This year, do remembrance differently

by Outreach ~ November 12th, 2015. Filed under: News.

autumn leaves

It’s that time of year again, when the new autumnal colours from the trees are added to by that splash of red seen on the jackets of most people that you walk past. It’s a bizarre season of celebration. One day we dress-up as the dead following an ancient Celtic festival which celebrates the veil between our world and the next being at its thinnest. The next day we are chucking a 409 year old Roman Catholic on a bonfire in celebration of a foiled assassination of our protestant king and his ministers. All this gives me reason to believe that in 500 years’ time future generations will don the red poppy in commemoration of some distant time in history which bore little resemblance to life as they know it.

I don’t feel the need to re-iterate arguments about the muddied meaning and not-so-hidden agenda of the red poppy campaign, as many compelling arguments have been written about the usurped symbol which is increasingly used to foster patriotism and militarism. Many who wear the red poppy do so for the right reasons, but the national ceremonies surrounding it are charged with an undeniable political agenda.

Originally, the red poppy campaign was about remembering those who fought for our country whilst also upholding the national promise of ‘never again’. The best way to honour our prided tradition of remembrance, therefore, is to get involved with campaigns which work for the promised peace.

On Remembrance Sunday, Veterans for Peace will walk to the Cenotaph under a banner that reads ‘Never Again’. They will then hold a ceremony to remember all of those killed in war, including civilians and enemy soldiers. Supporters are encouraged to follow VFP to The Cenotaph to witness a different form of remembrance from veterans who now dedicate themselves to educating about the reality of military service, and resisting militarism through non-violent action.

Campaign Against The Arms Trade’s (CAAT) Arming All Sides campaign includes extensive research into the arms trade before, during and after WW1. CAAT’s project highlights how the war was fuelled by the global network of arms companies. Arms companies have not changed, they make money by selling weapons and weapons are needed in times of war and preparation for war. This is as true today as it was then.
White Poppy
Each year the Peace Pledge Union release their white poppies, which symbolise the renunciation of all war      and the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts. The white poppy asks us to remember that we did not end war in 1918 and violence is still used as a method to resolve conflict. Even as we remember those who died in WW1, the number of war dead continues to grow. The white poppy asks us to work for a society that invests in peace.

And finally there are many campaigns which ask us to remember the bravery of those who chose not to fight. In remembering the courage of war it is equally important to remember those who were bullied, imprisoned and shot for being led by their conscience in refusing to kill their fellow man. Actions will be taking place at the beginning of 2016 to celebrate a milestone moment in WW1 in which the right of conscientious objection was legalised within the 1916 Military Service Act.

Conscience: Taxes for Peace Not War will be using this centenary to challenge the legal recognition conscience, arguing that it needs to be updated in parallel with advances in the technology of warfare. Our bodies are no longer needed, but our money is – and we are all conscripted into the military through the tax system.

We are introducing a Bill to parliament which would allow conscientious objectors to military taxation to shift the portion of their taxes currently used for expensive and ineffective military interventions abroad towards funding international conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding projects instead.

So make a commitment to peace this remembrance day. Honour those who died in WW1 by pledging to work towards a world where people do not have to die for our safety and civilian casualties are not created by a global arms trade. Commit to a future where the individual of conscience does not go against the tide in wanting to pay for peace.

Remember the original pledge of wearing the red poppy – ‘Never Again’.


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