The relationship between outward forms and inward truth has been at the heart of dissent for centuries. In a secular society, the nature of those forms may have shifted, but the potential for coercion through intolerance remains.
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.
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.
Changing times may be best served by less rigidity about symbols, says Jill Segger. As the centenary of World War I approaches, she suggests that the white poppy opens up a space in which remembrance can go hand in hand with repentance for the failure that is war.
When politicians rush to claim that something is 'non-political' (as has been happening around Remembrance Day over the past week or so), you know that some healthy suspicion and careful examination is due.