Monday, November 05, 2018

Remember, Remember

Remember, remember and all that.  I sometimes wonder what the rest of the world makes of tradition of burning on bonfires effigies of a catholic who tried to blow up Parliament every 5th November?  I mean, it is uniquely British - just about everywhere else in the world fireworks are used to celebrate things like religious festivals or independence days.  But here in the UK, we let them off in commemoration of an attempt to assassinate the king and destroy the seat of government.  It's a bit like the Americans deciding to fire guns in the air every November to commemorate the assassination of President Kennedy.  Of course, these days it isn't just anti-catholic sentiment that Guy Fawkes Night is used to express - I was just reading about some sickos who were burning a replica of Grenfell Tower on a bonfire.  A replica complete with black faces at the windows.  Ah, the British capacity for senseless hate seems limitless.  (I seem to recall that, some years ago, I wrote a story in The Sleaze where a bigot accused his Muslim neighbour of burning an effigy of the twin Trade Towers on a bonfire - it seems that life has finally caught up with art).  Arguably, the actual tradition of burning effigies of a catholic on a bonfire simply encourages a deeply ingrained sense of hatred toward outsiders which seems to run through British history.  But hey - it's a tradition, so that makes it OK, doesn't it?

Which is the other thing about Britain that Guy Fawkes Night illuminates: our obsession with the past.  After all, anywhere else in the world would surely have let go of a grudge over something that happened centuries ago, wouldn't they?  But we just can't, so it seems.  The fixation on the past is also expressed around this time of year by our fetishisation of Remembrance Day.  It's taken on  quasi-mystical properties - being accused of desecrating war memorials, wreaths and even paper poppies is considered a worse crime than blasphemy nowadays: it's a stain on your character from which you can never recover.  because the memories of those who fought and died are now sacred, it seems.  Don't get me wrong: there's nothing wrong with commemorating the dead of various wars, but things have reached ridiculous levels now, where you can be branded as 'disrespectful' if you don't wear a poppy, or wear a white poppy, or wear the wrong sort of coat to the Cenotaph, or don't bow sufficiently at same monument, or drive a car too close to it.  Or any number of other supposed 'infringements' of the sacred respect which has to observed now.  Can't we just go back to the  good old days when we observed that minute silence every Remembrance Sunday and engaged in some private contemplation of the follies of war and the terrible sacrifice of human life they involve?  Likewise, can't we just get Guy Fawkes Night back to being abut doing stupid and dangerous things with fireworks? It was fun back in those days.

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