Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Mother swaps one son for another
We as a nation are increasingly emotionally immature, as is witnessed by our childlike reaction to confronting the one incontrovertible fact of life, death; Princess Diana, the need for a crack team of counsellors to descend on a school every time a schoolchild walks in front of a bus, the canonisation of police officers and fire-fighters injured or killed whilst doing their job, our fear of guns not people and the disproportionate reaction to 'one of ours' dying compared to lives less newsworthy or in another land - all examples of this phenomenon. Millions of humans die every year, in car accidents, work related incidents, naturally and unnaturally, it appears to me that unless they are celebrities or in a uniform their passing is that of a life not worth comment.
Couple that with a blood lust for revenge and state sanctioned punishments that disregard the human condition - a condition that endows us with an incredible ability to make mistakes and yet still be redeemable - it makes a mockery of civilisation.
Two generations of young men gave their lives, in WW1 and WW2, to defend our freedom of choice and defeat oppression - yet many in our emotionally crippled population are all too quick to adopt the narrow intolerant standards of the enemies those young men fought to defend us against:
Poppy fascism, the replacement of the word 'soldier' with 'brave-soldier' or 'hero' and the apotheosis of all those who serve in the armed forces are another manifestation of this childlike behaviour. We need look no further than the illogical public hand-wringing over each and every unfortunate death of one of those employed in the armed forces. A job that by implication expects a willingness on the part of its recruits to give up one's life if required. Those of us who are not willing to accept that risk, the majority, do not sign up.
Is a non-combatant's lives less worthwhile - Is a non-military contribution to our society less significant? Surely we create the society the uniformed services serve?
As a society we choose to maintain our armed forces, at significant expense, as an insurance. We make a claim on that policy if their deployment is believed to be necessary to preserve our way of life - whether we agree with that decision or not, it is the decision of our elected representatives, the government. It is their primary role - to be willing to fight and die to defend that society, a society without which they have no purpose.
As a student I attended a briefing at the Pitreavie Command Centre bunker during the Falklands War, I was considering a job in a division of the MoD at the time. A Royal Navy Commander, who had drawn the short straw that morning, began the briefing by reminding us that our 'senior service', the Royal Navy, was created to defend our merchant fleet, maintain our trade routes and protect the citizens of the UK, not an end in itself simply the mechanism of last resort when our way of life was threatened.
Mothers whose sons, or daughters, die in the course of doing a dangerous job that the majority of us choose to eschew are hardly impartial commentators, we don't allow relatives of victims to sentence perpetrators, and neither should we - that is one step from rule by lynch mob. The mothers on the other side, whose sons are killed by our troops, feel just the same; the premature death of a child you have given birth to is the ultimate loss, it does not lend itself to cool logic or impartiality.
More equipment, more helicopters, armour, guns, men... sure we could probably do with all of those, but my experience of the defence industry is that no matter how much is spent a politician or senior officer somewhere will call for more, to go down that path is to pursue perpetual militarisation and permanent war. The Americans have much much more, and a defence budget that exceeds that of the rest of the world - but still combatants die, that is the nature of their chosen profession - death and injury are implicit in the deployment of an army in preference to diplomats. It is impossible to ensure that a medic or helicopter is at hand for every injury, unless the standard mess kit contains both.
Mrs Janes, your son was the unfortunate victim of an ill advised war and I am sad for you, you however are the victim of a gutless and exploitative newspaper publisher with a sinister agenda who would happily undermine all we hold dear in the pursuit of avarice and power.
When my great grandmother's family were informed of the death of her brother in France, a volunteer, it was via an anonymous telegram. She may have wished to take Haig to task over his policy of insisting that his men went over the top en-masse and walk slowly towards the German machine guns, but had neither the opportunity nor inclination to indulge in propaganda, and that would have been unthinkable to a loyal citizen not to mention an act that would in some way undermine her brother's life. Mrs Janes - your public stance is an insult to all of the mothers of injured and dead troops who have had the dignity and sense to conduct their mourning in private and not let themselves be exploited by a company operated as a dictatorship with a very public anti-government agenda - in the past your act of vanity may even have been described as treasonous behaviour.
Soldiers are now workers that reign as supreme beings, deserving of something better than the citizens of the country they are employed by. This despite the fact that they are employed on the understanding that in a time of war they may be asked to lay down their lives by their commanding officer.
Mrs Janes, you have never voted, by your own admission, yet you accepted that your son should serve a country whose government you are disinterested in. A woman who cares not a jot about politics and government but happily allows her sons to join the army of that government should not be surprised at a disappointing outcome - I'm not... If you were in possession of the facts of the lack of equipment and neglect of this government beforehand, as you publicly claim, why did you not do what any other mother would have - counsel your son to quit before his deployment, I would have.
Our NATO obligations forced us into Afghanistan, it was always inevitable that we would lose lives and suffer injuries in that god-forsaken country, Bush was guilty of creating a bizarre skewed justification that has led to the deaths of soldiers from a number of nations. We met our obligations and the price we pay is to put our servicemen in harms way - they know that, I know that, you know that and your son knew that.
Mrs Janes please show some dignity and respect for your son. Your behaviour only undermines his sacrifice, he obviously believed in the Army and its mission. So you cannot read Gordon's joined up writing and you do not accept the veracity of his contrition - I wouldn't if I had found a scapegoat for the death of one of my sons. Jacqui how do you feel that your son's story took second place for much of today in The Sun's 'top read stories'? His death second to Eva's fashion boob in NY already, where will it be in two or three days time - is that dignified?
My two sons? They work hard and are worthwhile members of society, and should I lose them prematurely I will be devastated - but it will be private grief with dignity to mark their worthwhile lives.