Monday, 12 October 2015

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori

On November 11th at 11:00 1918, The First World War ended, and is remembered annually on Remembrance Sunday. This year, Pacifist Jeremy Corbyn, new UK Labour Party Leader will attend the memorial at the Cenotaph  and the Media want to know if he will sing the National Anthem, bow to the Queen and wear a Red Plastic Poppy.

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori is written in red, out of respect for the Soldiers who have fallen in the wars fought throughout History. Red on a white Background symbolises Blood and Bandages. The Red Poppy sold by the Royal British Legion also is said to represent not only the Poppies that grew on the blood soaked soil of the Flanders Battlefields - Poppies are always one of the first flowers to colonise land churned up by diggers or tanks - but also to symbolise the blood spilt.

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori is Latin. It translates as "Sweet and Noble it is to die for your Country". Throughout History Men have had this sort of sentiment drummed into them (that's a Military derived metaphor, BTW). Their leaders, working, obviously, for the good of the nation, which is the only protection those leaders have for their business profits, have employed their religious and, more recently, media stooges to justify why YOU should give away your life for their stay-at-home benefit. 

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori Many returning Soldiers believe in this jingoism. The war gives them the most intense experience they have ever had, and ever will have, probably. For men from sheltered, limited opportunity backgrounds it provides pride and a great sense of worth. For those and others the slaughter of colleagues and the Bathos of the return to civil life, however, often renders their lives and their sacrifice utterly meaningless, and they constantly need re-assurance that it was actually worthwhile.  it is ironic that many surviving "victors" of wars need the same kind of recognition of their suffering as do the bomb victims that I visited so recently in Gaza. The very least that the rest of us can do is to stand quietly for a minute at 11:00 to tell all of them, from the bottom of our heart, how proud, and how indebted, we are - and wear a Red Plastic Poppy.

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori? Whose Country is it Noble to die for? Many UK soldiers have no difficulty allowing that the Germans feel the same way about their Soldiers, especially in First World War. It may be a little more difficult to get unanimity on the Second, but even there, ordinary Soldiers were, at least at the time, regarded as a very civilised and ethical group, even if the SS was not. Japanese Soldiers, with a very different culture to ours, are less acceptable to many, while the un-uniformed French Resistance are viewed as the glamour girls and guys, extremely brave, and not bound by War ethics at all in their undercover role. The same is true of the Polish resistance, Jewish and native Pole alike, whilst Russian Soldiers are admired for their sacrifice rather than their skill. 

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori? So why is the Palestinian resistance so vilified? These fighters are fighting for their children's lives, not the Glory of the State. Many French were able to run away from the bombs reigned down on their heads, and although it is very small comfort for the refugees in Syria, they too are at least able to escape. Through the whole of History, I have never heard of a Nation keep locked up in a Zoo enclosure behind barbed wire and used for target practice, especially , when the nation terrorising them does not even have any intention of conquering them. No German, Japanese or Russian airforce ever bombed, day after day, unarmed civilians locked up by Razor wire, shooting on the ground those who even just come close to the fence. Yet those who resist with stones and home made weapons, and who almost invariably die, are spat upon. Oh yes, the Patria - the economically active trading partner country - we support here is Israel, isn't it? And Palestine - fully exploited by Israel and economically inert - is, ahem, not a state, actually.....

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori! Here is my little Haiku for Gaza, in Red on white, though there are no bandages. Please repeat it whilst playing Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony (here). Let Tchaikovsky's lonely bitter suffering stand in for all of us, and let us continue to highlight this brutal suffering, as they will also say on November 11th: "Lest we Forget"
Grey Britain mourn for Gaza's
Orange Scented Sunshine: Death

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori!? Men made of Sterner stuff, however, see through all this Patria Stuff. For many years after 1918 old soldiers demonstrated at the remembrance Services against the glorification of War. And many of the First World War Soldiers, even if they never returned, found time to write about the horrific slaughter, and ignorance of the reality of War: The Independent printed some:
Siegfried Sassoon: 
You smug Faced Crowds with Kindling Eye
Who Cheer when Soldier lads march by
Sneak Home and pray you'll never know 
The hell where Youth and Laughter Go.

