Monthly Archives: November 2013

Is the poppy our most sacred symbol?

Reading about previous year arrests for acts that seemed to denigrate the emblem, I am wondering if the same would be true of a key religious symbol, or a national flag. I know that Christians have had various attacks – such as Francis Bacon’s crucifix in a pot of piss, or an episode of Jonathan Creek, or even you could say, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Did they spark off arrests and complaints in the way that teenager from Canterbury experienced last year, or a Muslim the year before?

The end of the first story seems to be that the Kentish offender was let off as he agreed to meet war veterans to apologise. It seems a resocialisation went on – is that what restorative justice is? It recalled an episode in prison drama Bad Girls where a character who had accidently killed through an angry practical joke was made to face her victim’s family. Is a poppy burning photo on social media with an alleged crude comment on a par with that act of irresponsible manslaughter?

It felt like this young man had to also face his elders (and betters) and be turned into the kind of citizen that’s appropriate, or desired. Orwell had another word for that.

Whether offence can be an offence is interesting to debate and a hard line to draw, but for any of us with a faith or who support for anything that’s unfashionable and unpalatable to those around, we might feel it unfair that our deeply held beliefs are not a police matter, and yet ones that are a political tool are. It reminds of what I wrote in the summer about the homophobic comments of a pastor about the local Rainbow Pride parade – horrid, hurtful (I’d argue more than poppy burning as some gay people carry an almost suicidal guilt burden and fear of persecution, but our soldiers are venerated) – but rightly a police affair?

Along with the Holocaust, the poppy is a matter to tread carefully on. I note that it’s an offense to trivialise or deny the Holocaust in Germany now. Yet I feel the reasons behind this German rule are different to our poppy ones; one is a kind of rehabilitation programme, a keen (in the sharply felt sense) appropriation of past guilt in an attempt to atone, but it’s also the reverse of whitewashing or glorifying the horrors of war. The Poppy is something else…

I’ve read several online comments about the poppy as well as attended services yesterday.
I agree with the well penned words of Harry Leslie Smith in the Guardian, a man who was born shortly after the first world war and fought in the second. He explains why this is the last year he’ll go to the cenotaph and wear a poppy, although he will continue to remember the war and his friends and colleagues privately. I was surprised by how many younger people disagreed with him and will continue to wear the red flower, using phrases like “gave their lives” and “honour”, saying the Poppy shouldn’t be commandeered by the politicians as a tool to steer our thinking about today’s wars and ourselves as a nation, or shunned because of it; its meaning and the donation go to better things.

But I looked at the British Legion website and I find it hard for anyone to claim that they aren’t part of the jingoism, that the political meaning of a poppy is nothing to do with an organisation who has changed its strapline to “Shoulder to Shoulder with those who Serve”. The people chosen to say “Why I wear a poppy” all had loved ones in wars, describing in emotive language the loss, bravery and sacrifice, and the use of debt and respect for their part in freedom preserving battles.

Reading the White poppy people (Peace Pledge Union) website is quite a different experience. The fact I recall most is that their annual budget is the same as the chief of British Legion’s salary. The white poppy, as its centre says, is about peace and ending wars. The red poppy isn’t now the encapsulation of 60s protest song “Where have all the flowers gone”: it’s more Rupert Brooke than Siegfried Sassoon.

I suppose the Christian cross is a symbol that can mean many things, as can the St George’s Cross. The stars and stripes might mean the worst or best of what America stands for. But if the exclusive people who made my national flag had a particular slant and my donation to buy one went to them, I might think about whether I wanted to adopt that symbol, whatever its genesis. I’ve heard feminists reclaim the cross, but they don’t pay a patent to wear one round their neck. If all cross necklaces came from a specific denomination with a particular mission, expressed in particular words…

I reluctantly agree that as Big Brother Watch says, freedom of expression means the right to offend and do crass and unkind things. BBW fought against the arrest of the Canterbury young man, though I am also not saying what he did was a good thing. But I note I would be afraid to say so if I did, and that is wrong. There are no holy wars or crusades. Much of war is coercion, money making and power wielding (or returning power) and it is an exercise in encouraging one’s citizens to overlook other issues by telling us there is a greater enemy than our own establishment, and that we must unite and be obedient, even unto death, and to speak against it becomes not just offence, but civic and secular blasphemy.

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Candid Friend of the Green Party

Church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch sat in his home parish church (mine too) and said to camera that he is a “candid friend of Christianity”. I am too, but I am also the candid friend of the Green Party.

