Thursday, November 01, 2018

As 11th November 2018 approaches...

In September 1914, my great grandfather was - so family legend has it - shipped down to the recruiting office by his Boys' Brigade leader in Romford, Essex. Percy - aged just 16 - subsequently enlisted for the Great War, lying out his age on the form. Thankfully at some point they must have twigged his real age as Percy didn't actually go abroad until 1917 when he was legitimately 19 - fought over in Mesopotamia. Came back a changed man, particularly after witnessing disabled veterans getting beaten up by the police when protesting in London shortly after the war. Even went as far as to emigrate to Australia, although my great grandmother who followed him out there couldn't settle and they came back when my gran was just three years old. Wouldn't talk about it during his lifetime like so many others.

That war was the ultimate in utter waste and folly. Hope we all remember that on 11th November when commemorating the 100th anniversary of the armistice in 1918. It was supposed to be "never again" for a good reason.

Of course, the seeds for World War II were already being sown as the victors - including Britain, France and the US - hammered Germany in the peace negotiations. And yet, here we are, not 100 years since the end of World War II, standing in a world that - as predicted by many in the aftermath of the economic crash of 2008 - lurches ever more towards fascism. Brazil has elected a fascist government, the US increasingly resembles Hitler's Germany in its early years, the far-right is on the rise across Europe and the UK allows an advisory, ill-prepared and marginal referendum result tear its very fabric apart. And all without holding the real culprits for our collective misery to account. T'was ever thus, but you'd have thought after WWII we'd have learned the lessons of misplacing our anger. It seems I gave humanity too much credit.

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