotland, only the small minority of private schools had cadet forces, teaching kids from middle class backgrounds the rudiments of squarebashing and gun pointing so as to ease their later transition into officers’ commissions when they’d be ordering kids from poorer backgrounds to fight and die for a Crown that doesn’t give a toss about any of them.

It’s entirely possible that working class kids were denied this opportunity because the state couldn’t be sure which direction they’d be pointing their guns in. When I was at a state Catholic school in Coatbridge the 70s, there was a near riot when an army recruitment officer came to give the boys – not the girls, this was the 70s and the girls’ job was to make the tea – a talk on the delights of going to Northern Ireland and shooting at our relatives. It didn’t end well, although you’d think that an army officer faced with a class full of kids of Northern Irish Catholic descent during the height of the Troubles might have been a bit more prepared for the inevitable derision.

In former days working class young men were conscripted so they’d be fighting and dying for a Crown that doesn’t give a toss. No one needed to sell militarism to youngsters then, because they’d be getting a dose of it irrespective of their own views on the matter. But conscription is long in the past, and there is a diminishing appeal in a career which is liable to leave you on the unemployment scrapheap after a couple of years with few appreciable skills. It’s all very well knowing seven ways to kill someone with a ballpoint pen, but it’s not going to get you a job in Scotmid, even though it may be useful when the weans coming out of school shoplift the doughnuts.

Faced with a shortage of willing cannon fodder, the state wants to make more of an effort to sell the attractions of being maimed for the great glory of the British establishment to fresh generations. Since the last time that the Tories were popular in Scotland was during the days of conscription, the current government thinks that it’s a great idea to introduce mandatory marching for kids in state schools in Scotland. That’ll teach them how to be British, so it will. According to a leaked document the British government has decided to target schools in areas of greatest deprivation, areas full of impressionable youngsters denied other opportunities by the same Tory government, who will be most susceptible to the dubious charms of a few years in uniform and then spat out and discarded like spent bullets. Kids whose families are most likely to lack the social and professional connections to complain about their treatment.

The armed forces, the BBC, and the monarchy are the only British institutions left. No one believes the BBC any more, and the only difference between a monarchy and a soap opera is the amount of screeching. The armed forces are all that Westminster has got left to inculcate a sense of Britishness amongst a population for which Britishness is increasingly irrelevant.

Traditionally Scots were over represented amongst other ranks in the armed forces, but seriously under represented amongst officers. It suited the British army to perpetuate the myth of the martial Scot, just one in a long line of marginalised ethnic groups which were used by a more powerful state. They were, in the words of General Wolfe, “hardy, intrepid, accustomed to rough country, and no great mischief if they fall.” Scots and Gurkhas fulfilled that role for the British state, just like the Zouaves did for the French, colonial peoples serving the ends of their colonial masters. The Tories’ latest plans have the bitter taste of a past we had thought was long behind us. But it seems that is Scotland’s role in this Union, to give it our skills, to give it our resources, and to give it our children.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the first Gulf War. The British Legion estimates that of the 53,000 members of the armed forces who saw service during that campaign 33,000, 60%, have been left with lasting medical effects. Yet the UK Government ignores the illnesses, forcing ex-servicepeople to go to court to prove that their illness are a direct result of the conditions under which they served. That’s not a future for anyone’s kids.

Former service people are at a greater risk of suffering mental illness. They are disproportionately represented amongst the homeless. They are more likely to suffer from alcohol or drug problems. They have shorter life expectancies. We live in a state which cares so little for the welfare of former service people that we have charities which raise money to provide services for them which the government won’t provide itself. Yet this is the same government which fetishises the military and fosters a public cult in which it is considered blasphemous to criticise the armed forces.

Don’t dare criticise the cult of command, the top down direction of society, the profitable links between government and an offensive defence industry. Salute smartly and obey. Shoot at those the establishment tells you are the enemy, and then after a couple of years you can face a Job Centre interview which shoots down your chances of success in life.

Today the Telegraph has published a lead story attacking the Scottish Government because an unnamed person in the SNP criticised the Tory attempt to militarise our children, to chew them up in the army machine and to spit them out broken and discarded. Those the Telegraph sees fit to criticise are the people who say this is not a good future for our kids, that former service people deserve better. It plays the dutiful role of an attack dog for the state, biting down on dissent, and refusing to consider the morality of a government which treats the poor as cannon fodder. In the UK, the real sin is to point out the sinner.

