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11 November, 2006

In the UK at this time of year – every year – you can’t watch a TV programme without noticing that every single reporter and presenter is wearing a red poppy. The broadcasters don’t want to give the impression that they’re unpatriotic. Whatever that is.

You can’t walk down any High Street withour being asked to buy a red poppy to support the British Legion (an organisation that cares for ex-soldiers). Most do. Unthinkingly. Sheepishly.

It’s not good to be seen not wearing a red poppy around 11 November; and it’ll certainly get you into trouble if you’re caught wearing the alternative: a white poppy – the poppy that reminds us of the war dead, without wishing to glorify the wars or the nationalism or the jingoism or the stupidity of politicians that killed them.

We live in a society in which the majority of people don’t think about what they’re doing. They just tag along like sheep after everyone else. But we should think twice before buying a red poppy. We should think twice before buying into the lies of governments and the establishment. 

Wilfrid Owen got it right:

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
   Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
   And watch the white eyes writing in his face,
   His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin,
   If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
   Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
   Bitter as the cud
   Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
   My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
   To children ardent for some desperate glory,
   The old lie:  Dulce et decorum est
   Pro patria mori.

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