The Royal British Legion, who run the Poppy Appeal, have in recent years shown a tendency to misuse the message of remembrance to encourage a pro-war, jingoistic agenda. They have now taken things a step further by using an anti-war song in a fundraising film – after taking the anti-war lyrics out.
The meaning and integrity of any creative work – literary, musical or visual – inheres in completeness. Imagine Beethoven's last symphonic work without the great choral cry of “Freude!” Or Shelley's Ozymandias shorn of its final four lines and thus reduced from an enduring reminder of the transience of power to a graceful, if mordant antiquarian observation.
Red, white, purple or any combination thereof. The hue of the poppy we wear should be the choice of an informed conscience. To be coerced into a symbol, for whatever reason and by whatever means, immediately invalidates its significance.
This year Remembrance Day and the Sunday events associated with it will have an added poignancy because of the marking of the centenary of the First World War and all the discussion and debate that has occasioned.
Ebola, war, terrorism, injustice, inequality, squalid government, torture. Sometimes the inventory of cruelty and suffering seems overwhelming. The temptation to spiral into despair and the cynicism born of helplessness can assail us all. But sometimes a glimmer comes in the darkness and smallness no longer seems to equal futility.