Now be a good little soldier, fight and die for the queen, make money for your masters, accept your bowl of gruel. It was good enough for your grandparents, and it’s all your kids have to look forward to. It’s the British way.

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37 comments on “Be a good little soldier

  1. Joe says:

    Thank you, your greatest gift as a writer is having the ability to articulate exactly what everyone is thinking and saying it better than we ever could. If we live in such a democracy then other voices such as traumatic amputees ex servicemen suffering PSD who have been discarded by the armed forces should be given an equal amount of time with the children to explain the consequences of poor boys being sent to kill other poor boys for rich old men who wouldn’t piss on either of them if they were on fire.

  2. […] Be a good little soldier […]

  3. Well said as usual Paul. I live in a country in which the militarism has been brought to the point of parody. Millions of dollars spent on a temple of death in Canberra. A legend of masculine pride built around a massive defeat and retreat which is celebrated as the coming of age of a nation which had only been granted ‘home rule’ 14 years before and cannot be considered a mature country until the 1980’s when the last vestiges of control by mother england were discarded.

    There are those in power in Australia whose call for more boots on the ground in Iraq is strident and strong.
    Thankfully one of those warmongers our wee english ex PM has been relegated to the back benches as much for re-introducing imperial honours as his hunger for killing innocent arabs. A knighthood to Prince Phillip no less.

    Thankfully we have PM who is not so keen to follow David Cameron into that morass and is a republican to boot. ( He is a closet socialist.)

    My family suffered much from 19th and 20th centuries wars. One grandfather came back from World War 1, an unemployable drunken wife beating wastrel who fell down on the snow, drunk as always and died from pneumonia in 1943
    The other grandfather fought in Afghanistan in 1889 and in South Africa in the 2nd Boer war.

    He finished up a pit laborer in the pits above Fawkirk. He hated armies and passed that hatred onto his sons and daughters with a vengeance.

    I’m an auld man hanging onto life by a ba’ hair waiting impatiently for independence. Better sooner than later

  4. Guga says:

    In addition to your quote from General Wolfe on the Highland regiments in Canada, i.e. “”They are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall”, there is also another telling quote from Prime Monster Pitt on raising the Highland regiments for cannon fodder, i.e. “”What better ways to rid one’s enemies than in one’s service”

    Another example of the attitude of the English government towards the military is when, in 1707, after bribing a number of traitors in the Scottish government, they massed the English troops on the border to make sure that the Scottish traitors earned their bribes.

    Nor should we forget the next major military threat to Scotland when, during the Red Clydesiders protests, the English government ordered that all Scottish troops were to be confined to barracks, and then sent 10,000 English troops, as well as tanks, to make sure the Red Clydesiders ended their protests.

    In more recent times it is interesting to note the statement by the Glasgow Herald 24 July 2007, that “One in four frontline troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to be Scots”. In other words, the English government continues its use and abuse of the Scots as cannon fodder.

    As for the treatment of troops nowadays by the English government, at least there has been an improvement with their troops killed in action. They no longer deduct the cost of the blanket to wrap and bury them in from any pay they are owed. However, as before, the maimed are largely left to their own devices.

    The main reason, however, that Scots should not get involved with the English army or the English government’s attempt to subvert our schoolchildren is that we should not be sacrificing Scots to help the tame American poodles in the English government pretend that the British Raj and Empire still exists and that they, the English, are still of importance in the world. Nor should we be assisting the tame English poodles and their masters, American Terrorist State, to bomb, invade and annex other sovereign states, overthrow sovereign governments and annex the resources of these sovereign states.

    • cirsium says:

      guga – the full General Wolfe quote is “I should imagine that two or three independent Highland companies might be of use; they are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall. How better can you employ a secret enemy than by making his end conducive to the common good?” An earlier version of Better Together?

  5. Every day that passes in this ever viler Anschluss, I feel ever more grateful and justified that I have no children.
    At least they’ll never have to march around in Windsor Youth uniforms. I hope if this idiot idea comes to fruit that in Scotland it becomes utterly unworkable.
    To think I was once so intellectually stunted as to think this not a bad idea. I’m embarrassed I ever did…

  6. Macart says:

    We’re telling them tae get tae f…, right?

    They’re not worth dying for and never were. Scotland has given its fair share of youth to both the building and the decline of empire. Enough already.

    Our younger folk have something better to be getting on with. They have a country to build, so they’ll be a bit busy for the foreseeable future.

