Rather a long subject title but as they say in the sitcom Miranda 'Bear With'.
Whether or not one contributes to the Royal British Legion Poppy appeal, wear a white poppy from the Peace Pledge Union as a sign of peace or a black poppy* it would appear that this year - perhaps unsurprisingly given that it is the centenary of the
outbreak of WW1- the poppy has become not only a
symbol of remembrance but also a consumer item. In the Marxist sense of the word has become a commodity as different, 'desirable' versions of it are peddled on websites and street corners. The Royal British Legion website has many tasteful items for sale; their stalls in supermarkets do not just display the simple cloth poppies and poppy badges which have been added over the past few years but other memorabilia [mugs etc] Craft shops show hand knitted and crocheted poppies, postcards and small pictures - some framed - are available too - do the proceeds go to the shopkeepers or the veteran charities? Obviously the
handmade ceramic poppies planted outside the Tower of London are a bargain at £25 each and will be a great talking point in the corner in a tasteful vase inmany a home: a part of an art installation, patriotic icon and oh yes a remembrance of one of those brave soldiers who gave those lives that others may live. If I sound cynical it is because I am - so many of those young men had no idea why they were fighting and there is still a great misunderstanding in the minds of many of the population today as to the real reasons why the 1914 - 1918 war took place.* The black poppy commemorates all those who have died due to imperialist war and its legacy: dead soldiers, dead civilians and dead conscientious objectors. Stop the War
Yet despite full page adverts in newspapers, leaflets delivered through most doors and TV advertising by the Royal British Legion it did seem that an awful lot of people were not wearing poppies this year. Hundreds of thousands went to see the poppies at the Tower of London yet there were no collecting boxes for veterans charities. And the count of the poppies there is only for the British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives, not those of all And in another twist, the poppy was hijacked in another sort of commodification by some far right political groups like Britain First who used it as a symbol on social media to sell themselves and raise funds by selling badges - some bearing poppies.
And whilst I am on the subject of advertising, have you noticed something, a bit of a trend perhaps on your TV in the past few days? The big stores and wholesalers massive TV advertising campaigns costing millions of pounds each appear to be vying with each either to get some sort of title: 'The best sickly, sentimental Christmas Advert of the year' perhaps?' And meanwhile the United Nations have to ask two elderly Rock Stars to make another Band Aid type record to raise money for aid for Ebola.
So is the world turning upside down when the poppy for remembrance becomes a commodity. When a far right political group uses the poppy to raise funds for itself. When famous pop stars are reduced nearly to begging for our monetary donations to help those dying of a deadly disease. When global companies are spending millions to persuade us to part with money for commodities we don't really want or need. Christmas is a time of giving, we surely need to all decide the right direction in which our money should travel.