Is Britain forgetting the meaning of the poppy symbol?

[Image: Another Angry Voice.]

[Image: Another Angry Voice.]


This is from Another Angry Voice, and seems highly appropriate in the current unpleasant political atmosphere.

I’ve written before about the debasement of the poppy symbol and how the actual meaning of remembrance is gradually being subsumed under a tide of pageantry, intolerance, false-patriotism, political opportunism and empty symbolism.

The debasement of remembrance started to become obvious when “poppy fascism” began to rear its ugly head. The idea of tabloid newspapers (some of which lauded Hitler and promoted the rise of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s) hurling abuse at TV presenters or football players for the “crime” of not wearing poppies is about as far from the spirit of remembrance as possible. We don’t remember the fallen victims of war because we are compelled to under threat of character assassination in the right-wing press. We remember the fallen because we choose to.

The enforced conformity of “poppy fascism” has been appalling enough to witness, but in recent years politicians, extreme-right fanatics and tabloid hacks alike have repeatedly demonstrated that the poppy symbol has been reduced to empty political iconography.

Source: Is Britain forgetting the meaning of the poppy symbol?

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4 thoughts on “Is Britain forgetting the meaning of the poppy symbol?

  1. Barry Davies

    Unfortunately when bodies such as FIFA refuse to allow the England and Scotland football teams because they have deemed it is a political symbol, it doesn’t help those of us who wear it in remembrance of those who faught and died for this nation and the the empire and commonwealth in every action since 1914.

  2. Roland Laycock

    I think people would remember it better if they had a days leave, not something there to make money. The poppies in London last year made a lot of money for some and little for those that made them ask the people of Belper.

  3. NMac

    I actually heard one poppy seller exhorting people to “support our boys in Afghanistan”. I have thought for a long time now that it is being used to glorify militarism.

  4. shaunt

    Presumably, the recent change as to how the Poppy Appeal is represented stems from the fact there are no survivals from the First World War to contradict how the newsprint media portray it. A good example was Harry Patch. Another example is the fact at the end of the Second War World, it was not Sir Winston Churchill and the Conservatives that the British electorate elected, but Clement Atlee and the Labour Party. Who, in addition to creating most of the Welfare State, subsequently divulged the nation of many of its imperial possessions. The latter, as for the completion of the Welfare State, was what people and soldiers elected a Labour government to do.

    A did my apprentice with Leonard Beavis, a Corporal in 17/21 (or something like that )Lancers, actually a tank regiment, who served in North Africa, Sicily and on the Italian mainland. The toughest man I’ve ever met, certainly not a pacifist, however he said war is a terrible thing ‘when you see yew mucker blown to pieces it’s horrible’. He also told me that he saw nations from all nations do bad things. He explained how when he was in a temporary field hospital a German tank opened fire on the hut they were in and the shell landed behind the hut. Realising that they had not put out a Red Cross they quickly put it on the roof of the building they were in. Before that the second shell dropped in from the hut. The tank then turned away and did not fire the third shell. The point here is the tank commander was finding his range, bracketing-in on the hut: first over the top, so bracket down, the next shell explodes in front the hut and the commander then sets the range of the third shell in between the first and second. So the third shell would have been easy to get right and fatal. The hospital field station sent a radio message that a German Tiger tank was in the area and later that day it was taken out by a plane. I do not remember him wearing a poppy or him making me wear one, though most years I buy and wear one, though perhaps not as a teenager.

    Just before his retirement, he saw Harold Pinter’s, Death of a salesman, and along with a joke about chucking his tools the bridge on the day of his retirement, he said the Socialists are right, they only want you when you’re of any use to them. The point I’m trying to make is that his generation and others that actually fought, or went through a World War, viewed war and Poppy Day as the commemoration of those who lost their lives or limbs, and a terrible thing. And for Len, at least, the idea of all good soldiers coming from one nation and the bad from another had more to do with myth making than reality.
    Now, as most historians know, the best myths are made long after the events they depict are over; then, reality does not get in the way.

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