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Gentle Rebellion

Why to Say That I Remember is Not Enough

by Andy Mort | 8 Comments

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’.

  • Steve Tilley

    My Dad (RAF 1941-1950) used to walk out of the lounge when the Cenotaph stuff came on. His mantra was, ‘If you want to remember you weren’t there.’ Helpful post. May well quote from it on Sunday.

    • Thanks Steve and thanks for sharing that. Very powerful mantra.

      • Fantastic post and very touching. I agree wholeheartedly.

        • I’m disappointed about the ruling by Fifa however. Just shows how much it’s become political to wear the poppy. That it’s now something to be worn through pressure. That just thinking about it in your own mind isn’t enough, you have to let others know that you are thinking of 11/11.

  • Anonymous

    Really powerful stuff, Andy. This generation has known nothing but peace, without even fear of nuclear annihilation; would its obsession with war games or dressing up as zombies have occurred if they’d been exposed to (say) what my Dad went through in WW2? He was, thankfully for me, evacuated for the worst of the London bombing, but still tells of doodlebugs and listening for when the motor stops and praying that it wouldn’t hit your house, and the time that one was diverted away from them because it hit a tree as it flew past.

  • Luke

    Firstly, Call of Duty is rated as an 18 rated game meaning that children shouldn’t being playing it unless unresponsible parents allow them to. Adults are allowed to make a choice at what content they consume. Secondly, video games are a form of escapism, no different to reading book about war or watching the latest action film. The latest Call of Duty is a fictional story, set in modern times and allows the majority of players to experience something they cannot do in real life. Most people play to experience a competative area where they can compete with their friends, or be immersed in a story.

    Obviously I have deep respect for all who have died at war in the pursuit fof freedom, and I feel sadness at their loss of life, particulary at this time of remberence. However, the time of launch for this game series has been the same for the past five games since 2007. This date has been chosen to target consumers for the Christmas holiday period, as this is the best time for a game’s uptake, nothing to do with the Armistice or Rememberence day

    Ultimately, video games aren’t real, they are a fictional piece of work purely for entertainment.

    (P.S. on the 11/11/11 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, comes out, a game about magic, swords and killling dragons. I don’t think this is intended to play on its day’s significance ).

    • Hi Luke, thanks for this. Yeah I agree with your points. I don’t think the rating really makes any difference. From experience if I wanted to play/watch/listen to something, I would, regardless of my age and regardless of the age on it, and I don’t even have irresponsible parents. But this isn’t my point anyway, and I am in no way calling for people not to play these games etc. I think they’re great, and it’s an amazing feeling to get lost in that other world. I’m also not suggesting that they have any direct influence on players’ behaviour, as I have enough faith in most of humanity that they can distinguish between game and life. But my point is a little more general, and it is about what this represents more deeply.

      Its not about remembering those who fought for freedom, it’s about being free. And there is an element of rote response to that idea of remembering those who fought for our freedom. Remembering is changing and the freedom that we have as a result of what we are remembering is the very freedom to change. But this is hard, and people don’t want us to change so they give us ‘content to consume’ and tell us to shut up and be free.

      “None are more enslaved, than those who falsely believe they are free.” Goethe

  • Judemunday

    A few stats (courtesy of Brian Mclaren). In 2006 US defence spending was 21 times more than foreign aid and diplomacy combined (this is likely to have increased). 0.5% of the US defence budget could halve hunger in africa by 2015.
    Not to sound to much like a conspiracist, but the “system” is so outrageously biased towards violence that creative solutions are trampled before they can begin.