Saturday, November 11, 2006

ETC: Conflicted About Conflict

It's Remembrance Day here in Canada, and as always, I feel conflicted about the poppy I've been wearing for the past few days -- and not just because that little exposed pin has left me covered in tiny puncture wounds.

I wish there were a way for my poppy to tell other people that, while I fully support and respect the people who've made enormous sacrifices so that the rest of us can live in safety, I don't support the idea of war in general, especially in recent years, when wars seem to be fought less and less for ideological reasons and more and more for the sake of transparent corporate interests. (I'm not naive, by the way. I know that financial gain has governed many a conflict, and that the idea of war as a battle between good and evil is largely an early-twentieth-century construct. It just seems that, in those days, people at least did a better job of pretending there were more altruistic reasons behind their decision to take up arms.)

On the other hand, I find it interesting -- if confusing -- when people say they don't believe in war. "Believe" in it? As if war were the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy? Or, more probably (and less facetiously), they mean they don't believe in its efficacy as a solution. This is an interesting position, largely in that it's pretty much gone untested. Because war IS the solution we collectively leap to -- a little too readily, it seems. Whether it ultimately solves the problem at hand is debatable, but hey, we haven't blown ourselves up yet, right? Does that count as success?

Someone once said that war is the failure of reason. That's one way of putting it. Another way of putting it is: war means that some power-hungry asshole somewhere got a stupid idea, and the rest of us had to set aside whatever we were doing in order to deal with it.

These are my incoherent thoughts on the subject, and this is the point in my post where I should wrap things up with a grand summation. But I don't have one. If I did, it would be a solution to this messy, stupid, tragic failure of human nature. Wouldn't that be wonderful?


Anonymous said...

Nice post. I think it conveys what a lot of us think about war..

Kailana said...

Good post. I considered posting something similar, but you say it much better than I would have. :)

trophycase said...

I half heartedly looked around the Globe this morning for the yearly burning of some strawman who told a class of 11 year olds that he doesn't believe in war. Maybe everone fell in line with the age old fallacy that we're free because of the state's killing machine.

I've been reading Dr. Suess to my kids for years now, you know the pleasure, and having more than one kid multiplies the number of times you read those same books over and over again. Yertle the Turtle and King Looie Katz, from one of the other stories in I can lick 30 tigers today... Both say pretty much the same thing: drop out of the silly game. And that action makes things more Demo-cat-ic. You've got to love the good Dr.

I don't wear a poppy. It's hard. I see these creaky old men welling up with remembrance, I want to respect them, but they've got it so wrong. Walking around without a poppy says "I don't remember." At it's most innocent it says that. But I do remember and the symbol lies.

The idea that we'd have no freedom if the soldiers hadn't fought the good wars is a lie. People have fought for our freedom, that's true, but it wasn't soldiers, and in a lot of cases soldiers were used to opposed the freedoms we enjoy.

No soldier fought for a woman's right to vote. Where were the soldiers during the civil rights movement? Who fought for equal pay for equal work? Who fought for labour laws? Most of our freedoms come of controls wrested from our governments. And soldiers are the tools of government.

Pick up Pierre Berton's The Great Depression. You'll see that Canada worked to keep out jews; that Canada had its own burgeoning fascist and anti-semetic movement. And that Canada was doing its best to squash its workers' movement.

There were civil movements all through Europe opposed to fascism; opposed to the crushing of their freedom. Again, all the freedoms we speak of are freedoms won by people out of uniform fighting our government. If the fascists had won the war, they'd have lost the civil war, just like our government has.

Our freedoms are always under threat, and if we can't remember how they were actually one, we may one day lose them, or at least have to fight for them, out of uniform, once again.

Anonymous said...

There is a third way. In Britain, you can buy white or red poppies. Red poppies are the traditional kind, white ones are opposed to war, but the money still goes to the same charity.


Anonymous said...

I found you through the NaBloPaMa - I was going to mention the idea of white poppies too. I heard on the radio this week that they have brought the white poppies back this year - in recognition of the current war and the need to bring our troops home.

"White Poppy - origins

The idea of an alternative poppy dates back to 1926, just a few years after the red poppy came to be used in Britain. A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint 'No More War' in the centre of the red poppies and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.

In 1933 the Co-operative Women's Guild produced the first white poppies to be worn on Armistice Day (later called Remembrance Day). The Guild stressed that the white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the women lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers. The following year the Peace Pledge Union joined the CWG in the distribution of the poppies and later took over their annual promotion."

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just wanted to let you know that, on my computer, this post is repeated four times.

Anonymous said...

My dear old Dad always told me, "War is not noble. War is about killing and maiming people and messing up the real estate." I think that dear old Dad was correct, in this instance.

Matthew E said...

I read someone's suggestion once that Remembrance Day is all well and good, but instead of using the poem 'In Flanders Fields', we should instead turn to 'Dulce et Decorum Est'. I could go for that.

Anonymous said...

I heard people in Edmonton were selling white poppies, and there was a big uproar from the Legion about some sort of copyright/trademark infringement. I think they were really angry about the symbolism, thinking it was disrespectful, but they can't really say that outright. I don't agree with this, and would love to see more things like this. This year, I wore a red poppy, because I would like to show my respect for those who were/are in our armed forces, but had there been someone selling white poppies in my area, I would've bought one.