mirrorshard: (Default)
2009-12-03 10:16 pm
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Support the troops - end the war

Jock 'No, that really is his name' Stirrup, who is the UK's official chief militarist, has carefully explained why it's all our fault that our brave lads and lasses are dying in Afghanistan without actually having toppled the Taliban, offed the opium barons, and abolished Al-Qaeda.

Apparently, they get disenheartened and upset when the GBP starts thinking they might not actually be doing any good over there, they might not be able to provide a pony in every Afghan back yard, and they might actually be encouraging foreigners to dislike our country (and potentially try to blow bits of it up) rather than spreading goodwill.

Nothing to do with the military establishment's reluctance to give them adequate housing, helicopters, injury compensation, or even body armour, then. Nothing to do with the political leadership's insistence on the ludicrous idea that we have to fight a land war in Asia to avoid fighting a land war in Aldgate. Nothing to do with the way they and their allies keep blowing up wedding parties, killing innocent people, and encouraging the locals to use the Coalition forces as pawns in inter-tribal warfare.

Seriously, though - I appreciate the importance of morale when fighting a war. I just don't think that we ought to be fighting wars as a general principle; I don't think we are doing anyone any good fighting this specific war; and I haven't seen anything to convince me that they even know what winning would look like, let alone how to get there.

And I am damned if I am going to be told to shut up and cheer.
ACM Stirrup added: "Support for our service men and women is indivisible from support for this mission.

"Our people know that they can succeed, that we'll only fail if we choose to fail. We owe it to them, and to those we've lost, not to make that choice."

Indivisible, eh? Would you care to substantiate that allegation, because it's about to be arrested for vagrancy...

As for his second para, this is the classic loser's streak philosophy. It doesn't matter how much you've lost; it only matters that you win in the end. And the only way to do that is to keep doubling down.

If he were only spending his own money - or his own blood - then I wouldn't care. But he's throwing away taxpayers' money, the tattered vestiges of the UK's good international name, and a lot of other peoples' lives. Even if only Coalition soldiers had died, that would be completely unacceptable.

And now he's asking us to help him do it. No, actually, he isn't asking... he's telling us off for not helping, and explaining that it's our duty. From the same BBC article, one David Wakefield says: "The Taliban is not going to defeat us militarily, but we want the same patience, courage and discipline that soldiers show here from the public at home."

Sorry, mate. Ain't signed nothing, ain't getting paid, ain't going to surrender my judgement to anyone - especially not anyone with the kind of track record the UK military establishment has racked up by now. So you can fuck right off.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2009-11-07 01:22 pm
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White Poppies - Lest We Forget

Again this year, I'm wearing a white poppy rather than a red one.

The white stands for pacifism and peace activism: the idea that, because a great many people die or are injured in wars, or have their livelihoods and families destroyed, we should therefore not have any wars.

This concept, as Chesterton said, has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.

In the meantime, peace activists around the world will continue to do the things they've always done: drive ambulances, defuse bombs, roll bandages, fly SAR helicopters, drag illegal arms deals into the public eye, expose defence boondoggles, challenge war crimes, work with wounded soldiers, teach communities about each others' lives, and speak truth to power.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2008-11-12 06:47 pm
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Hedd Wyn

In the Welsh village where I grew up, there's a statue of Hedd Wyn, who was awarded a chair at the 1917 Eisteddfod in Birkenhead. The chair was given posthumously, swathed in black, because he died just before Passchendaele less than two months after sailing for France.

He described Belgium like this - "Heavy weather, heavy soul, heavy heart. That is an uncomfortable Trinity, isn't it. I never saw a land more beautiful in spite of the curse that has landed upon it. The trees are as beautiful as the dreams of old kings".

The Royal Welsh Fusiliers have a picture of him (the same one that hung on the wall in my school) and a biography here, not far from Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. (They served in the 2nd Battalion - Evans was in the 15th.)

His real name was Ellis Evans - "Hedd Wyn" was his bardic name. ("Wyn" is variously translated as White, Shining, or Holy. "Hedd" means "Peace".)

