Remembrance Day is about individuality, not nationality. It’s about remembering the extraordinarily brave actions of individuals, not nations. Concepts don’t act. Only individuals do. Something we should always remember in regards to acts of both good and evil.
For me, Remembrance Day is about honouring the moral courage of the many people who died fighting Hitler’s war machine. This was my grandparents’ generation. These people had no choice. War was thrust upon them and they responded bravely.
It shouldn’t be about honouring the men and women who have died in all the pointless wars since. Those wars were no more than foreign military interventions organised by egotistical and delusional politicians. It is tragic that anyone chose to fight in these wars and died for these causes, but there is no honour in them.
We do the dead of World War II a disservice whenever Remembrance Day becomes about national pride and reverence of ‘our’ nation-state. Lest we forget, it was the promised land of national glory and greatness that led the German people and, to a lesser extent, the Russian people into Nazism (national socialism) and Communism (totalitarianism) respectively. And the creation of two war machines that destroyed peace and prosperity across most of Europe.
Sadly, socialism is a state which the UK has been slipping towards with gathering speed since WWII, under both liberal and conservative governments. The nationalisation of healthcare, the continuous growth of the public sector, the birth and rapid growth of the welfare state and the steady expansion of economic interventionism. It all represents the UK’s drift away from liberty and towards authoritarianism over the last several decades.
For a while, in the spirit of European federalism, the majority of the British public liked the idea of its free healthcare and welfare being open-to-all-comers. However, over the decades the inability of the government monopoly on healthcare to meet increasing demand has become glaringly evident. Furthermore, the welfare state has swallowed up more billions and the masses displaced by the UK’s military aggressions overseas have swarmed into Europe. In reaction to all this, the majority view has shifted.
A frightening vision is seemingly gripping the soul of the majority of the British people. One where the cherished institutions of the NHS and welfare system collapse under the sheer weight of immigrants.
They want the doors to these institutions closed to outsiders before it’s too late. They want immigration significantly restricted. Whether that will happen or not is another matter, but it seems as though a yearning for national socialism has emerged among a majority of the British people – if Brexit was anything to go by.
Today’s aspiring politicians and the people campaigning and voting for them are young enough to have no direct or second-hand experience of the ‘bad old days’ of socialism in the UK. In the seventies, the British people experienced a high unemployment rate, rampant inflation, widespread power cuts, and terrible rail services. A bankrupt government was bailed out by a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
Today’s up and coming politicians have no idea what hell socialistic government action can release unto society, even in a relatively brief period of time. They follow the lead of their messiah, Jeremy Corbyn, when they turn a blind eye to how socialist governments in Venezuela have plunged a relatively wealthy people into abject poverty and brought society to its knees over the last few years.
Unlike the generations of politicians before them, who generally weren’t morally committed to socialism but who believed certain elements of it could be implemented in a restricted manner to achieve certain economic outcomes, the young men and women entering politics today appear to believe democratic socialism is simply the right thing to do. Which does not bode well for the general standard of living over the coming decades.
The government-decreed temporary removal of personal freedoms and greatly reduced standard of living during World War II was the harshest socialism any living generation in the UK has endured. This state of society and standard of living was believed necessary to win the war and so was begrudgingly accepted by most people. Unlike the standard of living in the seventies, however, which was an unintended (but inevitable) outcome of socialistic policies.
The British public was so distraught by their experience of socialism in the seventies that the ideas of limited government and free markets became popular again, and nearly two decades of Conservative government followed. Which undid some of the damage but didn’t arrest the UK’s general drift away from liberty.
My grandparents endured the war-socialism of WWII. When I was young and they were still alive they told me what it was like to live through. It was depressing but it was also demeaning. The government treated people like children, in the sense that people could no longer have what they wanted.
They could only have what the government, who effectively became everyone’s parents, said they could have. As a kid, I could relate to how this felt. Although, I had yet to experience autonomy and therefore didn’t know what it was like to have it taken away.
In losing freedoms and having their world of relative abundance taken from them via war-socialism, my grandparents’ generation couldn’t fail to realise just how much they cherished personal liberty and the fruits of economic freedom.
As the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grown fonder. This is true of other people, but it is surely also true of being free to act according to one’s own will and of the world of abundance that results from economic freedom.
For many of those who fought in WWII, returning to the standard of living they once enjoyed was probably as strong a motivation as the more abstract and grand notion of defending the free world. The actual loss of freedom at the hands of their own government, regardless of whether it was believed necessary, was probably just as great a spur as the potential loss of freedom at the hands of Nazis.
Every time Remembrance Day comes around, I’m reminded of the UK’s sad drift towards its own brand of national socialism, which has the same intellectual roots as the evil that millions of men gave their lives to prevent being established over a large area of Europe.
I wonder how many of the people who lived through and fought in WWII, who are still alive, are aware of this? How many WWII veterans would have imagined that the place they called home would slowly morph into a new instance of the evil their comrades died fighting against? The place they dreamed of returning to, which kept their spirits from breaking when they were knee-deep in mud, blood, death and misery.
There’s one other thing Remembrance Day is about. It’s about remembering that powerful rulers and governments are never humanitarians. The more power governments have, the less regard for human life they will have, and the more the people under their rule will suffer.
We need only remember the millions who were coerced to their own slaughter in World War I by the powerful rulers of Europe’s empires of the early 20th century. Empires with rulers who saw themselves as the most enlightened and progressive on Earth.
Millions were ordered to die for ‘King and country’ or else be executed for refusing to sacrifice their real existences for these fictions, and most of them quickly ended up as corpses littering muddy fields.
That’s the vision we need to keep at the forefront of our minds on remembrance day: that vision of people, used and dead. Because the very essence of state power is treating human beings like property to be disposed of and controlled according to some authority’s commands – whether it’s taxation, legislation or warfare. It is the antithesis of peace, freedom and prosperity.