As I flicked through the Guardian prior to my long overdue Christmas break I stumbled upon a fascinating piece by George Chesterton that spoke beautifully of Britain's unconditional love towards all things military related: "Britain has been drawn into a deep sleep about war", warns the author. And he happens to be right. The tip of the iceberg has been the monumental rise of the Military Wives choir; culminating in their single, Wherever You Are, reaching Christmas number one. This year also witnessed the fourth annual Sun Military Awards (televised, of course), a serving soldier performed on the X Factor and the continuation of the propagandist Help for Heroes campaign.
Not one of these events would be detrimental in isolation, but, when combined, form an unpleasant amalgamation that causes Britain to take leave of its senses. As a nation, we no longer question the 'brave' acts of 'our boys'; Deepcut Barracks and Abu Ghraib seemingly a distant memory. Torture, sexual harassment, electric shock, sleep deprivation; not the handy work of our courageous heroes, surely. In fact, the whole puzzling desire to be a member of our armed forces is never questioned. As the brilliant academic Angus Calder once pointed out, "The military career requires wars for fulfilment". Pro-military cheerleaders will claim that they fight for their country and keep ungrateful cretins like myself safe and secure. Not once do they dare grasp the notion that some servicemen may enjoy the addictive nature of warfare.
Similarly, whilst cheerleaders preach that we ought to be grateful for all the hard efforts of our military personnel, they never once stop and comprehend what exactly it is we ought to be grateful for. Labour leader Ed Miliband, in his Christmas message, thanked the army for making Britain "secure, peaceful and happy". I do apologise Ed, but I was totally unaware of the fact that the UK was insecure, non-peaceful and unhappy prior to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Obviously I was not paying attention properly. Not for a moment was any consideration or goodwill passed on to the millions of widows, orphans, homeless and maimed of the aforementioned nations. They, of course, were merely collateral damage.
The common and preferable narrative is that the military is solely an agent for good. If only that were indeed true. Yes, many of our serving men and women are extremely brave and decent people, however, that does not, and should not, eradicate the sad reality that too many within our military are wrongdoers; unworthy of adoration. Shameful tales of drunken soldiers wilfully injuring innocent children are brushed under the carpet. God forbid anything gets in the way of Britain's blind hero worshipping. The main side-effect of this is that ordinary citizens no longer question and scrutinise the justifications for war. Politicians are given an easy ride.
By blindly endorsing the goodness of our armed forces we are consequently unable to make informed judgements over whether or not what we are doing is right. Stopping wars is becoming infinitely harder and unachievable. Debate surrounding why we are still fighting in distant regions has all but vanished from society. Enter any pub and all you will find is a Help for Heroes bucket placed on the bar with not one customer engaged in a conversation denouncing Britain's foreign policy. We are all the worse for it. Come to think of it, nobody is engaging in the imperative questions of our time: Why is the west so willing to resort to violence in the aftermath of the Cold War? Why is Britain engaged in so much conflict when its sovereignty has not been remotely threatened by any other state?
The normality of warfare also poses dangerous implications for the future. As Britain's gullible public dutifully slobbers over anyone who happens to possess a military uniform, our political elites are covertly plotting a war with the Islamic Republic of Iran. How many Jonjo Kerr voters, Military Wives listeners or Help for Heroes donators are even aware of the looming encounter? How many of them even care? Not too many is my prediction, for they have been programmed through the militarisation of our popular culture to ignore such nasty goings-on. So, by all means, indiscriminately and instinctively ritualise the achievements of 'our boys', but do not think for one second that you can innocently bemoan the next batch of bodies to pass through Wootton Bassett having done nothing to prevent the next bloody conflict.
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