Do days of remembrance actually lead to forgetfulness?

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Come November, I am always eager to buy a poppy for Remembrance Day. However, it is questionable whether just having one specific day to remember a particular cause is healthy.

As many readers will already know, the 11th November is Remembrance Day in Britain and other Commonwealth countries. The two minutes of silence, the generous donations to the Poppy Appeal and the sound of The Last Post are familiar to many of us, but it would be interesting to find out how many donations are given to the Poppy Appeal throughout the rest of the year. The busy and self-contained nature of our lives probably makes it a very small sum indeed. By assigning a specific day in which to remember the dead (maybe only two minutes in some instances), do we not inadvertently forget about them throughout the rest of the year?

Indeed, perhaps different ways of remembering need to be attempted to reinstate the full meaning of wearing a poppy. The introduction of bejewelled poppies on shows such as The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing signals that the poppy has become more of a fashion statement than a declaration of remembrance for the dead. However, The Royal British Legion, the charity which receives the money from these poppies, says great awareness is created through the exposure of poppies on these shows. Whilst this may be the case, surely the plain paper poppies are a more fitting remembrance to the ordinary men and women who fought and died for their country.

Of course, much time and effort is taken to teach children about both World Wars at school and therefore maybe there is a greater commitment to remembrance than it first appears. Nevertheless, the school system often repeats much of the same information over a period of many years and it is possibly true that too much time spent on one subject will, instead of increasing enthusiasm, actually lead to disinterestedness.

Children in Need is another November remembrance day which is possibly more easily forgotten after the event. Again, it is an extremely worthy cause, but how much involvement does the general public have with these charities outside of the appropriated day? The wide coverage through television and radio naturally leads to wonderful amounts of money being raised, but perhaps an active involvement in the charity, rather than purely the donation of money, may further the education of many and in turn reinstate the full purpose of the charity. Meanwhile, other charities with less publication are pushed to the side-line because they do not have a specific day assigned.  Although there are events such as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the coverage they receive in Britain is not quite on the same scale as Children in Need or Comic Relief.

Whilst we should do everything we can to support these charities on their days, perhaps we should try to think of a more comprehensive system for remembrance which has a greater commitment to fully understanding the work that they do.

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Discussion3 Comments

  1. avatar

    We supposedly wear poppies as a way of saying “never again”. Yet it doesn’t stop the BAE making tons of money in the current wars in the middle east and more people on both sides dieing pointlessly. At least in 1939 there was some morality behind the reasons for going to war.

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    well I think you have answered your main question – that it is ‘the busy and self-contained nature of our lives’ that means 1 day has been arrived at for the remembrance of war heroes. And yes perhaps most of the activities and money donated occurs around this annual date. I am not sure if you intentionally wanted to generate comments by suggesting that the fallen war heros were ‘ordinary men and women’ who were best remembered by plain paper poppies, if anything they were extraordinary men and women. The choice of material for the poppy symbol worn by popstars is more a reflection on them, rather than being retrospectively applied to fallen heroes. I dont think they would have minded what material it is, just as long as their efforts are remembered and appreciated by us who are alive.

    Emily Anderson
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    I agree that the material of the poppies is more of a reflection upon who is wearing them than those who fought but it just seemed a bit too garish to me. The actions of the men and women who died for their country were indeed extraordinary, but I think we forget that most of them (I’m talking about the world wars here) were ordinary, untrained men and women much like ourselves. I meant for their ordinariness to be applauded not depreciated.

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