    And for those who are in armed services? Its time for Scottish service personnel to come home. I live in hope that a defence ministry in an independent Scotland will, unlike the current UK MOD, honour a covenant with our services. I also live in the hope that a Scottish foreign office makes sure we are known as a friend to the world and that a Saltire patch on a shoulder means rescue and aid are at hand.

  7. Aye. I would say that were I still young I wouldn’t think ill of serving in a Scottish Defence Force that wasn’t intended for overseas adventurism. What would also be good would be an equivalent to Germany’s THW which is a disciplined but non-military Civil Defence and Rescue/Relief organisation. They turn out to major incidents and provide technical assistance in situations like the floods Scotland and the north of England were subjectef to.

  8. Dorothy Devine says:

    Didn’t Westminster have a bill to bring back conscription last year? It was shelved but not thrown out as far as I remember.
    Your article is brilliant and should be in the National.

  9. Thomas William Dunlop says:

    Great article, as always.

    One point of order is, however, is needed.

    In the 80s, Carluke, our High School had a cadet force of some description (having attended once myself). I do not know if it survived or not. Although I do know there is a strong strand of British working class Orangism in the district, which not doubt perpetuates itself from generation to generation on the myth of mighty Britain. (Something I tackled head on during the referendum)

  10. robert graham says:

    A good informative read especially your personal experiences growing up in central Scotland , your article brings back memories when Maggie called the Nation to arms , i was working in Glasgow at the time and it was rumored that a call up might be needed to boost this effort in the South Atlantic , this was greeted by a collective “AYE THAT WILL BE F/N RIGHT ” fight yer own f/n war Mrs send yer own stupid son first , I often wondered what the outcome would have been if subscription was introduced at that time to fight for a tory Government who was in full flow dismantling Scottish Industry , i suspect mass emigration ha ha , again a good read tx .

  11. david agnew says:

    I remember Brown wanting to inflict this jingoism and war fetish shit on our school children. The essence of Britishness – commando comics, airfix history of WW2, chintz china with the queens fizog on it and a union jack tea towel. It’s like waking up after the referendum and realising that the UK is actually Royston Vasey.

  12. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    Are the Sedition Laws still on the books?

    Any bets on when someone will try them out for size?

  13. bill says:

    Its about time people looked at what they seevas tourist attractions. Edinburgh, Stirling castle full of the Black watch and how we died in battles. The great Edinburgh Tatoo is also not so great as a reminder of who is in charge. Do not give them your money for phoney propaganda.

  14. Dan Huil says:

    I hope those youngsters in Scotland being targeted by Westminster tell the britnats tae get tae f…!

  15. Grace says:

    Blimey Paul – some writing – your state Catholic school must have served you well!

    I was teaching at that time in a state secondary (though not in Scotland) and well remember the “careers” afternoons when various arms of the military appeared in all their finery to dazzle the lads from the council estate with their promises of a trade, travel and derring-do. A number of the more enlightened staff did their best to counter balance this attempt at recruitment to kill, but it was at a time when apprenticeships were dwindling and jobs for youngsters were getting scarce.

    Outbackscotland at 2.58 – Like your family, ours too was scarred by the experiences our grandfathers in WW1; they served in the Royal Navy as submariners and both survived being torpedoed, though with mental and physical impairments. In different ways we have all been affected down the years.

    But again, like yours, our grandfathers didn’t hold back in their contempt for those in power. One joined the Communist party and “preached sedition” (allegedly!) and the other never missed a chance to mock and jeer at the hypocrites, particularly on medal-wearing occasions.

    I suppose we are testimony to the fact that the brain-washing can never be wholly successful.

  16. hektorsmum says:

    An excellent article Paul, as someone who lost one uncle to war.another who as you said was one who died young. well I consider 60 young. My Father was apparently a career soldier who started as a boy and worked up to RSM in the Parachute Regiment as far as I know. I agree that many are damaged by war and I consider that my Father was one of them. His attitude to life was if it did not suit him then he should run and hide and he certainly managed that.
    Like Max I have no children, I made a concious decision not to. As long as Scotland remained within the British State I would create no war or factory fodder. The Royal Family are hanging on by the skin of their knuckles and are only saved because the Establishment needs them, after all where would they find the baubles to bribe those such as the Labour Party.

