Jessica Gregson’s blog

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I have always had a troubled relationship with Armistice Day, or Anzac Day, when I was a teenager growing up in Australia. I’m a pacifist by ideology, if not by nature, and as a self-important adolescent I would mutter about the glorification of war and patriotic groupthink and all sorts of similarly obnoxious nonsense.

I hope I am less obnoxious these days, but I am still not sure how to reconcile the ‘never again’ sentiment that characterises so much of the original intent of Armistice Day with the Support Our Troops propaganda that seems to be churned out these days, by various governments complicit in various wars in various places. I’ve been uncomfortable with hegemonic poppy-wearing in the UK for as long as I can remember (and I greatly respect any public figure who manages to resist it); in many ways the transformation of Armistice Day from something quite pacifist in nature to what it is now has been a PR triumph.

My maternal great-grandfather was killed in World War I, having signed up after receiving a white feather in the post; my paternal grandfather, a career soldier, served in both World War I and World War II. I respect their decisions and their actions – though it saddens me to think that my great-grandfather’s decision was forced. But I am deeply suspicious of the freedom-related rhetoric that’s surrounded the wars that my countries have embroiled themselves in since. I have enormous sympathy with the men and women serving on behalf of the UK and Australia around the world today, but I don’t for a moment believe that they are protecting my freedom. I don’t believe any war that either country has been involved in since World War II has done anything but pander to (and further fuel) the fears of xenophobes, and protect extremely narrow economic and class-based interests.

I get the war impulse. After IS executed James Foley, I had a brief but intense conviction that military action was the appropriate response. I no longer think this; my considered belief in the wrongness of military action won out over my initial reaction, in which my perspective was occluded by the red mist of rage.

I have spent a lot of my recent life in countries emerging from war, returning to war, and in a long-term unstable situation of no war, no peace. There is no glory in it.


Written by Jess

November 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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