Remembrance Day also known as “Poppy day” (due to its origins with Lieutenant Colonel John McCraeis, and his iconic poem ‘In Flanders Fields’), is a memorial held by member states of the Commonwealth to commemorate the end of the first world war in 1918. In 1919, we (England), practised our first 2 minutes’ silence on the 11th hour of November 11, not at the request of soldiers or their families however, but by the Monarch King George V who made the declaration for England to join the conflict to back France and to uphold a fuck ton of old alliances made by the ruling powers of Europe. Twenty-one years after the first world war, WW2 started and to this day there are 67 countries in armed conflict. It is safe to say that despite the work of the British Legion and their commitment to remembering, that most of us quickly forget.
The reason to remember is not to mourn but to remind ourselves that such conflict in reality only produces horror. There is no heroism in war nor glory (this is not to say that men do not have courage). Such thinking is not just observational analysis made in hindsight, but rather an evolution of anti-war thought that was practised by men like Bertrand Russell during the 20th century and clearly proceeded him. Born in England on May 18, 1872, Russell was a prominent anti-war activist during this period as well as an accomplished mathematician who was renowned for his work in logic. It was during WW1 that Russell began to combat the dominant narrative within British society with his anti-war stance. In 1914, Bertrand attempted to collect signatures from fellow professors and academics for a statement urging England to remain neutral despite its allegiances to the rest of Europe, and stop the imminent start of war. Despite his efforts, the British were swept into the war and it appeared 90% of the population favoured the barbarism of fighting and killing. This shocked Russell and forced him to reassess his views on human nature. In a letter to the London Nation on August 15 he criticised the pride of patriotism which promoted mass murder. A patriotism that unfortunately was not defeated and can be seen crystal clear in societies today. Yet, despite his relevance to British Society and the first world war, men and women like Russell are only known by scholars and academics, and are all too often erased from the main narratives of Society. He does not get the satisfaction of your thoughts during two minutes silence.
The issue that appears before us with the conservative traditionalism of Remembrance Day, is that we have clearly warped the intent of it, turning it back into the patriotism that caused these conflicts we now worship. With the compulsion of vain silence that have become mandatory in the public’s eye.