Poppy Prejudice

As I’ve read comments about Remembrance Day today I’ve wondered if there’s a note of inverted snobbery in some. It led me to thinking about my own attitude. I’m not talking about the arguments over whether war is glorified in the process of remembrance. That’s a fair debate to have and I agree with those people with an eye on the anniversary of the start of World War One next year who argue that it shouldn’t be romanticised (to me, Rupert Brookes’ poetry should only see the light of day in classrooms accompanied by the commentary that he never saw action in the trenches) or full of patriotic hyperbole (by the way if you’ve never seen Oh What a Lovely War, do watch it – it really is brilliant).

I suppose my thoughts have more to do with poppy wearers than poppy wearing – the people in the public eye who wear them. For the first time today I paid attention to people’s lapels and chests in the supermarket (most of the time they could be in a grizzly bear costume and I wouldn’t notice) and saw how few were wearing poppies. And yet if you put the tv on you can’t escape them. There’s something off about seeing poppies on everybody who comes within 50 feet of a tv camera. Although I haven’t been watching Strictly this year, I assume their glittery poppies are back – those things really piss me off. When every single tv presenter seems to be wearing a poppy but relatively few people are in my (admittedly unscientific and tiny) experiment, I do think it’s fair to suggest there could be an element of corporate compulsion behind poppy wearing. We don’t know unless people are actually asked what they really think (although now it’s in my head I’ll probably Google it to see if there’s anything out there on it) but if that does go on it makes a sham of the act of remembrance.*

There’s that but there’s also the politicians and various other people who grace our screens in the run up to Remembrance Day. I have to ask myself: is the faint lip curl of disgust when I see some people wearing poppies fair? Is it even rational? I grimaced at the sight of energy bosses wearing poppies. For many people wearing a poppy has personal resonance. If the narrative in my head which accompanies that grimace is “like they care” is that fair? Or am I letting my own prejudices get the better of me? For all I know the energy bosses have all been remembering their families today (I hesitate to limit it to men because my grandma was a Wren). If I cast the energy bosses as bogeymen who couldn’t possibly care about remembrance just because they’re willing to defend price rise after price rise, am I guilty of inverted snobbery? I think I am and I don’t like myself much for it. Although it’s not unreasonable to suggest that wearing a poppy has become the done thing in some circles, we should be careful not to let our feelings about entirely separate issues get in the way. On a day which is about remembering I’m reminded not to think of people as two dimensional.

* it’s been pointed out to me that the kind of people who write to Points of View would hit the roof if tv stopped wearing poppies. He’s probably right. That’s just a different kind of compulsion but it’s a fair point.


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