It used to be so simple. You were against war, you grew up in the 60s and 70s and you remember the end of the Viet Nam war and the futility of it. You remember the slogan, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” You remember John and Yoko: War is over, if you want it. Power to the people. Give peace a chance.
Don’t buy a poppy, you would say to yourself, it only encourages them.
It didn’t even use to be so hard to avoid the red flower. It wasn’t as if everyone wore them. Remembrance Sunday came and went, and that was okay. You might discuss how pointless the Great War was, and how it inevitably led to the rise of Hitler and therefore the second.
You went to university and developed an awareness of different strands of thought, including post-colonialism, marxism, freud, post-structuralism. It was all there in black and white. Late capitalism requires there to be a permanent war going on. And so it has proved. Permanent war.
And the more pointless the war, the more need there is to be against war, the more sentimental people started to get about war. So the poppies come out, and they stay longer, and they get bigger, and they get fancier, glittery, you get showbiz poppies, and it’s sickening, really, that’s what it is. There are words for it. Cant and hypocrisy and Newspeak. War is Peace. Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better.
And the bankers get richer and the people get poorer, and the permanent war goes on, and anybody who is against it is portrayed as a thug or a troublemaker, and social opprobrium is poured down upon anyone who dares not to wear the red flower. And Twitter joins in, a wash of sentimental noise and bullshit. They died to protect our way of life. Our way of life? This one? The one in which the bankers get richer and the people get poorer? The one in which the richest are forty-seven (or a hundred and forty-seven) times richer than the poorest? How much money do they need?
It’s gone beyond mere success and being comfortably off. It long ago reached the stage of being so rich and so flamboyantly wealthy, and so determined to rub people’s noses in your wealth, that it’s a sick joke.
And still the pointless wars go on. And the poppies come out and they get bigger and more flamboyant, and they’re worn for longer, and they run the minute of silence not just on Remembrance Sunday but on the 11th and well, and they stop lessons, and stop in Tesco and stand around looking disapprovingly at you because you don’t stop, and you don’t wear a flamboyant fashion accessory, a wristband or a little metal badge, or a big glittery one. Because you’re still against war, and you still believe that the people, if they realised the power that resides in them, could stop the war, and stop the bankers. But they look at you disapprovingly and tch, and you almost expect them to say, Big Brother is Watching.
But they don’t. And the more obvious it gets that we’re living in an Orwellian nightmare, the more sentimental people get, just like the proles in 1984.
In the week, Newcastle United fans were up in arms at the renaming of their stadium by a sponsor. Danny Baker pointed out how easy it would be to make the club pay attention to you: just don’t buy a programme. Twenty or thirty thousand times a fiver, or whatever a programme costs, will soon get the club’s attention.
But people don’t. They don’t organise, almost as if they’re afraid of their own power. And Trade Unions is a dirty word in our Orwellian world. God forbid the people should organise and stand up for themselves.
I’ve had enough of the hysteria, and I’ve put up with the dirty looks and the disapproval more than once. You know who I’m remembering today? All the people who who have lost their homes and their jobs, all the people who struggled for the rights of the working class, for the right to vote, and for the right to say, no.