As Remembrance approaches, we as a Nation should be pausing to reflect and re-learn what Remembrance means, but none more so than politicians. For nearly all of them the most sacrificial contribution they perform is dodging the traffic whilst cycling their Boris bike to Parliament. They should stop for a moment this November 11th and think about why we are remembering and for what purpose in today's world is this so relevant. The challenge is like much in our modern evolved liberal society, ample choice means we no longer force our young people or citizens to learn the adage God, Queen and Country. (Thankfully!) And in giving such freedom and choice to our young folk the worry is they forget who and what gave them the very liberties and choices they now enjoy, who and what laid the paving blocks for arguably the most socially developed and free society in the world.
Remembrance for me is not about glorifying war, it is about sacrifice in the name of social evolution, and sadly, it is the politicians who gain most from these sacrifices. It makes their job easier if they are willing to learn from them.
Whatever people may think, that's the truth, we have long since giving the writ of Habius Corpus to the world (the right to a fair trial and right to be brought before a judge) been evolving socially, slowly, year upon year modifying our civil liberties and human rights to be a fair and just. In fact, the amateur politicians of the Victorian era were far better at this evolution and reinvention of social policy reform than the professional home-brewed-elite-professional-politicians of today who are expert at dodging the answer and flogging the party line like double glazing salesmen. We are forever refining and fine tuning the vast tablets of statute and legislation required to keep a country like ours (without a constitution) modern, current and fit for purpose. But it all comes at a cost, a human cost, a sacrifice of human life to get us there, to perform this fine tuning mistakes have to be made, such is the process of evolution in its cruellest, simplest form. Politicians and Generals have made many of these mistakes, and will continue to do so. The recent climb down over Syria is a fine example of social evolution and I shall not be insulting to the reader and explain why, but suffice is to say that Iraq has presented a compelling learning platform for political decision making for future leaders. Led of course by our own House of Commons, which then had profound ramifications over the pond in Congress.
The sacrifices my friends, colleagues have made on behalf of our nation, those that I served with that are no longer with us, young men killed barbarically on the battlefield are always with me. It is not easy to think about these things, they are dark memories for me to process. However, it is reality, since time immemorial we have sent our young men and women into harms way in our name. However hard politicians justify the action, we can only try to reconcile the point to it all, often failing to understand the justification, sometimes being deceived, always being manipulated by clever argument and reason by the deft and skilled demographer and orator. Young men dying in their teens is wrong in any event, but it is sometimes the only way to resolve complex and challenging international problems brought about by cruel and deprived totalitarian societies that have barely evolved beyond the stone age.
This is why I am most proud of my country, the evolution of my people, my islands spirit. You see despite this evolved social society, where we have no death penalty, we have social health care, state sponsored welfare, we have amongst the lowest crime in the developed world, we have robust and readily enforced gun laws, this apparent disdain for violence, we will still go out into the world and put right what we believe is wrong, attack tyranny head on, tackle international crime, terrorism and injustice and will champion through aid and if need be military intervention, the free rights of all, that all of us are born and die free men and women.
Our forte lies in going after the bully and never sitting there inept, inert, neutral and pathetic. I for one am happy to not sit down and limply watch from an armchair purporting cowardly that "its not our business" or that its "its too tough at home so why bother spending money on them". Why? Because it is right, it is the morally and ethically correct thing to do and it is what being British is about. This is what Remembrance is about to me, all those Great Britons and our allies who have gone out and stood up to tyranny in whatever capacity they thought right. This of course is not a license to send our young people gallivanting around the world crusading for nonsense, dying for no reason. Those that deploy our Armed Forces hold in their hands a chalice of preciousness and must do so with extreme caution and consideration. It is a heavy burden they carry, the mark of Cain lays with many a historical political figure that has had our young slain in their name. This is an understandable concern for the public, but we must not lose our nerve nor stumble each time tough decisions need to me be made. Our social evolution depends on it.
It is not easy to grow up a teenager with the freedoms and choices we have here in the UK today, to know that spitting at someone is an assault, to know that verbally abusing someone is a crime for which you can be locked up, and rightly so. This doesn't do much though to create young warriors fit for war. 90% of the countries of the world have barely enough food to feed their populations, they have a far harder start in life than even our most impoverished here in the UK. Factor in no education, fundamentalist views and religious extremism and they have little to lose than fight and join a would be group of insurgents and guerrillas. The environment is already premade for them, but not for us, our environment is not rife for creating warriors at all, quite the opposite, but for some it does not deter us from churning out brave, courageous and gallant young people whom every day put themselves in harms way for others, our social evolution has genetically entrenched this firmly in our birthright. On the battlefield or off. Every generation lays upon the alter of human sacrifice their young to contribute to this social evolution, so politicians can learn from their own mistakes and move forward with a fresh and more developed view of the domestic and world order. Both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, The Falklands, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria (and countless conflicts before the 20th century). They have all shaped our social evolution more than you will ever realise and their sacrifice is to be forever remembered. This Armistice, on the 11th of November, pause and remember the millions who died for our social evolution, and if you see your Member of Parliament, tell them or send them a note, be forthright and say, for their tomorrow, they gave their today.