2 years ago
Believe it or not, and you would never guess if you saw me (remember that bit), but I'm actually old enough to remember real life stories of times gone by, before the one minute silence, let alone life before the two minute silence.
Yes, there was Armistice Day, when former servicemen assembled in Whitehall and remembered their wars, but that was pretty much as far as it ever went. And I can remember as a youngster, being told by my older brother David that there had once been a time when the whole country, in factories, rail stations et al, would all observe a minute's silence together. But that had been the preserve of a previous generation, our generation was the fortunate one; we would not be sacrificed in war and no one would have to mourn our wasted lives, therefore collective grief could become a thing of the past.
Admittedly, there may have been an odd occasion at a football ground, when a respected servant of the club was honoured by a minute silence, although this was typically punctuated by the hooligans amongst the opposition support.
But then somebody realised that the cause of cheap nationalism could be forwarded by re-inventing the one minute silence, in the pretence that we needed to re-visit and thank a previous generation for their efforts.
Please accept my deepest sincerity now when I state that I personally believe that we owe a massive debt to my parent's generation. I also believe, however, that that gratitude should take the form of a decent pension, access to a comprehensive health service and a right to live securely, before we even consider any of the more token gesture forms of gratitude.
I suspect, therefore, that it was first the Tories, having set about destroying the quality of life for the elderly, who hit on the jingoistic ruse of papering over the cracks by "honouring" the older generation in the highly symbolic — AND ENTIRELY FREE — one minute silence.
But once people had become inured to the practice, it simply isn't considered enough to stand for just one minute. Apparently that seems disrespectful, so now we get the TWO minute silence, because we all need a little longer to show just how much we care apparently.
But it wasn't just for those war veterans anymore either: Oh no. ANYONE could now qualify. Overnight we Brits became a victim culture. And later, under a touchy-feely New Labour party, we were all made super-sensitive. To be human is to feel another's pain. And it's not enough to feel it these days; it is necessary to SHOW it.
7th July 2005 (The UK's 9-11) was a horrible day. My own experience, however slight in comparison to those who genuinely experienced those events, was still too close for comfort, and I found it all deeply moving. I also willingly took part in the silence that took place a week later, standing with thousands of others in the eerie calm besides Kings Cross, untroubled by the tourists who persisted in wheeling their suitcases through us, as though they were witnessing some eccentric lunch-time siesta type custom amongst the locals.
And then, a whole year later, we're seen to be having another go at it all.
It was 2006 now and Radio 4's Today Programme was almost entirely dedicated to digging over the ashes of the previous year's tragedy. The newspapers reprinted that year’s photographs, and reinterviewed the victims. And once more we we're asked to observe the ‘silence’.
Why? How much respect can we bear? Is victimhood something to revere? Why didn't we stick by the rhetoric AND CARRY ON IN DEFIANCE while in the face of terrorism?
Surely, the more we show how much they hurt us, the greater the value of their actions, and the greater the value of their actions, the greater their effectiveness at hitting at the society they detest. Surely we should be countering this by putting our tragedies behind us and actively moving on. Or did I miss something?
Back in the day, Twentieth Century warfare was fought on a massive scale, particularly in terms of the Great War. "The Lost Generation" that perished in that conflict had a profound effect upon their contemporaries left behind to pick up the pieces. Hundreds of thousands were slaughtered, to the effect that every village, every factory, every railway station, had seen a member taken. The Somme alone claimed 20,000 souls in one day. It is no wonder, then, that the survivors left felt the need to grieve together; everybody had lost someone. It was genuinely a bid to stop it ever happening again.
And while terrorism is wicked and frightening in its random and pointless acts of violence, it is not, however, anyway near the scale of social disaster that the Great War was. Neither are any of the other tragedies of our age, however hurtful they may feel.
Even now, in a post Hillsborough age when it seemingly only takes one scouser to trip on the litter strewn streets of Merseyside to send the people of Liverpool into a grieving frenzy, (and the florists off to the Mercedes dealerships with their earnings), maybe it's time to finally stop and ask WHY we need to do this. I mean, are we really that sensitive? Or are we all just a little bit too comfortably off to be feeling good about ourselves anymore?
FFS... Let's all toughen up a bit and maybe take a leaf from our parent's generation; keep it to our self and get on with it. Stiff upper lip and all that jazz...
And now the do goody liberals can interrupt this post and tell us it's good to let it all out... I'll get my coat.
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