Friday, 25 October 2013

Have We Forgotten How to Remember?

There's an awful lot of remembering going on at the moment.

More than I can remember there being for this time of year.

And there's more to come in early November and, baby, this is just the warm up, 2016 is approaching fast..

So far, this spring, summer and autumn we've remembered dead terrorists (or volunteers or soldiers or murderers or whatever title you prefer); we've remembered (as usual) bygone battles but forgotten who was playing; who was on who's side and why the battles were even fought in the first place (because of banks or because of themuns?).
We've remembered massacres and we've remembered those who committed the massacres.
We've forgotten about the economy and sometimes who's in charge.
We've remembered dead rebels and butchered battalions.
But we've forgotten the true principles of what they all died for (throwing stuff at police it ain't).

For the hell of it I've decided to see what I could commemorate today, October the 25th.

So far, I could salute the following fallen:

The Battle of Agincourt

The charge of the light brigade during the Battle of Balaklava in the Crimean War.

The 'liberation' (annexation/daylight robbery) of the Transvaal

The Bolshevik Revolution (depending on which calender you use)

Nelson Mandela's prison sentence

Out of the above list, I'm sure I could find some some reason for solemn contemplation and reflection or just drunken revelry.
Everything is catered for: British Imperialist 'Glory'; the fightback of the working classes; the galvanising of a world leader or even just a spot of 'giving the froggies ten of the best'.

But I won't.

I do have an annoying French neighbour, and the temptation to drunkenly recite "we band of brothers" prior to unleashing to a volley from English longbows is great indeed.

My French neighbour

But live and let live and all that jazz.

Now - garden-fence obsessed, irritating Frenchmen notwithstanding - were I to use any of the aforementioned events as a reason for exhibiting some sort celebration/commemoration, I would nonetheless take into consideration the feelings and reactions of those around me before I started toasting to the memory of Cecil Rhodes or the death of the oppressive yoke of bourgeois (sic) imperialist tyranny.

If I had Afrikaner/Boer neighbours, I'd reconsider the flying of Union flags and blasting out 'Land of Hope and Glory' to celebrate my country's stealing of their (also stolen?) land, or if I were commemorating Mandela, well, I'd be as sensitive as possible.

If my neighbours were from the former USSR, well, I'd dip my toe in the proverbial vodka to see how such proceedings may go down.
(You'd be surprised; I have been bombarded with drunken fact-attack as to why 'Uncle Joe' was a great and strong man courtesy of a Georgian family that I lived with)

Joseph Stalin: Not as unpopular as you might think

However, were I living next door to a veterans' retirement home, namely one belonging to the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own) I'd be straight over there with a bottle of gin and a few Union Flags.

As with many things, commemoration is a right, but not necessarily always 'right'.

There is (literally) a time and a place.

(A fitting place is the copied collection of 'The Books of the Dead' in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast. A small statue of a soldier standing over a cabinet. 
The cabinet contains books which record the names of every Irish man killed in WWI. 
On the panels there is an engraving "As gold in a furnace he tried them")
The Books of the Dead

                                             But is there always a need?

Remembrance and commemoration in Northern Ireland has also been sat upon the great see-saw of themuns and our-uns; if the see-saw goes up and themuns are on it, well, it is probably offensive to our-uns.

"Let's not investigate the matter but go with the flow!"

One of the many casualties of the sectarian see-saw is the poppy.

For the record, I wear one when I can.

I do anxiously feel like I'm a coward as I don't like to wear it in nationalist areas but the truth is I'd happily take a beating for the poppy (I'm not much to look at anyway, so it's not like it'll do my looks any harm) but I don't like the idea of needlessly winding people up.

The great Northern Irish Matrix that we're born into won't permit us to see the other side's point of view, so a proud bearer of a poppy can't think why themuns would have any logical objection to commemorating young men who were sacrificed to the great meat-grinder when the time came.

Likewise, some of themuns can't see beyond the blood-red of the poppy itself and the sanguine attachment of memories and departed loved ones.

As usual neither side can (or rather 'will') see the view point of the other.

For those of us who have chosen 'the red pill' and escaped the Ulster Matrix (what a movie that would be!) this is yet another frustrating example of the defiance of logic in our land.

Are you offending someone? 
Well, then you don't HAVE to do it? 
Or perhaps be a bit more discreet/sensitive?

Not sure what Bruce Willis is commemorating...

Are you being an over sensitive and easily offended d*ck? 
Then perhaps back off and let the citizen remember, is it really going to ruin your day if he/she wants to remember the dear departed?

I do wear a poppy with pride.

I do think of the hell that all those young men and women went through, as needless as a lot of it was.

But I am in Australia for the time being.

The nearest victims of Bomber Command are quite some distance away.

In Belfast, the victims of the British Army, the IRA and the Loyalists are in the city centre every minute of every day.

Wear your poppy with pride by all means, but spare a thought for those who see it as a gloat as opposed to a token of respect.

It's supposed to be a respectful symbol but people such as the Protestant Coalition are helping to ensure that it can't be seen in this way.

This hijacking of the poppy has effectively shut many people of a Catholic background out of the remembrance house.
Many Catholic men from Ireland took up arms for the Imperial Army and were slaughtered.

But the way in which we handle the matter of remembrance in Northern Ireland has relegated their memory to mere ghosts.

And Unionists are doing little to bring them back in from limbo.
Remembering them...

...NOT them!

As for the Shankill Bomber Begley's plaque and the public commemoration?

I struggle with that one.

Whilst some people may see him as a soldier, at the time of his butchery (or collateral damage as dead Protestants were known back then) Sinn Fein had a very modest fan base so only a minority saw him as such.

Seeing corpses on the news with one's breakfast every other day left a very sour aftertaste for most of us.

But, that being said, a soldier is how some in Ardoyne and indeed throughout Ireland may see him.

However, unlike Bomber Command and their monument in London (the popular choice of comparison) Begley's victims are within walking distance of his memorial.

That commemoration alone may have extended the life span of those nearby peace-walls by a generation, as did his actions.

Even longer if a tradition has become of it.

Is the commemoration really worth such a price?

We talk about the future yet focus on the past with great intensity.

If these actions are defensible then why even speak of a future for there quite clearly is none?

It is secondary to the past.

A past that none of us want to revisit and a past that has left many of us angry.

Very f*****g angry.

You don't have to be a world-class shrink to know that bottling up anger is bad but it is all we can do till 'carnival' season arrives and people let off steam by throwing heavy things at the police.

It's time for society (not our politicians - hell no, they've been found wanting bar a praiseworthy few) to think about the damage our defiant pride and hunger for remembrance does to each other.

The see-saw goes up and down and every one of us feels that heavy crashing judder when it's our turn to clumsily land.


BTW: Part way through this rant I came across this rant of a similar theme:

Never before have I been so glad to see my work bested so convincingly by another (it happens a lot, I'm just seldom okay with it).

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