?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Talking About Myths - Eroticdreambattle — LiveJournal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Tony Grist

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Talking About Myths [Jun. 7th, 2004|09:10 am]
Tony Grist
This weekend has been taken over by memories of D Day. I know I've got to tread a fine line here, but I hate these establishment bun fights. I'm all for veterans returning to the beaches to quietly remember, but the sight of Prince Charles, who was never in any war, striding around with a chest-full of medals, receiving the homage of the crowd, just brings out the anarchist brat in me.

Britain is blinded to itself by the myth of WWII. I expect the same is true (to a lesser extent) of America. "The Finest Hour", "The Greatest Generation". We slather on the self-righteousness like sun block. Yes, our grandfathers behaved very courageously on the Normandy beaches, but it doesn't do our souls any good to keep going on about it.

40% of British school children have little idea what D Day was about. The tabloids were shocked, but I'm not. D Day is recent history, but in terms of what Britian now is- a post-imperial, multi-cultural nation on the edge of a united Europe- it is as ancient and irrelevant as Mafeking or Waterloo. WWII was the end of All That. By running up the flags and parading the troops and pinning the medals to Prince Charles's chest we are prolonging a fantasy.

But it's a fantasy which still drives British foreign policy. We are history's heroes. We are the world's policemen. We are the cat who "gallops about doing good." Listen to Blair. And look at Blair's record. The Iraqi adventure was dressed up- absurdly- as though it were some sort of moral replay of WWII. Saddam was a bad as Hitler, opponents of the war were guilty of appeasement, the invasion was a liberation.

World War II killed off the British Empire, but reinforced the imperial myth of British superiority- moral, military, cultural. British politicians have traded upon that myth for the last 60 years- but with ever-diminishing returns. Maybe Iraq is the last hurrah. Time to mothball the uniforms and put the medals in a museum display case and go play at something else.
linkReply

Comments:
From: archyena
2004-06-07 04:42 am (UTC)
I've never understood why monarchs and dictators both wear vests full of metals and sashes of honor when the rest of the democratic world makes do with a good suit, a smile, and the occassional flight suit or branch jacket sans rank insignia. I find something disturbingly authoritarian in monarchies, figureheads or no.

BTW, what is the logic under which Charles gets all those metals?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-07 05:40 am (UTC)
Charles did do military service as a young man, but was never posted anywhere very dangerous. I too would love to know what all those medals are for.

His brother, Prince Andrew, is the only younger Royal to have had a proper military career. He even saw active service- flying helicopters during the Falklands war.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: archyena
2004-06-07 08:54 am (UTC)
I've searched hither and yon and nowhere do I find an explanation for the sheer amount of ore weighing down the Prince. I can only conclude that he is in such high spirits over the ceremonies that if it weren't for all of it he'd simply float away.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-07 09:03 am (UTC)
Yes! But of course. That has to be the explanation!:-)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-06-08 01:17 am (UTC)

Ha ha ha!

Thank you for that chuckle--I'd been needing it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: huskyteer
2004-06-07 05:53 am (UTC)
'The Galloping Cat' is one of my favourite poems.

I can't comment on anything else because it's the kind of thing I find it extremely hard to sort out my feelings on. I'll stick with being awed and proud and sad, and ignore Prince Charles for now.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-07 06:08 am (UTC)
I'm similarly confused. More so than this post reveals. I wrote it an attempt to feel my way though the underbrush.

It's good to know that I'm not alone in my love/worship of Stevie Smith.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: isoldout
2004-06-07 07:52 am (UTC)
Being from way down South in Texas, and being nearly obsessed with a lot of British music and films, it's always good to read this kind of thing from somebody who's there and knows.


fafafaf
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-07 09:08 am (UTC)
It's a provoking little place. Sometimes I hate the insularity but most of the time I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

The music's great and the films are OK. My fave Brit film-maker is Michael Powell. His war time pictures make me proud.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: isoldout
2004-06-07 12:08 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, the only film by his I've seen is Peeping Tom, which is one of my favorite films about making a film. I'll definitely check the rest out.


fafafafaf
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-08 03:13 am (UTC)
My favourite is A Canterbury Tale. Love of country was never more romantically or nobly expressed.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-06-08 01:27 am (UTC)
Always you lighten my day with the delight of your knowledge. Reading journals could quickly replace the newspaper--as long as they were all like yours!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-08 03:15 am (UTC)
journals are the newspapers of the future. Here we can say exactly what we want, without editors or proprietors breathing down our necks.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-06-08 05:45 am (UTC)
I have always, always wanted to give the middle finger to advertisers especially. So much for dividing the newsroom from the advertising department!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-08 08:29 am (UTC)
Ah yes, I'd forgotten the advertisers.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: besideserato
2004-06-10 12:37 am (UTC)
Wish I could [exasperation] but they gave me the run around today on the fax machine. Argh.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-06-08 10:48 am (UTC)
Oh God I SO agree. It makes me cringe when we think we a re still a great world power and we are nothing without Big Uncle Sam watching over us.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-09 01:41 am (UTC)
But how do we lose the imperial mind-set? It has been mocked by every comedian, playwright and songwriter worth their salt since the end of WWII, but still it persists.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-06-09 10:51 am (UTC)
I think honestly the only way to lose it is in Europe. I am very pro European (albeit with severe reservations, especially about accountability) but unless we become political backwaters like Norway and Switzerland (which personally I wouldn't mind) the only way forward is Europe or the US. Problem is trying to pursuade Kilroy-Silk and the average SUN reader!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-09 11:59 am (UTC)
You're probably right. I've been pro-European since the 70s- when the issue was whether or not we should belong to the Common Market. At UKC I was a member of something called The European Society- and I remember being hauled off to London to represent the voice of British youth at some conference of Euro-grandees.

Trouble is we don't seem to make much progress in our attitudes. If anything there seems to be more anti-European sentiment around now than there was thirty years ago.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mokie
2004-06-09 01:57 pm (UTC)
Here in the U.S., all of the hubbub seems to be the establishment continuing in its efforts to draw a parallel between Iraq and something, anything, other than Vietnam. Considering the dwindling numbers of WWII veterans and the gigantic rubber mallet that is the baby boomers' continued hold on the media, I figure that's a lost cause.

The American obsession with WWII confuses me though. On the one hand, it's a sick nostalgia for the last time we were sure we were the good guys, the last time we were fighting because it was the right thing to do (rather than because there's oil under the dunes), the last time we actually won a war.

But it's not true. The U.S. wanted nothing to do with the conflict in Europe; the newborn media of the time had shown us enough of WWI that we were turned off by the idea of war, and in any case, Europe's squabbles were Europe's problems. Then someone chucked a bomb up our skirts, and then we started talking about the right thing to do, when really we were just trying to save face.

The fact that Hitler really was an evil turd seems almost like a convenience. It's all just so much arrogance and hypocrisy.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-06-10 02:07 am (UTC)
I love the gigantic rubber mallet.

Like you, we Brits were mortally afraid of a replay of WWI and only got into the war because we were forced. First we tried appeasement and then we let Hitler get away with invading Czechoslovakia- "a far-off country of which we know nothing"- as Chamberlain so gracelessly put it.

Another thing that gets overlooked in the D Day celebrations is that the war was actually won by the Russians.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mokie
2004-06-11 02:53 pm (UTC)
Which explains the '50s Commie hysteria here nicely, I bet. Makes a lot of sense out of the Cold War in general, actually.

And was never, ever taught in my social studies classes, but then, as far as the public school system is concerned, Russia, black people and liberals didn't actually exist until the '50s-60s. :)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)