Merry Man On The Moon Day Everyone
15th November 2017
I don’t know if it's to combat the ever advancing Christmas invasion into new seasons, but for whatever reason, I can't help but notice that people have literally started to cover everything with poppies in the last few years on the approach to Remembrance Day.
As if the poignant subtly of the lone Poppy will no longer be noticed amongst the bling and glare of the giant flashing bulbs of the premature cumming of the erected Christmas lights. I enjoyed making that image phallic, I don't know why. But dare I say it, just as you can go too far with the Christmas tree light thing, you can also go too far with the Poppy love thing. And these days, I fear that too many people do just that.
One poppy is enough. One is symbolic of unity. One is symbolic of personal strength. One is symbolic of being brave enough to make a stand. One is symbolic of standing up against the crowd. One is symbolic of courage in self-awareness. One is the most unique number that we all share. One is the number that defines our own being as individual humans in our greater collective species. Individually we are one. And if each one of us as individuals can respect that, on mass we can be one. One race united. The human race. One cannot be divided. One cannot be segregated. There is an element of social and natural cohesion and poetry and beauty in the power of hope that emanates to all from just one tiny unassuming little bright flower... It's not the same if your poppy is the size of a space hopper strapped to the front of your lorry or you are wearing ten of them ... Somehow, as ever, rampant overconsumption has forced it's way in over succinct poignance.
And sadly, we've reached the point where people even risk getting verbally attacked if they don't wear a poppy these days. As if it's not possible to empathise and think about the plight of those who died in war without a paper and plastic flower pinned to your lapel whilst looking sorrowful and solemn all day long ... just in case someone is watching you.
It's like being in your driving test all over again. It's not enough to just check your mirrors for safety anymore ... you've got to unsafely swing your head all over the shop just to SHOW that you are just checking your mirrors for safety. Otherwise you fail. In fact, showing the instructor that you are checking the mirrors is more important than actually checking the mirrors themselves - that doesn't matter. Just because you can't visibly see a poppy being worn, it doesn't mean they don't care. It's not a sign of disrespect. You have no idea what they are thinking or what they are going through. Leave them alone for goodness sake. Part of what the poppy symbolises is free will, in the face of societal dictatorship. Don’t be a dictator. It's disrespectful to the cause. Remember it's a choice to wear a poppy. Not wearing one is the default free state, not an active choice.
A cleaner at work was telling me how he never wore a poppy on Remembrance Day out of respect to his great Grandfather who had served in World War I, and yet had always refused to wear a poppy himself. His great Grandfather had always said that World War I was supposed to be the war that would put an end to all wars. And yet as we all know ... it wasn't. As such, he couldn't bring himself to wear a poppy. It just didn't feel right to him. This tradition was then passed down through the generations in his family. But of course he still remembered his fallen brothers every year in his own way. He was actually there with them. None of them chose to be there. They were forced to be there. It's a valid point of view. And I'm sure there are many more valid reasons why a person may not want to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. It doesn't mean a person is being disrespectful at all.
Remember, it's not a choice to not wear a poppy. It's a choice to wear one. Respect that crucial difference if you respect individual freedom. Indeed not wearing a poppy out of principle can even be seen as a symbol of respect for individual freedom. It's not disrespecting anything.
I think what is slightly disrespectful however is the hijacking of the date by retail to launch their Christmas adverts around. I'm thinking this must have been deliberate by John Lewis back in 2007 to latch onto an existing memorable date in the public psyche. Advertisers don't spend all that money just to work to chance. The choice of date must have been deliberate.
So we find ourselves in a position where on the one hand, we have the state asking us to take 2 minutes out to shed a tear for the soldiers that they sent to their early deaths so wastefully in World War I, and on the other hand we have a department store asking us to take 2 minutes out to shed a tear for an old man spying on a young girl in her bedroom with a telescope whilst listening to Oasis covers. Both are a choice, we needn't do either, and yet both are something that we feel socially obliged to do in society.
The adverts are so masterfully executed and emotive, that I'd wager that more people felt more genuine emotion toward a fictional man on the moon, in a department store advert, than for the real humans that were sent to their deaths against their will by people in power. I know I cried. What does this mean? I have no idea. But it does show the power of well created mixed media over reality on our emotions and senses.
