Sunday, 13 November 2011

Two minutes silence

On Thursday, the eleventh of the eleventh (eleven), at eleven o'clock, we observed two minutes silence to mark the Armistice in the shop. Everybody was very happy to take part in it, and afterwards there was almost a sense of goodwill that comes after a communal event. I got the impression that all those who stood still were engaged in the act of thinking and remembering about the horrors of war, and being thankful that we live in a relatively free and democratic society that doesn't have conscription, and these days only sends professional soldiers to fight on our behalf. Afterwards, an old chap came up to me. "Well observed, lad", he said, and him and the other old people who were shopping seemed genuinely happy that people were taking time out to consider what their generation went through. After all, if it hadn't have been for people like them, we would have been marching around in jackboots singing the Horst Wessel Song.
However, today - Remembrance Sunday - always leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It's not so much that it panders to a mawkish sentimentality over young men cut down in their prime, and the suffering endured by their families; it's the way that the tragedy of war is turned into a regimented parade in front of the bloody royal family, whose forebears and their inter-bred cousins were responsible for the damn thing in the first place.
Instead of watching the live coverage on the TV, I listened to a CD of Vaughan Williams' third symphony - an unsettling piece of pastoral music based on his time with the Ambulance Corps in France during the first world war.

It just seemed so much more fitting.

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