  17. Dave Thomson says:

    Sadly some of our more vulnerable kids will be drawn to ” The King’s Shilling ” given the lack of opportunity in their daily lives. Us Auld Heids must do our best to educate them.

  18. Oneironaut says:

    Makes me wonder if all those who voted No will be happy to encourage their kids to go off and be cannon fodder in wars for the glory of the “empire” they believe we should remain a part of?

    Or maybe that only applies to the poor and hopeless then? *sigh*

  19. Sandra Stewart says:

    Another brilliant piece Paul, summing up the thoughts and feelings of many. Whatever it takes we need to get out of this Union. Was thinking of sending we Davie Cameron a couple of your books.

  20. So true in your writings Paul! The Scottish Government must issue a definitive NO WAY to UK . WE WILL NOT ALLOW OUR CHILDREN TO BE ABUSED IN THIS WAY. The warmongers can use their own children as cannon fodder!

  21. From the heart, as usual, but articulated from the head…thanks Paul.

  22. Jan Cowan says:

    A brilliant piece, Paul.

    The Tories are certainly taking us back to suggestions we thought were securely fixed in the past.

    “A Saltire patch on a shoulder means rescue and aid are at hand”. A big thank you, Sam, as those are my hopes too.

  23. davidbsb says:

    I have thought for much of my life that Scots should not join the British Armed Forces. I have known for much of that life the disproportionate loss we take for our part in glorious england’s foreign posturing. And I always thought I was a dangerous radical. How the world changes when the unionist spectacles lie dashed on the ground.

  24. Steve BC says:

    Jeez Paul. Two searing posts in a row. I’m in pieces here 😢

  25. Albamac says:


    Scots wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled,
    Ill-equipped an’ poorly fed,
    Welcome tae yer gory bed
    An’ hollow victory!
    Noo’s the day an’ noo’s the hour
    Tae die fur Georgie Porgie’s pow’r.
    Even though the lie’s turned sour,
    Rise an’ follow me!

    The people’s voice will hold no sway,
    Might will triumph on this day.
    I may be mad but, as I say,
    I, honestly, believe
    That evil Saddam’s bound to stay,
    tyranny won’t go away,
    an’ that’s the awful price we’ll pay
    unless yer faimlies grieve.

    Yer claes ur crap, yer guns might jam,
    the kitchen’s runnin’ oot o’ Spam,
    yer General’s another bam
    that thinks yer ‘Good to Go’.
    He says yer plight is jist tough luck.
    Lik me, he couldnae gie a f***
    When yer up tae yer ears in blood an’ muck
    We’re naewhere near the foe.

    Ah’ll no’ be rushin’ tae the front
    Or joinin’ the Bin Laden hunt.
    It’ll no’ be me that bears the brunt
    O’ this war oan terror.
    Ah’ll tak a leaf fae Georgie’s book
    An’ fin’ masel a cosy nook.
    Why should mah flesh burst an’ cook
    Fur an honest error?

    Lik barefit weans, lang years ago,
    Yer beggin’ food fae GI Joe
    but ye’ll staun up strong an’ gladly go
    Wherever cowards send ye.
    Ye’ll bite the bullet, cos ye must,
    An’ fight wance mer fur foreign dust.
    Through mothers’ sons ye’ll cut an’ thrust
    An’ may the right defend ye.

    Meantime, lads, ye can rest assured,
    the nation’s gratitude’s secured
    An’ aw the pain that ye’ve endured
    Hiz made ye heroes.
    But lik veterans o’ aw oor fights,
    don’t think that gies ye special rights.
    Ye’ll never see the promised heights.
    In fact, yer on tae zeroes

    If ye return fae foreign shore,
    Tae reach yer homeland, safe, once more,
    Ye’ll join the dole queue, like before,
    Fur joabs ye widnae spit oan.
    Ye’ll open doors an’ tip yer hats
    Subservient tae the same fat cats
    Who battles wage wi’ lies an’ stats
    fur seats ye widnae shit oan.

    I left home when I was fifteen and wandered the country, earning my keep as I went. At seventeen, I joined the Army because it offered food, accommodation, a wage, a group to belong to and, a vague sense of purpose. I’ll be seventy this year and I’ve been listening to a different drummer for a very long time.

    • And a fine, accurate portrayal yer rendition is, Mac.
      I’d never encourage a youngster tae join up these days, having seen the way veterans are treated.
      Even in the non military service I was in, today ye mean nae mair tae them than a computer or pair o boots.
      In truth it was aye thus.

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