This is the manuscript of his chair-winning poem Yr Arwr - here's the text in Welsh. It uses the metaphor of Prometheus, and the title translates as "The Hero". As far as I can tell, there's no English translation yet.

This is the Black Chair, which came to symbolise all the chairs sitting empty in Welsh farmhouses. I've sat in it - I was too young really to appreciate the significance, but I felt the honour.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2006-03-28 05:54 am

Death and Books

I was, mostly at random, reminded of a previous post I made, a brief snark comment on the death penalty. I should also note at the top here that it quickly turns into rambling about books instead, though.

[Other point I was originally going to make, about why some people support the death penalty so strongly, excised because I can't yet find a way to put it that doesn't turn into a sneer.]

I think I may have it, now, so bear with me, Gentil Reader, while I ramble. or not )
mirrorshard: (Default)
2005-11-03 09:54 am
Entry tags:

Red Poppies

It's that time of year again, with a poppy-seller on each corner[1], and it seems somehow morally wrong not to be supporting the war dead and their survivors. I don't disagree with this in principle, it was - and still is to some extent - a terrible human tragedy. It just makes me feel twitchy to wear something connected to war, even though this one isn't a political statement.

Now, if only they sold white poppies...

[1] http://www.poppy.org/ for those of you who are living Elsewhere and don't understand this traditional British custom of wearing a small paper and plastic poppy on the lapel at this time of year. http://www.poppy.org/About_Poppy_Appeal/History.html explains why a poppy.
mirrorshard: (Default)
2004-05-19 10:41 pm

For swords about the Cross

Fantasy books are shaped and formed by violence.

Mind you, this isn't universal - there are always laudable exceptions, gentler stories with their own devoted readers. But the mainstream of fantasy, the ones most prominently on display in the bookshops, and the ones that new fantasy readers often come to first, are the books about wars, warriors, bloodshed either official or informal or both, the slaughter of other people or strange monsters, and the overcoming or at least endurance of other peoples' violence.

Forgive me, Not-So-Gentle Reader, for putting words into your mouth, but you will say to me: Fantasy worlds are violent, rough. That's how things are in places like that. You have to do what you can to survive.

Which is, in the strictest sense of the phrase, begging the question. Who made them that way? Why, Ungentle Reader, you did, and all your kind.

Personally, I blame J.R.R. Tolkien for starting it off, with his split personality and unconscious racism. He hated war, as it was fought in his time - the barbarism, the atrocity, the senseless deaths. But he looked back, in a very Christian manner, to the olden days when real heroes had shining swords and the lakes of blood they waded through didn't matter, because their cause was just, and they were only fighting infidels - none of these messy complications that the World Wars introduced, about impersonal deaths and people like you on the other side too.

The Lord of the Rings is all about the way the glory of war and the extremes of good and evil have passed out of the world, to be replaced by progress and the simple beauty of village life. It's an incredibly sad story. It's also all about violence, and the way it affects ordinary people.

Now, I suppose this is an entirely legitimate topic for discussion, but how did it become so central to the entire genre? It's almost impossible to imagine someone living in a fantasy world who doesn't own or acquire a sword. Most fantasy worlds have a war of some sort, or the threat of war, going on somewhere - if it's not a war, it will be an incursion of monsters, a plague of brigands, and so on.

Partly, I suppose, it's because having a sword makes problems appear so much simpler, and weapons equate not only to power, but to a convenient hand-sized chunk of power that you can just pick up and use.

Tolkien, mind you, wasn't anywhere near alone in his world-view - the same ideas about chivalry appear in the work of ER Eddison (The Worm Ourobouros), Andrew Lang (the Blue Fairy Book &c), CS Lewis (Narnia), and GK Chesterton (no fantasy per se, but The Napoleon of Notting Hill is a perfect exemplar of the idea).

It's interesting how all the swords end up in the hands of upper-class men - even Lucy got a bow, traditionally a yeoman's weapon, and Peter and Edmund were given swords straight off the mark.

I think that it's a very Victorian thing, as well as a Christian one - the current age is unlike any other, they said, and Mankind has never had it so good. All previous ages (and, by analogy, fantastic worlds) were barbaric and violent in comparison.