I’ve often found their website an interesting slant on news and opinions, and I found their response to events like the Boston Bombings and the Woolwich attack balanced and sensitive. I was sorry that they’ve kept up the fracking and 20 mile an hour speed limits news over commenting on the PRISM revelations (the same is true of the Socialist worker, whose views cannot be called balanced, but I like to hear from a range of people). With two welcome trials in Britain this week about security overstepping on the public toe, I hopefully peeked on the Green website to see what Mses Bennett, Lucas and friends such as the newly titled Jenny Jones might have to say against the Big Brotherism I felt confident they’d oppose. Instead, I found an article that made my eyes bulge…

Am I reading the Mail?! I asked, or my local rag? No – Green Leader Natalie, who I admire, was worrying about obesity, saying it requires “Political Will” to tackle – as per her leader’s blog of 30 Aug 2013.

My understanding is that the worldwide Greens are concerned with having freedom and supporting diversity; in devolving laws to the lowest possible level and not having intrusive and unnecessary ones. Which makes me think that they are against nanny state…oh, but aren’t those slow car laws are a bit controlling?!

What size and shape we are is NOT an issue for the government. The Greens rightly value all colours of the rainbow on the gender/sexuality continuum; they want freedom of belief, they hate racism and any other discrimination.

But this about obesity is controlling, value judging, discrimination! (everything the Greens are against).

When this country, like so many others, is in the pits of austerity, when this country, like so many others, is waging unnecessary wars, when this country is in the midst of revelations that it is being routinely spied on and laws are being passed to make protest harder, then the Greens, as the most radical and critiquing of our parties, the one who claims to be different, ought to be busy with these matters.

I’m sure another allopathic medicine diatribe (sorry that should say discourse) is due soon on this blog, though my Diana and Hannah post gives a flavour of my thoughts on that subject which I can explain more fully another time. But I think, as regards to our weight and size, I can do no better than refer readers to

Who called the fat police? And who recruited Natalie Bennett?! Please resign your badge and get back to your better battles!

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Poppy Day reprised

I wish to post my thoughts on this again. I’ve little to add, except the notable sea of poppies at this week’s “gentle (non) grilling” of Britain’s security chiefs, which will be my next post, unless my crossness at the Greens on obesity bursts out first….

And to say I am supporting the No Glory Campaign and that again, neither of my poppies are red

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Why I don’t support plastic bag bans

Places and organisations who ban plastic bags are proud, and there are campaigns to make these bans spread further.

Actually, it is unnecessary and frankly, irritating, and does not achieve what they claim.

Many of us use plastic bags from shops to line our rubbish bins with – or else we have to go out and pay for binliners. I’ve not lived under any council that allows you to put out your general rubbish without using a bag. Binliners look stronger and therefore biodegrade most slowly and cause more animal harm.

I’ll come back to animal harm from plastic in a minute. What I’d like to continue with is the alternative for shoppers if we do not use plastic bags. Shops want us to impulse buy and to purchase more than we planned. I usually do take a bag with me but find I sometimes shop unexpectedly or that I cannot guess what will fit in my bag. Sometimes the bag is already full by the time I arrive, sometimes it has things in it which need to be kept separate – eg bananas on top of books; stationery to keep flat; a fragile gift.

The cost once again is being passed to the customer to buy these jute bags, somewhat more expensive than bags for life (eg £5 compared to 10p). And what will happen? – people will have cupboards spilling full of jute bags instead of carriers which they will forget to bring. And jute is NOT waterproof and not good when you need to throw out something horrible (like unexpected sickness or mud or toiletry needs).

When people, such as Animal Aid, claim that animals are hurt by plastic bags, my thought is – how are the animals getting near the plastic bags? This comes down to responsible refuse, not the bags themselves. I understood that all plastic bags are now biodegradable and I’ve seen one do so in less than a year. Plastic should not be dumped in the sea or anywhere that animals can get at it. If everyone kept their foodscraps separate then there would be no need for animals to rummage in plastic rubbish and get harmed.

I am more concerned about the thicker plastic used in things like bottles and trays which is rarely recyclable, and the unnecessary use of it around things like fruit and veg and individual biscuits. I’ve not heard any campaigns on that.

I also mind that this is another control on the people.

I think charging for plastic bags is also a bit pointless.

What I’d like to see is people not taking unnecessary bags and trying to use old ones where they can. When I last worked in retail, long before bag bans were fashionable, I asked if customers NEEDED a bag. I felt cross at a mum who said her kids needed to learn  responsibility and to have a bag each for the tiny item they’d bought. I wish I’d been at liberty to say, wouldn’t responsibility be better in not taking unnecessary bags?

I’d like end by saying that some of the orgs propagating a bag ban support actions which I do not and consider far more shocking. Animal Aid is extreme enough to advocate we all go vegan and sound slightly sixth form heady passionate in many of their campaigns. But they do support spaying and neutering – taking intimate and important parts of animal who can’t give permission and permanently altering them because another type of being doesn’t want more of them in the world. This is not necessary for wild animals – nature looks after itself. Who are we to say what comes into the world, what can be managed, what is worth having and what isn’t?

For that reason, I will not be supporting them – even though they are the makers of purple poppies –

which leads nicely into my next post, for Nov 11th

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