Monday, November 17, 2014

Can War Be Made to Look Too Beautiful?

It was the most stunning and beautiful tribute to those who died in the First World War I have ever seen.

A sea of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London, one for every British or Commonwealth soldier killed in that war.

But now the poppies are being uprooted.

The Christmas lights are going on.

And when Sainsbury's, a big supermarket chain, tried to mix war and Christmas, it was accused of making war look too BEAUTIFUL...

And worse, of making a dangerous and disrespectful masterpiece. 

Nowhere in the new advert do we see the blood and entrails, the vomit and faeces, the rats feasting on body parts. The response might be “well they can hardly put that in a Christmas advert can they?” and that would be entirely true. Which is why the scene is entirely inappropriate for a Christmas advert in the first place.

The trench warfare of 1914-18 sits near the top of the list of horrors that humanity has inflicted upon ourselves and each other. Although it has recently slipped out of the range of living memory, it remains an iconic scar. Like the Nazi Holocaust or the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, it lives on as a vivid phantom in our culture, a constant reminder of our capacity to inflict incomprehensible degrees of violence and suffering upon innocent individuals. It surely behoves us as a society to retain those deaths with respect and a degree of reverence.

But I don't agree. I think it's a classy ad, that doesn't flog its products in a vulgar manner. It celebrates a beautiful moment in that monstrous war when two groups of soldiers stopped trying to kill each other to celebrate Christmas together.

And it also reflects how young so many of those soldiers were, and how if given half a chance by the old men who would lead them to war, they would have more in common than the shallow blustering reasons that are used to divide them.

But then of course, although I'm not religious, I'm sentimental about Christmas eh?

A time in this tormented world when beyond the crass commercialism and the ghastly greed, a lot of humans actually try a little harder to be nice to each other.

And I have to admit, the British make some GREAT Christmas ads...

So yes, I admit it. I'll take mushy sentimentalism, peace, gentleness, and hope over all that talk about war, and the darkness and despair of Harperland.

I'm ready for it eh?

Ready for the Christmas lights...

Sitting there, waiting for the zamboni.

In this broken land.

Dreaming of a brighter future...

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Anonymous said...

Everyone should be able to buy one of those poppies. The money should be donated to peace organizations or veterans services in Canada.

Simon said...

hi anon...that does sound like a good idea. But I'm sorry to say that the only Canadian who is getting one is Stephen Harper, as a gift from David Cameron. The poppies were a brilliant idea, but the dead deserved better...