With this year being the centenary of World War One, there has been an extra push for the poppy appeal and remembrance of not one, but two horrific world wars that cost the lives of millions of people. For a number of years however I personally have refrained from wearing the red poppy and have chosen instead to wear a white peace poppy.
The traditional red poppy has over the years become a symbol for other wars and suffering, most notably the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and this is where my feelings towards the wearing of the poppy begin to change. World War One was supposed to be the war to end all wars, yet we have endured 100 years of war and its associated atrocities on both sides of each conflict. War is not meant to be won but to be endured, so wrote George Orwell, and is what we have effectively seen.
Much is made of the recent wars and the need for the money from the poppy appeals to help wounded soldiers. This, like other charity groups such as Help For Heroes, removes the onus on the government to do the right thing and provide for the women and men that have lost their lives in the pursuit of government lies and imperialism. They dream up the disputes and send the troops to fight and die, often with dodgy intelligence and poor equipment with the tune of “for Queen and country” ringing in their ears. There is no peace to be found at the end of a bomb.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left us with that many injured servicemen and women that they were able, recently, to hold their own version of the Olympics, the Invictus games. And these are just the physical wounds, what of the mental impact on relentless tours of these war zones? Post Traumatic Stress is the elephant in the room no one wishes to talk about with 1 in 5 combat veterans likely to suffer on their return from the battlefield. The Falklands war lasted but days in comparison to the brutal tours faced by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the cost of that war still being counted today. What future ills await the soldiers sent to fight Blairs bloody wars?
The burden of providing for families suffering at the hands of the bloody Blair years should be honoured by the governments that sent them there. Our job is to oppose them being sent in the first place and in doing so honouring and remembering those that have paid the ultimate price in our past.
“The philosophy of Occupy scares them (the government) the philosophy of we will not go home!” The Artist Taxi Driver at the last nights assembly at Parliament Square where a group of humans have been occupying land in a visceral demonstration of how democracy isn’t working in the UK.
This week we have seen the UK position itself just to the right of China, with its rules, regulations and byelaws that are impeding people’s rights to protest and hold corporate state to account. At Occupy Democracy (now dubbed the #TarpaulinRevolution as police ripped up the groundsheets people were sat on in the rain from under them earlier this week) the private enforcement group of ‘Red Caps’ have even found a bylaw which prevents someone from playing an acoustic guitar which was not the Live Music Act 2012 and made their feelings known as those playing renditions of hallelujah receiving some hard words being served notices.
Watching Boris Johnson’s private security firms give orders to the police we pay to protect us was a very sobering site. A piece of string attached to a sign and a bag to stop it blowing away was deemed to be a structure and so the red caps ordered its removal for believing it to be against the law, holding lengthy discussions with the MET Police about removing it. A woman was disturbed by the corporate mouth pieces for looking as though she was sleeping in a position of comfort under a tree, another law broken. One child no older than 3 started kicking a ball which hit a police officer by the fence which has been erected around both Winston Churchill and Parliament Square, I wondered whether there was a bylaw for this too and warned him so as I scooted passed on my way home.
We now live in a county that claims to have great freedoms of speech, expression and beliefs and yet a country with as chequered a history as China for those very things is seemingly more tolerant of the sight of sleeping bags on their streets or a tarpaulin to keep the rain off your head. They have even allowed tents.
The size of the problem can be reflected in the comparative coverage in our news. Every day for the past few weeks the Occupy Hong Kong story has featured countless times online and in print news, yet a demonstration of equal importance in our own backyard has gone mainly unnoticed by our media as the image below shows. The upside is that there are people there on the ground covering events as they unfold in real-time. There used to be a time when the mainstream media was accessed to verify news on the social media, today it is very much the other way.
Each day at Occupy Democracy has had a different theme and a selection of fine speakers, not least Russell Brand and Ken Loach as well as Vivienne Westwood and Caroline Lucas MP to date. If you are passing through the smoke before Sunday you would do worse than to stop by and catch a flavour of what is being discussed; it is peaceful, colourful and educational. Even if you were not planning to head to London, make the exception and catch the final day on Sunday.
You can visit the Occupy Democracy website for daily themes, schedules and updates and if you want to see what Russell Brand had to say about the right to protest you can see him on last nights Newsnight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqsFp0J22Hc