It’s warmer outside than it is the house this morning, one of the first days so far this year that I can say that. So, that sees me taking my legume sproutlings (broad beans, french beans and peas) outside to germinate in their plastic covered tray. I don’t know whether it will work, but you have to reach for the light where you find it.
Inside the house it feels pretty grey, and not just because it’s waiting for the sun to hit the windows or the late heating oil delivery. It’s the radio – with the news of the US, UK, and Fr attack against Syria. I’m struck by the contradiction of this experience. The warm sun outside, the chatter of the sparrows from the hedges, the tentative life of the beans – the peace of it. Not so for the people of Damascus and Homs, this morning.
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I pray on the eleventh-eleventh. It might sound odd to some who read my more radical-theory, critical-anarcho ramblings on the state of the world, but I do.
I pray for peace, I pray for the memories of those lost to the tragedy of warfare.
It’s no surprise that my feelings have had a complicated history with the idea of Remembrance Day. I oppose the national anthem, I oppose the army recruitment officers at Secondary Schools. I oppose the idea of militarism offering any sort of sane answer to today’s problems. War is after all an industry; with mega-corporations and private investors making vast sums of wealth off the blood and sweat of [the usually poor] tommies and janes. Even the political process is hijacked by military lobbyists and “advisors” who seek to shuffle for their profit margins.
But all of that shouldn’t kill Remembrance as an idea; as a personal and social praxis. As the Spanish-American man of letters George Santayana said;
“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Or to paraphrase Goethe;
“[They] who cannot draw on three thousand years of history are doomed to live hand-to-mouth.”
Three thousand years is a paltry number when considering the history of people dying horribly, but it shows how important memory is both personally and socially. Remembrance reminds me of both sides of my family; of the Scottish grandfather almost sent to the WWII work-camp, and of the Belfast family forever changed by the Troubles. There is no glorification, martyrdom, or side-taking in such recollections. Death is a fact that should be sat with, not functionalised.
So, that is why I pray on Remembrance day. I pray not to celebrate actions, but to tell them that they are not forgotten – and to hope that we will remember them the next time that military action is debated in Parliament.