#WritersWednesday: In Praise of White Poppies

Dresden, Teilansicht des zerstörten Stadtzentrums über die Elbe nach der Neustadt. In der Bildmitte der Neumarkt und die Ruine der Frauenkirche.

We will wear a white poppy from now on, in November. Listening to the unctuous words of a political class that does not hesitate to send young men and women to war, on lies and idiotic excuses, of course guarding themselves to ever wear a uniform, we just felt utter revulsion.

Nothing is new. As a franco-german household, we’ve always seen the two European world-wars as civil wars, caused by the folly of politicians and their henchmen in industry and the media. That there is always a party of war is a sad truth. It is made of bigots, hypocrites, profiteers and the inept, the clueless, who end up as cannon fodder among the real innocent.

So this year, we remembered: our grand fathers who died on opposite sides of those trenches, but in the same spirit: that of awe and terror at the hell those liars had sent them to; the fallen citizen-soldiers in their millions, and the martyr cities of the 20th, and now, the 21st century, already (only a small sample listed here):

Verdun (1916-17), Reims (1917), Nanking (1937), Coventry (1940), Lübeck (1942), Hamburg (1943), Kiel (1944), Bremen (1944), Stuttgart (1944), Warsaw (1994), Dresden (1944), Berlin (1945), Leningrad (1941-45), Stalingrad (1943), Tokyo (1944), Hiroshima (1945), Nagasaki (1945), Pyongyang (1953), Hué (1968), Pnom-Penh (1975), New-York (2001), Bagdhad (to date)… 

Remembrance must not be an opportunity for liars to retell their tales: that political class and their lackeys only deserve our contempt and that of our Dead. We hope that some of these devils, at least, will face trial for their (war) crimes. 


From Guadalcanal to Downing Street

Media-wise our household is eclectic. We are in turn Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Times and even, occasionally (LOL), Daily Mail readers. As Lili Allen said: I look in the Sun, and look at the Mirror… Yet this reader tends to focus on Le Monde Diplomatique, and as you could guess from the blogroll, the LRB. Still yesterdays’ issue of The Telegraph had interesting insights.

Neil Tweedie spoke with Sid Phillips, one of the five survivors of H Company, 2nd battalion of the 1st US Marine Regiment, the one at Guadalcanal. Sid engaged in the US Marine Corps in 1942, on the wake of Pearl Harbor, aged 17. He’s now 85, and one of the four soldiers who inspired Steven Spielberg’s and Tom Hanks’ “The Pacific” tv series. I rarely have cause to regret not paying due to the Murdoch empire, but this is perhaps one such occasion. The battle for Guadalcanal raged from August 1942 to February 1943, coincidently also the pivotal moment in the battle for Stalingrad on the other side of the world. After the war Sid Phillips turned to the medical profession in his native Alabama . He returned once to Guadalcanal, in 1977, with other veterans: “Gads! This place still stinks”. Like in Verdun and Volgograd, the smell of Death never leaves the loci of its triumphs. We salute you, Sir.

The same issue opened its columns to David Cameron’s “personal manifesto”, My Vision, Your Choice. Although a distinguished great child of Hayek’s school of neo-liberalism that has now prevailed across western political life since the late 70’s, I respect David Cameron’s views, since, contrary to many, he is at least loyal to his principles. David writes that “from (his) mother, a magistrate, (he) got an enduring sense of community, responsibility, obligation.” David continues “it is unfashionable (sic) these days to talk about public service, but she taught (him) life was about more than making money.”

Can’t agree more, though the extent of public service talk being “unfashionable” depends of course on where you are born, and on your income… Regretfully I cannot concur with Mr Cameron that “the state” should not “infringe on the freedom of the individual”, if doing so is the only way to offset gross inequalities and injustice. This of course is why, even if I could, I would be unlikely to become a Cameron’s supporter. My party is that of Karl Polanyi and the Great Transformation, rather than that of the Road to Serfdom.