Andi Ware On: Why I won’t be wearing a Poppy this November

Once again we have reached that time of year where we are asked to remember our fallen service men and women, when the sepia tone of November is contrasted with the blood red of paper poppies. In the coming weeks we will see countless poppies fastened to the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders, but not mine. Once again I will neglect to wear a poppy this year and as always my reasons for doing so will be largely misunderstood. I have in the past been accused by friends and colleagues as lacking respect or possessing a degree of impertinence. That truth is that neither is true. There are a number of reasons why I refuse to pin a small paper flower to my lapel each year but a lack of respect of acknowledgement of the sacrifice of others are not one of those.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1, a fact that will no doubt make this year’s remembrance that little more emotionally charged. In acknowledgment of this the Government pledged to spend around £50 million marking the occasion. The sentiment of all ceremonies and monuments are to remind us that the 1914-1918 conflict was a fight for freedom and democracy. I find this hard to swallow. Many of those that died in that horrendous war did not know real freedom because they lived in abject poverty and were never truly represented by members of parliament. The working classes (who made up 80% of Britain’s population in 1913) were all too often forced into enlisting by propaganda or were press-ganged by employers. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

Some years ago when I first read Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists I was struck by an acute sense of sadness. Not only was it the desperation of the protagonists in Tressell’s turn of the century tale of the woes of working men in England, but it was also the understanding that many of these characters (the novel is based on Robert Noonan’s real life experience as a painter and decorator in Hastings) would face the horrific great war just a couple of years after the book’s conclusion. For me the poppy is a reminder of the misinterpretation of WW1, that it was somehow a noble war in the name of freedom and democracy. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

It is a curious symbol, the poppy. In the last decade or so it appears to have been elevated into something transcendental. The phenomena of poppy burning which has led to arrests under the Malicious Communications Act seem to have elevated the simple poppy, sold by children and war veterans, to a higher status. The image of the burning poppy seems to be an insult on our very being. It is my argument that we have become so obsessed by the protection of this sacred symbol that we have neglected to recognise its true meaning. Could it be that our protestation over the burning or defacing of poppies is actually a manifestation of guilt? It is my argument that as a society we have become so removed from the real sacrifice made by those that have died in past conflicts that the poppy is worn with pride but worn in lieu of any empathy. The wearing of the poppy for many is the equivalent of hitting the Like icon on social networking sites. By Liking something we feel that we are displaying a certain kinship. Be it with a sentiment, emotion, cause or charity this simple act of tapping a keyboard has replaced solidarity in the internet age.

For some time my wife has been bothered, or rather incensed by the fact that in England young women are not offered a screening for Ovarian Cancer (a procedure that should take place for young women under the age of 21 or when they become sexually active) whereas screenings are offered in Scotland. Like many she has subscribed to pages on social media showing support for women who have died at a tragically young age due to the illness. Recently I suggested that she inquire on a social media site whether those who had Liked a page dedicated to raising awareness of cervical cancer would be willing to go on a march. She did not receive one response. It appears that political activism in our society has been reduced to Liking a page on a social media site or posting a one line comment. For me the wearing of the poppy occupies the same space. It is worn in lieu of something real such as genuine emotion.

So this year rather than wearing a poppy I shall take some time out to imagine what life in a trench might have been like, or what seeing off a relative (I have two brothers both of similar age to many service men and women) who would never return. I shall do this because this is a time for remembrance and not symbolism.

Xavier DwyerAndi Ware is 33 years-old, married and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that.

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I Know, I Know, I’m Miserable by Paul Featherstone

Sigh. Do you ever feel just totally disconnected from your fellow man? That you are just down-trodden and furrowed of brow, whilst everyone else floats along on a candy-floss cloud of simple pleasures?

I ask because we now have this curious phenomenon of supermarket Christmas adverts being “events.” Is this something that has been brought about by the “buzz” that social media can now bring about or is it simply that sites such as Facebook have simply exposed how utterly ridiculous mankind has become in this century? I will touch on the latter in another article, but a quick glimpse of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube et al would suggest that yes indeed, these are now considered something of a modern art form.

My Facebook feed exploded last week as it lavished praise on Sainsbury’s effort and how it had won this years “Battle Of The Christmas Adverts”. Honestly, hand to God, it was as though it was the name in an Oscars envelope. All the while though, I wondered exactly how as general public we had come to this point where people eagerly await the adverts from each firm like teens in line for the next Twilight flick?

Approximately 90% of the Xmas adverts I have seen this year don’t even tell me what products the company is selling and at what price? It’s almost as though I am just expected to blindly walk into the store that I think spunked the most money up a wall to wow me with their advert, in the blind hope that represents how cheap Quality Street tins will be there.

One can only presume that there is the hope that if they don’t feature any actual food on their adverts, then the customer cannot be angry when they find that they have accidentally served Shergar’s head in place of a Turkey in some kind of grim reconstruction of The Godfather that involves little party hats and crackers.

Now, some may call me a cynical…nay….miserable bastard for having such a viewpoint, and of course they are right to an extent. However, look at it the other way. Maybe I’m just disappointed that Christmas has slowly been boiled down to this- a cartoon set to a fucking Keane cover, designed ultimately sell you vastly over priced products that Wonga will probably end up charging you 2876% to afford.

There is still so much good that can be reflected in humanity at Christmas, do we really need advertising executives essentially flogging us huge quantities of food to remind us that being kind to your fellow man is what is really important in this world?

To put it in perspective, I saw more outpouring of emotion about the madness of war and the sacrifice of soldiers who leave their families to serve their country after the end of the Sainsbury’s advert than I did on Remembrance Sunday. Do we actually need a visual representation of a soldier returning home rather than the memory of those who didn’t to remind us of the price of conflict?

All of it, heart-tugging and a Trojan horse to deliver the seed of coming to buy, buy, buy. Don’t fall for it. I have come to expect better of you, dear reader. Slowly but surely the public had become gloriously cynical and was making companies jump through hoops to get their custom as the recession bit.

Now this, as viewers salivate and coo over the kind images of bunnies and kids opening presents the oldest trick in the book has sucked them all back in. I want to believe that it’s all a big celebration of the magic of Christmas but come on, it’s not.

It’s yet more of the romance and beauty of life just being sold and dressed up in a cocktail frock to be prostituted for a quick bit of cash.

As I say, that may make me sound like a Scrooge, but who believes in the magic of Christmas more? Me, who would rather firms just sell me their cheap food at Christmas so that I have more money to buy the gift that puts a huge smile on someone’s face and lets them know I love them or the person who thinks it’s okay to turn selling products into It’s A Wonderful Life?

Bah, Humbug indeed.

Paul FeatherstonePaul Featherstone is 31 years old and lives in Hull. Most people call him “Fev.” He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of football and music and uses the word “c*nt” far too much in everyday conversation. He spends a lot of his time blagging his way into celebrity parties. He is to be commended for once meeting Jo Whiley and refraining from beating her to death with a big stick. You can read more of his vitirolic comments on http://twitter.com/FevTheRevoff