Remembrance Day Should Not Be Used for Indoctrination of Young Minds
by Kim Petersen - Dissident Voice
November 11th, 2015
As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead trying to kill me.
They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only doing their duty, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil. - George Orwell 1
War is necrophilia. And this necrophilia is central to soldiering, just as it is central to the makeup of suicide bombers and terrorists. The necrophilia is hidden under platitudes about duty or comradeship. - Chris Hedges 2
My Chinese-born companion wanted to catch the latest news, so she tuned in to CBC. It was replete with Remembrance Day festivities and war veterans.
“Is this Canada?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
Her next utterance caused me to grab a pen and write down her words: “They went to other countries to kill other peoples?”
“No one has attacked Canada, so Canada’s soldiers only go to other countries,” I replied.3
“And we are to remember them every year?” she asked.
The inanity of a holiday dedicated to willing, albeit unwitting, accomplices of empire was on my mind since yesterday.
I was at a school which was renamed after a man who likely is a war criminal: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After all, he was the president who ordered the internment of US citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps and the commander-in-chief of a military that firebombed Tokyo.
That conflagration was called “the greatest single disaster incurred by any enemy in military history” by flight commander general Thomas Power.4
The US Strategic Bombing Survey went so far as to state that:
probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a 6-hour period than at any time in the history of man. People died from extreme heat, from oxygen deficiency, from carbon monoxide asphyxiation, from being trampled beneath the feet of stampeding crowds, and from drowning. The largest number of victims were the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly.4
That such facts are a matter of history causes one to pause upon considering that an institute of learning is so named today.
The educator Noam Chomsky once made an acerbic comment about education: “Most schooling is just training for stupidity and conformity…”5
The events of 10 November brought this home to me. Roosevelt Elementary School held an assembly in the school gym. Students were informed that silence was expected on this solemn occasion. Near the front of the gym were seated a couple of veterans. Students sat on the floor, and teachers and parents were seated or standing around the gym’s perimeter.
A number of videos were presented. First there was a welcome from Indigenous educators and then came a Bryan Adam’s song, “Remembrance Day.” He calls it, WWII, a “bloody war” but the video features several images of violence.
The warring is updated to Canada’s participation in the aggression (what the Nuremberg Tribunal deemed “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”6 ) of Afghanistan with a simple ditty by a band that I had never heard of before, the Trews: “Highway of Heroes.”
In contrast to Bryan Adams’ “promise of glory” rationale for fighting —
For our king and our country and the promise of glory
We came from Kingston and Brighton to fight on the front line
— the Trews sing:
I served with distinction,
No visions of glory.
I served without question,
Or personal gain.
Seek no justification,
Its not part of my story.
To serve without question? Is this what schools would like to impart to young minds? Isn’t questioning integral to learning?
Who is a hero? Is going to fight another non-threatening country something that should be accepted?7
The usual reading of “In Flanders Fields,” observing two-minutes of silence, as well as the playing of the Canadian anthem were part of the agenda. The entire assembly was one of conformity. For any student to have demurred, it would likeliest have been labeled as disobedience. (Should instilling obedience be part of schooling?) Shouldn’t such heavy topics such as war and peace be discussed in classes? Are not contemplation, reflection, and forming one’s own conclusions part of becoming an independent thinker?
In 1931, Canada’s parliament changed the name of Armistice (referring to warring parties reaching agreement to cease hostilities) Day to Remembrance (remembrance for those serving Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace) Day. The change of title reflects a shift in emphasis from ending warring to serving in the warring. But is not society better served by a day more so dedicated to promoting universal peace and an end to all warring?
All Canadian involvement in wars have been wars of choice. That is something to remember and act upon.
No more should humans pick up weapons to use against other humans. Is this mindset, however, achievable when soldiers are venerated by society thus conferring a veneer of respectability to a profession which teaches killing?
Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read other articles by Kim.
“The Lion and the Unicorn.” [↩]
War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, (New York: PublicAffairs, 2002): 165. [↩]
Of course I refer only to the state of Canada which was erected on the genocide and dispossession of the Original Peoples. [↩]
See Mark Selden, “A Forgotten Holocaust: US Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities & the American Way of War from World War II to Iraq,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. [↩] [↩]
See “Most Schooling Is Training for Stupidity and Conformity – Noam Chomsky on Education.” [↩]
See Nuremberg Tribunal, “Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 22,” Monday, 30 September 1946, Avalon Project. [↩]
BJ Sabri and I explore the question of whether soldiers are “heroes” or undiscerning, paid killers? See “American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery?Part 3: King Frederick’s and George Bush’s Troops,” Dissident Voice, 1 September 2005. [↩]