Let’s make the process of remembering a positive verb, rather than a unprogressive and largely ignored noun.
I wrote last year about the timing of the release of computer game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, which coincided with Armistice Day. I had seen its writer talking on the news about how exciting the game was, while sporting a little red poppy on his lapel. I remember thinking how absurd the juxtaposition was at the launch event, where people, seemingly wearing poppies as nothing more than fashion accessories, were so thrilled about this new opportunity to fantasise about being at war.
I remember this, but unfortunately this memory seems a bit futile, because alas…nothing has changed. History is repeating itself.
Shops are staying open late into the night mark the release of the next instalment is out on the 8th November, just three days before we mark the moment Germany signed the Armistice, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and remember all the people killed and affected by the brutal, unforgiving savage that is war.
This is cynical marketing and totally counter to the message we should be bringing to the future generations during this week.
At a time where we look back and remember those who gave their lives in the name of freedom, we have simply got to look forward and renew our declaration that we will make every effort to not let it happen again. The 1900s was the most brutal century in human history, with some estimating the number of dead to be around the 100 million mark (from war alone). This is a ludicrous figure, and frankly incomprehensible.
How do we remember?
The only truly appropriate way to remember someone is to allow his or her life, and perhaps death to have an impact on us and bring us to change in some way. The ONLY appropriate way to remember the lives of soldiers is to say, ‘you died so that things might be different, and we will remember you by not allowing history to repeat itself, over and over.’ But it has an ironic habit of repeating itself when we see war as the answer, especially when we become desensitised to it, impressed by it, and build a massive industrial complex around it (both real and now virtual).
Lest we forget.
It is not good enough to simply remember individuals, mourn their deaths and carry on about our day. The process of remembrance should travel deep within our collective conscience, and should manifest itself in a deep desire to find other ways to resolve dispute. We should unleash on our vision the fullness of suffering, and expose our eyes and ears to the genuine horror of war, not the romantic ideals and fantasy of virtual reality propaganda.
It should penetrate much deeper than the nation; the suffering needs to pierce the soul and conscience of humanity, remembering ALL people, not just ‘our’ soldiers. The most patriotic thing we can do is to join with other nations in mourning the use of war to resolve any conflict and collaborate in the search for actively imaginative resolution that puts people before politics, money and power. At the end of the day war is simply a huge catastrophic failure of human creativity.
I find Call of Duty’s timing the ultimate amnesia-inducing drug, during a week in which we should be remembering; it exploits such a time to make us forget. We subliminally forget through nostalgia, romanticising, and fantasising a fictitious reality. It numbs our perception and pacifies our senses – it teaches our children that war is cool and is in danger of perpetuating an attitude of ambivalence to the use of violence in resolving disputes.
We need a new generation that loves the challenge of creative non-violence, and transcends the old, bullyish, fear mongering war-schema. A world where we look back at the days in which we thought war would achieve anything other than the perpetual state of itself, and be amazed that we ever believed in it. But if we are ever going to do this, we need to act and resist. The very process of remembering that hour when the ‘war to end all wars’ came to a close, should involve us standing together in international solidarity and saying with a renewed conviction, ‘never again’.