I myself watch the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth every year on Remembrance Day for that very same reason. I think the way it takes the human perspective is simply marvelous. I've even taught myself how to play the theme tune on the piano when they storm out of the trenches at the end in slow motion before the scene blends into a field of poppies ... It leaves a genuine tear in my eye and a gulp in my throat every single time without fail. I love it. Great tv.
But more importantly, it gets me thinking and realising that I myself would have been one of those ordinary men in the trenches back then. I myself would have been called upon to be stripped from my family just to become cannon fodder for my superiors badly played game of chess. My own life would have been rendered completely worthless by those in power, to protect their own position, and would have been extinguished against my will and without memory ... unless that is, people took time out to remember the repeating societal influences that continue to lead people to this terrible circumstance across the globe, so that eventually, we might get to the point where this may never happen again. This is important.
Remembrance Day for me, sets out to hopefully eventually allow mass empathy to infiltrate deep into a society, and put an end to the political processes that result in converting innocent human beings into nothing more than worthless forgotten cannon fodder. It wasn't a battle of good vs evil. It was a power balance struggle with a bayonet being a weapon with a working class man on either end of it. The dead men we are remembering, on both sides, had more in common with those that they killed, and that killed them, than they did with their own superiors, who would have killed them themselves had they tried to opt out of fighting. By being reminded of the horrors and atrocities committed towards humanity in World War I, which are so poignant, so gut wrenching, and so thought provoking to so many people, hopefully we can all work together to ensure such monstrosities never ever happen again.
Sainsbury's on the other hand, decided to make a Christmas advert out of it to remind us that it wasn't all that bad, there was a good bit too ... so come in store today and check out our new Christmas bargains, out now.
To be fair, it was a beautiful advert, that could raise both a tear and a smile, and it was commissioned by The Royal British Legion with percentage of Christmas profits going to them. Quality mixed media for the senses if you like. I'm not knocking the quality of these adverts only the timing of them long term. They are amazing and taking advertising to new unchartered heights. I for one love them.
I do remember being told at school that there was some kind of Christmas day truce where a football match was played and gifts exchanged by soldiers. What can I say. Christmas has the unique magical power to bring out the inner child in all of us. If only the guns would stop for a football match these days though ...
After big Hans and fast Fritz cut ribbons of the English defence once again, netting their 7th goal with ease inside 20 minutes of play against a frightened and self-doubting English eleven, I fear a football match these days would just end up creating even more unwanted violence if the English were involved. Unfortunately English football supporters have regressed back to the 80's. Some of them never even left it ...
We English stand a better chance of peace in trench warfare than on a football pitch so sad has the state of English football become. Plus England is so "I'm alright Jack" Conservative these days, I just can't see someone giving up a massive bar of chocolate for a dry cracker in the name of peace and good will as they did in the advert. It just wouldn’t happen. Especially after losing 26-nil in a friendly football match to the guy who's going to kill you tomorrow. But if it makes you shop at Sainsbury's ...
Although it was John Lewis that had the original idea of attaching Christmas adverts to Remembrance Day back in 2007, it was Sainsbury's that beat them at their own game in 2014, by recognising what they had done. Their Remembrance Day Christmas advert was such a resounding success, unfortunately, I feel that that between them, John Lewis and Sainsbury's have now allowed department stores to attach commercial relevance to Remembrance Day by all releasing their Christmas adverts around that day for the rest of time. The precedent has been set. It's become a National Institution. Everyone's in on it. Even me! I love them. I don't know how they're going to ever top Monty the penguin though? [Sniffle, sniffle, wiping tear from eye.]
I guess what I'm trying to say is, some things matter. Some things don't. Some things actually do have a functional value in remembering. Some things don't. And while I'm not a exactly a fan of religion, far from it in fact, I can sort of see why some Christians are slightly miffed that the main focus of a day that was supposed to celebrate the return to life and ascension into heaven of their Lord and Savior, has been shifted to a celebration of the Easter bunny and the mass over consumption of giant chocolate eggs.
It was supposed to be about a return to life to save us, not the onset of early diabetes to kill us. I'm not quite sure what happened there ... but clearly something did over time. No doubt commerce had a lot to do with it. But in the case of Easter, either way it's a celebration of fictitious events of no real relevance to reality anyway. So no harm done. Not that that is any consolation to the poor old Christians. But then that's a problem that people who believe what they want to believe over facts are always going to have to wrestle with in life until they wake up ...
