The Cenotaph and related issues…

05/04/2000

I’ve had a few comments about my post yesterday about the daubing of the Cenotaph. They tend to say that there are legitmate targets for protest who have transgressed morally (one person included Churchill in that list) and non-legitmate targets which include the Cenotaph. I have been thinking about this at length and I have come to a few conclusions.

  • Morality
    If one can make moral choices about who we wish to protest against, then some people will think the Cenotaph is a legitimate target. If we can understand that they might decide that it is such a target then we can’t be horrified when these sentiments become actions. You can make moral statements about the war, the glorification of people who die for state sanctioned causes, the ascription of moral superiority to one side or the other etc etc etc. Let’s take this argument to it’s most (ludicrously) extreme to see if the need for a symbol of mourning for people can ever be “desecrecrated” in a moral fashion. If there was a monument in Trafalgar Square for SS Officers and Hitler then people would feel totally justified in putting graffiti on it. But these officers died too, often for a cause that they believed in and in which we don’t.

  • Glorification of War
    One person who e-mailed me talked about how the Cenotaph was as much a symbol of the futility of war as one could reasonably hope for. I’m just not sure that I agree with that. Does a war movie in which everyone dies doing something “heroic” make a statement about the futility of war? The Cenotaph seems to me to be as much a way to make a political war movie as it is about commemorating the people who actually died. In fact – I doubt that it is possible to do one without the other.

  • Why these things happen
    But all this, as far as I can tell is off the point. As I said yesterday – I wonder how many of the demonstrators were actually trying to make a point like this. I suspect remarkably few of them. Instead I think that they wanted to stick two fingers up at the world. I want you to try to imagine that you are a middle class parent living in a semi-detached house with your wife somewhere comfortable but dull (like Norwich). Now your child is starting to rebel, she’s horrified by the uninspiring paths that she sees her life evolving into – the world that she lives in is designed to make things easier, more comfortable, less challenging and totally unthreathening. So she starts to shoplift, vandalise telephone boxes, experiment with dubious substances. WHAT DO YOU DO? Do you spank her, punish her, call her filthy names and throw her out of your house? Of course not. You want to find a way for her to achieve what she wants from life, to find the happiness, the stimulation, that she needs. “Staying Out Of Trouble” is no longer a suitable lifestyle choice.

  • Informed Objection
    And that is where this whole idea of informed objection collapses. There are more frustrated people in the world than there are political ones. There are more crushed aspirations than there are passionate politicians. And the girl who aspires to doing SOMETHING (ANYTHING) knows very well that at some level, at some times, the battle is more against the structure that says “this is right”, “this is wrong” than it is against either the right or the wrong things themselves…

A blog based around Haiku? Who would have thought such a thing was possible. Haiku the Blog proves that it is. I’ve been quite bored today, so I have been trying to remember an haiku that an old flatmate of mine and I wrote a few years back. We were awfully proud of it:

Waiting is a game
Not a very good one though
Like Monopoly

In Cluedo they die
Like in Agatha Christie
But not of boredom

And lo did the Onion say something very funny, and verily did I blog it:

Clinton Consults Surgeon General On Behalf Of Friend Curious About Homosexuality
WASHINGTON, DC–President Clinton spent several hours behind closed doors Monday with Surgeon General David Satcher on behalf of an unidentified friend who is curious about homosexuality. “As a favor, this friend of mine asked me to ask the Surgeon General a few questions,” Clinton said. “This person said he’s had some funny new feelings lately, feelings he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about, so he was hoping I could ask for him.” Clinton said Satcher assured him that the feelings his friend is having are “completely natural.”