Today marks 100 years since the end of the first world war. As much as wearing poppies helps army veterans and their families, it feels as not enough is done to warn people on the effects of the war, and how to avoid conflict.
The Poppy Appeal’s money goes towards the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, and to the veterans and their families. This money usually goes to debt within the families, emergency situations and providing breaks for families as a way to give back and help those who fight to keep our freedom. 1918 was a year of many turning factors all around the world- The beginning of the Communist party in Russia, the Spanish Influenza (killing between 50-100 million people) in Europe, and of course, the end of World War One. However, as much as every year we do the two-minute silence to remember the fallen and thank them for our freedom, not enough is done to make people aware of the horrors of the war.
The debate of wearing or not wearing a poppy is very back and forth. On one hand, people believe that wearing the poppy glorifies the war, and on the other people say that it keeps the memory of the war and those that have died in our thoughts. Both are arguable and valid for various reasons, but not the same amount of effort is put into wars that we have fought since, and for conflicts that are currently happening.
A writer of the independent newspaper, Robert Fisk, wrote an article about how his father refused to wear a poppy towards the end of his life as he believed it commemorated a great waste of human lives. He also referred to wearing poppies as ‘poppy fascism’, which explores the argument that wearing a poppy is a trend, and something that people shouldn’t be proud of. As much as wearing a poppy could for some people glorify the war, it was not the initial concept of wearing a poppy. Wearing a poppy creates a sense of community and involvement, especially for people who are not from the UK.
However, we do not provide the same support for other conflicts. The poppy strictly signifies the end of World War one and its fallen soldiers, rather than make it a symbol of stopping war and commemorating those who have fought for our freedom, and the freedom of others. In World War One, the UK and its colonies lost from 860,000-1,010,000 lives from 1914-1918. These include MIA’s, Military deaths, civilian deaths ranging from military action and malnutrition. In World War Two, the UK and its colonies lost 450,000 people. Although this is significantly less than World War One, it is more of a recent war and provides more current-world differences between pre-World War 2 and now.
World War One taught us that underlying tensions build up to a larger problem if left stewing. War can’t always be averted, but if the leader is careful and willing enough to diffuse situations and sort them out, it can be done to avoid a larger and more destructive conflict. Professor Burns at Harvard University states that ‘Force has to be the last option, not the first’. This speaks volumes for World War One, as it all began from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A lot of the time, countries also do not anticipate how long the wars will last, which is also a lasting example from World War One, the Iraq war (an 8 year occupation), and the Afghanistan War (2001- present).
World War Two taught us that the willpower of humans is immense when your homeland is invaded, and when your family is at risk. It taught us the skills of survival and resilience and breaking down moral boundaries to protect those you care about. It has also taught us savagery, heartlessness and kindness all in one. As World War Two seems more recent and relatable to the current generation, it is worth reminding the current generation that we can avoid making the mistakes that our ancestors did. For this, we need to pass on the stories of our grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as the stories of others to avoid the later generations also making these same mistakes.
Trouble starts at dictatorships and making people slaves to their system. A very big (and controversial) discussion is involvement. On one hand, seeing a country and its people struggle makes governments involved because its obvious that civilians need help, and when human rights come into play, organizations such as NATO and the EU must be directly involved with countries that are a part of their parties. This creates involvement from other countries, which then snowballs into allies, and eventually in a big war with people taking sides. This then snowballs from one thing to another, which is an obvious lesson that we have got from World War Two. On the other hand, some believe that we should not get involved in in-country struggles until it affects other countries. This is also a lesson learnt from World War 2, where nationalism became popular, and everyone that was not German or did not look German was harassed and pointed out in society, made criminal and slaves to the nation. This then spread, which made it a problem of Europe and the Allies, but could have World War Two been stopped if someone had interfered before, or kicked Hitler from power? As much as we can theorize, we would never know for sure, and never know what the world would look like now.
History repeats itself. That is a fact. But, it should also be remembered and learnt from. The horrors of the war should be told loud and clear for generations to come, after those who fought or survived have died. It is now getting increasingly dangerous for war to break out due to developments in nuclear weaponry, as effects of this would be potentially fatal for everyone, even countries not involved. A nuclear war would wipe out the majority of the earth, and those that survive would be living in a nuclear wasteland, a ticking time bomb for survivors. The word of previous wars must be spread, and if Poppy’s help the remembrance of the loss of lives due to war, then let people remember and donate. If Poppy’s are a sign of the remembrance of freedom, then let them be sold. Anything that can potentially stop future conflicts need to be spread, especially if it is something as simple as buying a poppy to remember the fallen. Things as simple as minutes of silence and reflection go a long way, and set an example for the future, a passing of tradition.
Do you wear poppy’s to remember World War One?