But with Remembrance Day, it's different. We are not remembering fictitious events. We are remembering the worst atrocity that humanity could inflict upon itself. It was real. It happened. It must never happen again. Yet it could happen again. It never really stopped. War still happens everyday somewhere on the planet. And with a global political lurch to the hard right after the recession in Europe and the US, who knows what the future holds. Particularly for our children.
I sometimes wonder how that cleaners Great Granddad, who managed to come out of World War I alive, after being sent there against his will, and witnessing first hand all the bloodshed, death, and destruction, I sometimes wonder how he'd feel in the realisation that if he was alive today, not only would he be harangued and accosted for not wearing a poppy, he'd be thought of less than Moz the Monster. It's not even as if he could say that he wished he never bothered now. He'd have only made it worse for himself as he'd have been shot dead by his own side for treason. What a life. A life where all freedom was removed.
I think this is what people today forget about war. We see it on the tv elsewhere so much we become desensitized. We see people like Tony Blair win a Save the Children Global Legacy Award, after witnessing on tv parents and children dead and or with limbs blown off in Iraq by his doing, and we feel physically gut wrenchingly sick to the stomcach. But what can we do? We voted against the Iraq war in our masses and he pushed ahead anyway. Then once again we desensitize and carry on.
But essentialy the fact remains, in order to protect future assets to the State, if it occurs around you, war constitutes the removal of all of you and your families freedoms as human beings. You become expendable cannon fodder, either causing the cross fire or caught up in it, that may or may not survive. And your own State wont care. There is no glory. It's brutal. And it's up to individuals globally to empathise in order to prevent this, not just mindlessly go through their State's prescribed motions.
Personally, I can't stand military ceremonies. I have no affection for war poems, nor am I moved by the sound of a Bugle or utterly ridiculous words such as 'Lest'. I can't stand any of that Army stuff. It has its value for other people, but not for me. I'm a creative type. I love the John Lewis, and Sainsbury's et al Christmas adverts. They do actually move me, often to tears like they are so well and cleverly designed to. But I still take the time to remember the atrocities of World War I from a human perspective on Remembrance Day. To me it's important. And it's important to keep it separated from other cultural events so that it retains its impact over a multi generational expanse of time.
Even if I don't always wear a poppy or adhere to 2 minute silences (I never know what to think in a forced silence. I start to feel uncomfortable and my mind wonders all over the place, usually inappropriately, and I find it hard to put on the act of just looking solemn because its expected of me. I start feeling shifty and start sweating ...), I still see Remembrance day as a very important date, both to me and society at large. And whilst I don't necessarily act out the motions, I do make a concerted effort to try to empathise and feel how dreadful it must have been for all those involved back then. As said, with the global political lurch to the right and the talk of the World Wars being removed from the education syllabus, ironically due to lack of relevance, I don't like the idea of my kids growing up in a world that has forgotten, or even worse never even knew of these easily repeatable human tragedies. Some already say that the wheels are already well in motion towards the next World War. I hope they are wrong.
I guess I just think it would be a shame if Remembrance Day's meaning was dissolved over time and the date amalgamated with other things as always seems to happen with all memorable dates over time to the point that no one even remembers what they are supposed to be remembering anymore. Some might say it will never happen, but just look at Christmas and Easter. I was in my 30s when I first realised why I had a plastic tree in my living room at Christmas. Santa only wears red because of an early Coca Cola advert. And I still have no idea what giant chocolate eggs have to with anything aside from accelerated tooth decay and early onset diabetes at Easter?
I guess, although I love and respect their brilliant work, I'm essentially just not comfortable with the deliberate choice of date from advertisers for their Christmas adverts. And if it's not deliberate, then there's no harm in moving it then is there? I don't see the harm in getting the ASA to get corporations to wait until a few days to a week after Remembrance Day before they start their festive commercial onslaught, just to ensure that its meaning is preserved over time and not casually watered down and amalgamated with other commercial things.
People, including me, will still look forward to and love their brilliant adverts just as much, and who knows, we might have even prevented a possible distopian future where our great great grand kids might be eating chocolate Moz's on Man on the Moon Day, whilst reciting war poems written by the famous author John Lewis. In the distance are children playing football in a radio active field with a penguin shaped ball, and wearing a poppy the size of a satellite dish, whilst being ordered to remember something they had never even heard of, after a 3rd World War that should never even have taken place ...
Merry Man On The Moon Day everyone!