Thursday, November 11, 2010

V is for Violence: Remembrance and Resistance

by Chris Cook

In America it's Veterans' Day, here in Canada, the last outpost of the lost Empire we refer to November 11th as Remembrance Day, conveniently forgetting the original name and purpose of that remembrance. When it was first decided to stop everything for a moment on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year to meditate and reflect on the terrible meaning of war, remembering the tragedy and loss created by human conflict, it was called Armistice Day.

Listen to the speechifying here.
Click here for photos.

Armistice means a cessation of fighting, a literal standing down of armed forces for the purpose of negotiating a resolution to hostilities, and the beginning of an understanding that peaceful cooperation between people and nations is possible; it is a refutation of war, if only a temporary one.

It's little wonder then, in a world where war is the number one commodity, and the provision of the implements of violence the singlemost profitable pursuit, the concept of stopping that gravy train, if only for a single minute on the eleventh day of November, is something the war profiteers would rather no-one remember; it is not an acceptable concept.

So instead, we remember the veterans, without whom this long and lucrative legacy of murder and misery made for magnificent profits for the few could not possibly be sustained.

I'll go down to the "British Columbia" legislature, seat of the provincial government, located atop the territorial lands of the Lekwungen people, scattered and marginalized still. There, the colours will be trooped out. Martial bands will play, and cannon roar will echo in the harbour. There again, good Victorians will gather, adorned with paper poppies, to listen to bagpipes and the harangue of politicians, who remind, lest we forget, to remember the sacrifice made by men in uniforms. If the skies allow, military jets will scream overhead, deadening the senses, making reflection impossible in that moment, and army padres will lead prayers.

Beside the noise and celebration of destructions past, a small group will gather before a life-sized statue of a woman who holds high a laurel wreath, and in her other hand a dove ready for flight perches. That's her pictured above. It is the remembrance of the MacKenzie-Papineau Brigade, volunteers who defied the Canadian government of their day, travelling across the Atlantic to defend the Spanish Republicans from the fascists.

The folks gathered there will wear white poppies, marking a remembrance of the men, women, and children killed, maimed, and brutalized by war. They will remember that this day was never meant to glorify the soldiery who did the killing as well as the dying. They will remember the war meant remembering on Armistice Day was the War to End All Wars, and they will regard bitterly that unkept promise of peace.

Violence is the rule of the day now. It is the first resort of a military culture as ruthless as any Hun ever was who fired a mustard gas shell, or a president dropping an atom bomb. Violence is too the first resort of our government officials, who spend untold millions arming the police against the people, then loose them on the peaceful. Where provocation to "justify" this orgiastic violence is absent, agents provocateur are supplied, or "weapons of mass destruction" invented.

Today, we are sustained and entertained by violence. It has become the centre of economies, and preoccupation of our political process. Its primary organizational place in our society is beyond questioning, as is any contemplation of an alternative way to live our short lives here.

As the famously reptilian character, Gordon Gecko might say, "Violence is better than greed" because it makes more money, and it does so seemingly in perpetuity.

Canada has now been conducting politically motivated killings in Afghanistan for nine years. For nine Remembrance Days, good Canadians have ventured out into the cold November streets from Victoria to St. John's, reaffirming support of state violence and the organizations that sustain and maintain its domination of our society.

Told they are paying homage to those who died to "preserve our freedom," they make certain in their observances this Age of Violence will continue without cessation, without an armistice, for another year at least; endless wars that end nothing but the lives of the innocent and guilty alike.