Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
This month we celebrate Remembrance, as we do every year… ‘Lest We Forget’. This summer the UK held another Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) Arms Fair. The British public harbour the former, yet for the most part abhor the latter. I see this as a massive contradiction. I think that the way we enshrine the World Wars and conflict in a general sense today is tied to our country’s ongoing inability to resist exasperating conflict and suffering across the globe.
The UK exports arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia, a country that is close to starting a war with Iran and drawing the UK into it, Israel, a country known for it’s grotesque record of human rights abuses and attacks on Palestinian people, and both India and Pakistan, two countries that threatened a potentially-devastating conflict over the disputed territories of Kashmir, to list a few.
Yet our government officials cry a blatant untruth that apparently ‘The UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world. Licensing decisions are based on the most up-to-date information and analysis available at the time, including advice from those with diplomatic and military expertise and reports from our overseas network and NGOs.’
Not only this, but we are told that arms will be bought from someone, so if anyone will benefit from war profiteering, it might as well be us. Again, another morally bankrupt untruth. But what does the arms trade have to do with normalcy commemoration and admiration of war both past and present?
As children, we are taught that war is tragic, conflict is devastating and that violence is never the answer. At least, that’s the case when we’re not being sold Call of Duty and Battlefield video games, or being taken to the Tank Museum and the Imperial War Museum. In school, I remember being taught about World War II when I was as young as 8 years old, and I likely was informally taught about it at an even younger age. Alas, it is one of the most influential events in contemporary history and we cannot allow ourselves to forget it’s significance. This continues throughout life, from primary school to secondary school, even to universities and the workplace. What an amazing society we must have created! With so much education of the horrors of the Axis’, there’s no way we could ever tolerate any such injustice today… Except for the rise of the far right sweeping across Europe, Brazil and other countries… And except for the fact that political discourse has become a shouting match which consists mostly of comparing people to Hitler… And of course you also must overlook the fact that the West’s value of human rights has all but evaporated in the face of pretty much every genocide since the second world war. We are not taught about the Cambodian or Rwandan genocides which were scarily more recent than we’d like to think. We do not bat an eyelid when countries today casually kill or abuse our fellow humans, all while telling ourselves that we must never forget and ostracise anyone who doesn’t wear a red poppy every year.
How do we turn ourselves around from this point of isolated indifference and detachment that we have concealed ourselves in? I say we begin by combating the different forms of militarism that have silently entrenched themselves in our society like a grim mould in a student house. We must start at university.