The False Idols Series Part I: Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Our idols are false if they serve to present our oppressors as Gods.

Lest we forget; the ominous reminder of our ancestor’s sacrifice, the ever-present guilt that we carry forward through generations as a token of respect to those who paved the way to our current liberties. But I ask you, lest we forget what and why?

The answer, innocent of any scepticism, is implied heavily enough to avoid question. However, gone are the days when innocence could provide a just excuse. In the age of technology and distribution it is remarkable that this shimmering token of a universally accepted attitude still stands without question.

On approaching this subject it is neither unjustifiable, nor is it inexcusable that some would arrive at this problem with heated irrationality. It stems from an event so horrific in its magnitude, so violent in its content, that it demands emotive response.

But I ask the question again, lest we forget what?

And then, why?

In his speech to mark the hundred years since the start of the First World War David Cameron talked of preservation. This, the preservation of the heritage bestowed in the museums, preservation of the memories of the sacrifice, the impact, and the heart; the emotional connection we feel to these memories.

Cameron reminds us of the excitement the people felt going to war, the opportunities for travel, for guaranteed food and medical aid. He attentively draws on the sudden brutality that slaughtered many and petrified others. He recalls death and injury counts, hammering home his point of sacrifice.

However Cameron omits crucial information that had he drawn upon, would paint a very different picture of the war. He omits to note, for instance, that these men arrived at the opportunity of national service from a place of abject poverty, put there so by the political structures of the time.

Lest we forget, that prior to the First World War, many of our heroes (and that status is not under question here) were living in poverty, without enough income to spare for transport or even a newspaper.

Lest we forget that the workhouses; forced upon the poor as a means for keeping them from calling upon their state, brought about the deaths of many of their employees.

Lest we forget that they were governed by the Poor Law which made it a criminal act to provide relief for able-bodied people, including children, whose relief should be provided by their parents. And that workhouses be made so undesirable that anyone willing to accept relief would be in a position as to not be able to work independent of them.

So when we remember that these men; so ready to go to war, were so, to escape the oppressive circumstance they were left to by a state removed from any social responsibility.

To enforce this memory he is bestowing upon his subjects, Cameron must build a sense of togetherness. For when he addresses us with our mantra; lest we forget, he is including every one of us to remember the sacrifice our ancestors made.

He claims it is our duty to commemorate; it is our duty to honour. But that duty is not the same for all of us. This man, is the same; lest we forget, who implemented a policy of austerity. This policy which has been put to blame for the deaths of the overworked and under supported. The policy that not only cut public spending in welfare (and if you disagree, I encourage you take this up with your local, government paid youth worker) but stood by as businesses cut working hours, and increased zero-hour contracts in the name of “efficiency”.

And this, presents us with our why.

The end of the Great War brought with it no major change for the poor. A great economic depression and a further two decades of harsh and unfair oppression of the working classes was all the heroes had to come home to. For this reason government advisors drafted promises of welfare and dignity as a gratuity for the support for the Second World War effort.

However since the illegal invasion of Iraq and the further entrenchment of economic liberalism, the Beverage report and all our heroes fought for; is becoming, ever more, a footnote in the history books.

Whilst the gap between the rich and the poor increases, whilst our soldiers engage in an ideological battle between intangible enemies; one thing remains consistent.

The weight we bear for those who laid down their lives for us is not a weight I could justly deny. Although I was born with it, my birth was not without cause, a cause that comes from an effect, and that effect is what I remember.

But when so much of society is propped up by the extortion of others, so much of our luxury is produced and maintained on the segregation of those in need and those with the power to supply, the dominant class must ensure conformity.

Lest we forget, so that we do not become ungrateful, lest we forget, so that we do not want for better, lest we forget, so we do not suffer the consequences of those who didn’t have our hindsight.

But my mantra is this;

Lest we forget, so that we do not allow ourselves to be manipulated, lest we forget, so that we do not allow ourselves to be means to an end that is not ours, lest we forget, so that those who build ideological walls with which to contain us, do not do so without windows.

Social change derives from that which we have, not being good enough. Historical memory reminds us that we drive change not just for own ends. On this year, the centenary of one of the most horrific instances of the dominant class, slaughtering its subjects, lest we forget; the drive for change hasn’t ended.