Excuses

I worked on a post over the weekend that I published early this morning, on the subject of Remembrance Day – or rather, as I am helpfully reminded by the media, on the subject of the anniversary of the armistice.

Don’t get me wrong – for someone to put themselves in the firing line, I’m grateful for that. I don’t think that saying thank you glorifies war at all.

But, you see, it goes further than that. I can’t separate that thanks from how we treat the people who come home. I’m more interested in actions than words. When the state condemns somebody to using food banks, even to homelessness, when the Poppy Appeal is a clear money-making exercise to help veterans financially, because they can’t get by on their own, does it really offer any solace when people then say, thank you for your service, one day of the year? Okay, let’s be charitable to the state here. Maybe these people ended up on the streets through their own stupid fault? Does that excuse how troops were ill-equipped when the state sent them into battle? As happened to British troops as recently as Iraq?

Come to that, many people contribute to the greater good, even when they don’t pick up a weapon. Doctors, nurses, teachers – even somebody who just pays their taxes in order to allow the state to function from day to day – they all do their bit to keep the cogs running smoothly. So there is more than one way of serving.

And I must be thankful for how the media has developed over the years. While a hundred years ago, we might not have had an adequate view of world events, or of the politicians behind them, now there is no such excuse! If Trump called the USA to arms, say, how many would follow him? There is a reason that armed forces are now professional, rather than conscripted – because people would refuse to take part! And he can only lock up so many people… On that subject, would a serviceman be making the sacrifice for me, or for Donald J. Trump? US Iraq veterans, were they fighting for the good old star-spangled banner, or for Halliburton?

So I think that people have sufficient information now to decide for themselves whether their involvement improves the situation or not. We have to do a lot of separation of wheat and chaff, but we’re in a better position than we were years ago.

I must admit I sit here in a kind-of twilight zone, on the one hand being grateful for the sacrifice, yet on the other that sacrifice has got to mean something – there has to be a lesson there somewhere. Like what can happen when diplomacy is allowed to fail. I wonder how many politicians feel likewise? I wonder what they would say Remembrance Day is all about?

Remembrance

In the UK, summer seems a long time ago but this was a video I saw, and shared, on Facebook last June.

This was obviously just filmed on a mobile phone. The footage isn’t brilliant and shows a veteran visiting his fallen comrade, at the time of the D-Day commemmoration last year. When politicians get together for such things, it does nothing for me – it doesn’t really mean anything, beyond being an obligation, wanting to be seen to pay lip service – but I think this clip says it all.

More on Music

I posted on my musical tastes here. Reading it back, it is as much about my politics as my musical tastes. I re-read it, and it contains some omissions.

I am a child of the Eighties, which means I just saw the tail-end on punk music. I always loved the speed of the beat. Of course, a lot of punk was as much about politics as music. I suspect the musicians thought that too. (!)

This speedy beat also had me listening to the Pogues and Shane MacGowan. London-Irish, of the time, and again politically charged. Former British colonies tend to do very well for political material! And, of course, it’s still going on in Northern Ireland, where sectarian politics still reigns. That, in turn, unlocked the door to Irish folk music – you know, tin whistles and fiddles. Plus Irish artists like Christy Moore. And, of course, you can’t listen  to the music – I can’t – without wanting to know about Irish history, why these people sing what they sing. Ironically, the city I left, Liverpool, has an enormous Irish scene. This has even fostered visits to Ireland on holidays – if you’re considering it, get out of the cities of Dublin and Cork, get out into the countryside and find the real Ireland.

Super-fast music. A million miles away from my slower, chilled-out reggae, although I must also admit to enjoying ska, another Jamaican invention. One of the beauties of Youtube is that I can listen to a lot of the old ska tracks by the Jamaican record labels, probably never before released outside of the island.

There are other artists that I haven’t yet mentioned, more “poppy”. Not particularly meaningful, just music I enjoy. Paul Heaton, in all his forms. I was very much the right age for The Housemartins, and I remember they played Cardiff Uni when I was there. The Manic Street Preachers too – they are from the Welsh valleys, so I saw them a few times in Cardiff before they became massive. They’re still going and in fact played at Southampton, around twenty miles away from me here, just a few months ago. I was sorely tempted, but in the end decided against remortgaging the house so I could buy the ticket – the CDs will have to do.

Then, of course, there’s George. Back to my Beatle roots. In fact, the Beatle era stifled George, I think, and he came out with this rich vein of music post-Beatles, much of which I now own. I can admire Paul McCartney’s gift for writing catchy poppy tunes, but for me there is no comparison. And, of course, this sets off a whole new trail. From George, to the Wilburys, to Orbison…

How to conclude? I’m not one of these people who say that “music is my life”, and I’ll certainly never get 10/10 in the Popmaster quiz, but I think music can supplement life, and enhance it. I have my loves and my hates, as I’m sure we all do, and a lot of it is just noise, as I’m sure mine is to other people.