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori!? Men like these invented the Peace Pledge Union, which in 1935 came up with the idea of the white Poppy to symbolise both the sacrifice of the dead and the pledge never to let it happen again. I'm definitely not a Pacifist, but the end of War nevertheless seems an eminently sensible and desirable goal. I'm proud to wear a white poppy. What a shame that the weight of the militarily inclined leadership of all parties see it as a direct threat to their power, and that many Soldiers see it as the negation of the praise they need to stay sane. And the British Legion sees it as an attack on its revenue stream. It is ironic that in order to stay sane and feel whole, the "victors" of war need the same acknowledgements of their suffering that Gaza children need for their broken bodies.  White Poppy wearers, like dirty hippies, are hated even more than the German army - or so the media seem to say. People do need the security of living in a Society that they have, however humble, a place in. They react when changes in Society make them feel threatened, and they respond to the propaganda of our leaders. The fact that the white Poppy rocks their foundations so strongly tells us much about the current nature of the Society we live in, and we have to ask: "Why is it like that?" Why does death shock us less than obedience to the powerful? Why are we so ready to abuse those who don't glorify war, when the Soldiers who actually fought it refused to do so? We have forgot the Horror! And our leaders are ready to start another war. So let us remember:
Keith Douglas:
Now in my dial of glass appears
The Soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways his mother knows,
habits of his
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW! Death, like a familiar, hears.

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori: Our Patria is controlled by much deeper currents than an election or two. Let the raging, barmy Labour Leader be elected, you can hear the shadows say, we will devour him in the maw of our media, claw at his most hidden beliefs, invite him to eat a dog or be painted the villain. Everything he believe will have an enemy and he will bow to that enemy, or the people will spit him out. Let him say that he is a Republican, and we will make sure he kneels before the Queen; a Pacifist and we will make him a coward if he will not praise the killing. Corbyn must wear his white Poppy, or betray, again and again those whose hopes rest on his ability to lead.  Principles are hard to keep, but giving them away to appease the baying crowd really is cowardice. To reject violence he must win the battle of ideas. This is what being a leader is: He has to sell his story and give courage to those who will work for him. And make no error, the stake is our Patria, and beyond. And it is for sure a Battle to the death, for those who make money from power, will certainly kill to keep it.

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori: My Patria is no country, it is our right to live as Human Beings, and the only war that is justified is that which liberates us from the manacles of those who would exploit us. To invade Iraq; to fund Ukrainian Far right parties to kill Ukrainian police to provoke a civil War; to fund Al Qeada via Saudi Arabia to overthrow Assad at the cost of hundreds of thousand lives, all these are murder. To support the struggle of Tibetan Buddhists to be free from communists; or the right of Muslim Rohingas to self determination in Burma, or Christians to be free from Muslim persecution in Indonesia, or Communists to be free from Christian persecution in The USA, are the Human Rights worth fighting for if fighting is all there is left. We are all Human, even Untouchables and Palestinians.

Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori - the lie: We must - and all of us will - fight and die for our real dignity, our fundamental right to life, Liberation, Fraternity, Equality, if it became necessary. This is not a lesson to learn, it is natural in every Mother, in every Lover. They - we - will not need telling when the time is right, because there will be no choice. But what must never be allowed to happen again, is for the Love we feel for our Children to be exploited by the Lust for Power of those whose hearts are made entirely of cold Gold and whose veins circulate only lies in search of power. Never again can we let these Psychopathic merchants of Greed abuse the love we have for our society, and pervert it for the conquest of others by pretending innocent people are a threat to us; nor let them take the courage and adventure of our young people and press it into a false glamour of war. Never Again, we said after the last World War,  but then Blair, and then Cameron, too young to know the past, up and lead us to death and ignominy on foreign fields that will never be England, just forgotten. Blair and Cameron are too young to have felt the blood pumping freshly out of a soldiers's leg, still hot from the amputating shrapnel in Flanders or Dunkirk, like World War Soldiers have; and they are too callous to feel the searing amputation heat of Israeli DIME or Flechette bombs, which their spy planes see perfectly clearly. Lest we forget, Remembering the Dead is not to glorify war, it is to thank those who gave their lives, support those who survived, and pledge NEVER AGAIN. To refuse to bow the Head to the Queen, merely a symbol for the power brokers to shelter under, like a false flag to wrap up in while raping the innocent; and always to wear the white poppy, and always to carefully explain why. And Lest We Forget:
Wilfred Owen:
If you could hear, at every Jolt, the blood
Come Gargling from the Froth Corrupted Lungs,
Obscene as Cancer, bitter as the Cud, 
Of vile incurable sores on innocent Tongues -
My Friend you would not tell with such high Zest
To Children ardent for some desperate Glory
The old lie: Dolce et Decorum Est 
Pro Patria Mori

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