Mixed messages are the norm in the greenYgrey world, and that helped create one of our best and most loved characters. Yes, none other than Love the mixed-up vole.
Remembering the Fallen Soldiers
In just over an hour (under an hour by the time of posting), at 11 on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Blighty will remember its fallen soldiers on Armistice Day. A century ago there were terrible scenes in the trenches of northern Europe. Today, there are thankfully none in Europe, although there are just across the sea in the Middle-East.
Although I don’t agree with all of Britain’s wars, and all the actions of the military, both at home and abroad, I think those who have died in service of the country deserve to be remembered.
It is also the time to contemplate the horrors of war, and what it entails to fight in a real life-and-death battle. Something that I haven’t done.
Right to Write
Ironically, I just read an article about a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem from two centuries ago, criticising the ruling class and their love of war. It includes a greenYgrey image of Shelley.
I also agreed with most of Shelley’s points. The same as I agree with a lot of what Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft wrote, when they criticised the ruling classes in their lifetimes.
One-dimensional readers, symbolised by green or grey in the greenYgrey world, might be wondering how I can support the country’s military, as well as the criticism of those who controlled it two centuries ago, and basically still control it.
The Freedom to Criticise, Need for Defence
I have always thought like this. I was a staunch socialist in the 1980s, but supported the Falklands War because the British island was attacked, and I still think we have more of a historical right to it, although Argentina of course have more of a geographical right.
However, if the world was run on geographical rights, then Denmark would have to give the Faroe Islands to Britain, and Greenland to Canada. Argentina’s biggest European supporter, Spain, should give the Canary Islands to their nearest African country.
[I have nothing personal against those countries by the way, and am just using them as examples. Denmark’s social values have always been exemplary; Spain has many virtues; I loved the 1978 Argentina World Cup and my time at the awesome Iguazu Falls shared with Brazil; and I have loved my time holidaying in the Canary Islands.]
Growing up with war films and comics in the 1970s I imagined fighting in the conflicts depicted, but also lived under what seemed like the real threat of nuclear war; and nuclear winter if surviving the blast.
Now, the political ideologies have given way to the religious, with I.S. threatening Europe from across the Mediterranean Sea. The need for a strong conventional military deterrent seems greater than ever.
The Classical Greek Example
My greenYgreyness in modern Britain is also reflected in my thoughts on ancient Classical Greece.
I have a lot of respect for the total war mentality of the Spartans, who were trained for battle from birth.
However, I also value and have tried to emulate the Greek critical philosophers, such as Socrates.
Watching a documentary recently about Socrates, I thought the example of his Greek age was relevant to Britain and Europe today, in relation to the I.S. threat.
Socrates and other intellectuals argued for more and more freedom to criticise at the height of their Athens state’s hegemony, but then Athens was defeated by the Spartans, who would not tolerate criticism at all.
Britain and Europe is Good but not Perfect
The lesson I drew from the Greek example, in addition to my previous thinking, is that freedom and the right to criticise are valuable to a civilised society, but that there are undoubtedly limits to what can and should be said and done, if people are going to do what is good for the whole of society, and not just their interests, or those of their social group.
I write that as a critical theorist, who has always wanted more freedom of speech and social equality in Britain, and will continue to do so.
I think that those who believe in a utopian society, and think it is that or nothing, as I kind of sometimes did in my youth, risk weakening the country to the point of collapse, and Britain and Europe could end up in a totally dystopian slavery comparable to Athens under the Spartans.
The Queen has done well, but she can never do as well as a poor woman living with the same morality and stoicism.