Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day

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Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day

Postby Gavin » 11 Nov 2014, 20:02

On Sunday my wife and I went to see the ceramic poppies, more than 888,000, which have been "planted" around the Tower of London.

I just wanted to note a few of my observations.

I would say that 90% of the people there (at about 5pm in the evening) were tourists, and these seemed to be mainly from Europe and the Orient. It was very busy indeed. Some staff using megaphones asked people keep moving and not linger, but many ignored them. Although the English are often inconsiderate, the fact the staff were ignored bolsters my view that most of the visitors were tourists, not native.

Accordingly, many posed for photos of themselves, with the poppies in the background, big smiles on their faces. After all, the event is about them and they have done and are doing (insignificant and easy though this is) and not about anyone else. Selfies were taken and much excitement had. Just another stop on the tour of London before leaving having seen little of what is actually going on. The only indication will be that strange impression when not a single one of the hotel or restaurant staff encountered during the stay were actually native English. Many a foreigner must go home wondering where the English actually are. They see their buildings, but that is all.

The fact there were so many tourists enjoying themselves made it hard for me, a native English person, to actually see the poppies at all. I caught glimpses, and what I saw was impressive. We managed one or two photos. I thought about the wars. It didn't look as though many others in their bright puffer jackets were thinking about the wars or the war dead. I couldn't help suspecting that this featured merely as further entertainment for many.

I nearly forgot to mention: among the thousands of visitors I did not spot a single obvious Muslim. Not one, in a city of so many. But then, what connection would they feel to our war dead, those who fought to retain a Britain they could recognise?

Today was the marking of Armistice Day. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we go silent for two minutes, and we are supposed to think about the war and the situations in which many men found themselves: dying in ditches, starving, having to kill for their freedom. Many of those men were likely driven by a love of what England was, by their faith and by a sense of duty. Sad to say, but all of those qualities seem somewhat rare in narcissist/hedonist/feminist England now.

I wore a poppy to my work, in the hope it would make people think about the gravity of war, and the fact that we just happen to have been born in a lull, but it is quite possible that full blown war might - and might need to - break out in the west again. The workplace is about 50% Indian and 50% English. I saw not a single Indian wearing a poppy and very few English doing so; almost none. We were in a meeting as 11am approached. I had already made up my mind to leave the meeting to observe the two minutes' silence if nobody else did, but then someone said they would be breaking off at that point. I left early anyway to observe the TV screens during that time.

Though the company went quiet, only a handful among the thousands joined me there. Again I thought about what had happened and what might be to come. Probably few others did. When the time had passed, a whistle was blown and everybody immediately sprang back into action as if nothing had happened. I lingered for a while then went back.

A video was playing on loop in which a member of the company's upper management - a man probably in his fifties - was being asked to answer ten questions in sixty seconds. One was "What's your favourite Rihanna track?". He had no doubts and named one straight away.

That was my Armistice Day so far.
Gavin
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Re: Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day

Postby Kevin R » 13 Nov 2014, 02:01

None of that surprises me Gavin.

I have two 1940s re-enacting friends who went to the Tower to see it last week, and in the background of the photographs they posted online, I could see the same thing as you've described - puffa-jackets, the inevitable variegated menu-touristique making faces into their digital mirrors.

It has been described across the media as an 'installation', as if it was something made by Hygena kitchens. Lately (at least around this part of the world) there does seem to have been a slew of art-works using the idea of masses of paper remembrance poppies to evoke a feeling of wholesale tragedy. I've been to recent exhibitions in two cathedrals, and three art-galleries where they've been shovelled into suitcases, spread across the floor in a giant circle with blasted branches protruding from the centre, glued into picture-frames, filled into hessian sacks, real ones left to wither and die then glued to the ceiling. you name it, they've tried it. I couldn't get past the artists determination to 'make a statement' in most of it, it all seemed too easy somehow.

Only one exhibition I happened upon left me affected in a deeper sense. In the summer when the Centenary commemorations were happening, I happened to visit East Bergholt church in Suffolk, the birthplace of John Constable, who's Edenic vision of England has famously seeped into the national consciousness. Inside the beautiful parish-church, they had set up numerous little mis-en-scene depicting trench life, using accurate uniforms, and makeshift props to evoke the sepia'd squalor of daily Great-War existence. The dummies they used for the figures and the dusty patina of the exhibits, barrels, sacks, trunks, rope, mud, stuffed rats, bandages, rusty canteens etc.. had an eerie resonance about them, but the fact it had all been created and constructed not by an installation artist, but by the locals and the children of the nearby village schools - by the generational descendants of that era - that was what struck me to the core. Here it was, in the heart of an Anglican parish church, amongst the very wall-tablets of the war-dead.. In the quiet stillness of the dusky medieval nave, the noise and horror of the war seemed somehow thrown into relief by the power of imagination. As I looked over the lists of the war dead in the silence, a wasp buzzed and bumped lazily across the cobwebbed stained-glass windows higher up, and the scent of garden roses came in through the porch. The imaginative contrast seemed almost unbearable. It struck me as I gazed and pondered, what an ironical thing this scenario was at a time when our cultural and historical bequest is being abandoned, and (to quote John of Gaunt in Richard II) .. 'England hath made a shameful conquest of itself'.

Apart from my companion, the church was empty. At the door, was a wicker basket with knitted wool poppies for sale, made by an elderly lady of the parish, price one pound. I bought one, and wore it , but will keep it on my mantelpiece as a reminder of that silent afternoon, and the fading pictures of the dead young soldiers in old frames, lined up on the vestry wall.
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Re: Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day

Postby Yessica » 21 Nov 2014, 10:14

Gavin wrote: Many of those men were likely driven by a love of what England was, by their faith and by a sense of duty. Sad to say, but all of those qualities seem somewhat rare in narcissist/hedonist/feminist England now.


I wonder if WWI, which killed a great many of the population of all the countries involved, changed the genetical make-up of those countries.

I have read a study about oxytocin (wrongly nicknamed the "cuddle hormone") turned out that it seems to be also a soldiering hormone. The study found that people in certain occupations - such as soldiering and law enforcement - had a higher frequency of certain genes having to do with how much oxytocin is produced in the body and how it works.
They wrote that oxytocin seems to be a far more complex subject than previously thought.

Depending on the situation it can either give you a "tend and befriend" response or a a "tend and defend" response. It has been known for long it makes you act more pro-social but now it has turned out it only promotes in group trust but hostility towards the perceived outgroup.

Now if that is true than WWI must haved reduced the number of people carrying that genes leaving the next generation less soldierly than the previous. We are more than the sum of our genes and not everybody who died in WWI died childless but I still think that it might have had an effect of how we are today.

There is something I noticed among some professional soldiers and that is the fact they will go trough extreme length to help you with something. I am not sure if that is just something encouraged by the Bundeswehr (our forces) or if people like this are drawn to them.
Oddly enough I never had the feeling that our soldiers are any braver or tougher than the rest of the population but than may be only because I did no see them in a situation that required bravery or toughness.
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