mardi 11 novembre 2008


I never wore poppies when I lived in England. I would occasionally be queried on this and reply that teaching twentieth century history, you're never likely to forget the fact that millions dies in Northern Europe to liberate France/stand up for little Belgium/defeat the beastly hun, etc. But of course, the commemoration ceremonies, monuments and two minutes silences are not about memory at all, but conditioning and control. The media process has for years presented the 14-18 war as an exercise in heroic suffereing, innocence lost and national sacrifice.

In reality, the war is not remembered at all. It's causes, course and consequences are never touched upon - there is enough time available - and instead the news items concentrate on the last few remaining survivors, hunched and impossibly wrinkled in their wheelchairs and under their blankets, in order to try to humanise the story or concentrate on the poetry or the (ahistorical) tragic nature of the collosal loss of British life in the mindless charges into the machine guns. Sure, these very old comrades will have memories of their time, but it's not that kind of memory the elites have in mind. The memory that is to be continually reconstructed is that war is an inevitable part of human social and political relations and that to die for your country is a superb fate. It's not that obviously done, but how else can one square the pious calls to remembrance of Brown, Sarkozy etal. and their frowning sincerity of their vows to spread the war for democracy further and deeper into Afghanistan and the silence, longer than that at eleven o' clock by far, over the innocent civilians killed in coalition airstrikes. The dredging up of the great war, here, in its sheer numbing numbers also serves to relativise the losses that our conteporary armed heroes are inflicting in the middle east in general. Lenin, resistance and revolution are forgotten from media accounts of the war to be replaced by the sheer scale of loss - 60000 here 55000 there all in an afternoon's work, don't you know. If we can take that, they are telling us, and go on to run the empire for a few more years, the message is, these Afghanis are just going to have to lump it when it comes to a piffling little 'massacre' of forty or so.

War? Just forget it.