a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
From the Free Dictionary
I was teaching yesterday morning, 11-12. When I got into work I found an email from Central Bot saying that the Institution would be observing a 2-minute silence for Armistice Day. This immediately put me in a weird position: I have never observed the two-minute silence in my private life for a number of reasons. To begin with, as a general rule, I do feel that it is a tragedy that millions have given their lives for god, country, and whoever thought of sending them out to die to start with. This is a constant belief of mine. War is never right, the loss of life can never be truly justified, and this applies to all wars, ancient and modern, the Balkans, The Somme and of course Afghanistan. They are all wrong, violence as a means of solving tensions has never worked. It just creates more.
In addition, I always felt somehow excluded and threatened by the ‘poppy’ culture. I was always fascinated and at the same time mortified by the nation’s obsession with war. In this country there are ‘War Lanes’, football stands named after battles, no ‘Peace streets’, something I haven’t experienced anywhere else. War and fighting, and their terminology permeates everything else. On top of that, I always thought that the significance of the poppy became a celebration of ‘Britishness’, something like flags on top of cars during any sporting event. You either belong in this or you don’t. If you don’t, you’d better watch out.
But when faced with the institutional directive to observe the silence, I was at a dilemma. I live and work in a country where this is important. Moreover, in my function as teacher, I am to respect the culture and observe the silence. However, isn’t my role as anacademic to also questiondirectives and authority? Isn’t academic freedomimmune from phenomena of mass control? Apparently not. To my shame, I asked the students to observe the silence, and looking out the window, I saw everyone else, whether they believed in it or not, whether they knew what Armistice Day was about or not, stand in silence, in public, for 2 minutes.
When one ideology becomes dominant to the extent it imposes itself oneveryone’s life and activity, surely it is too close to fascism for comfort. OK, we don’t have the blackshirts with poppies going around bashing everyone to death. Not yet at least. But the public ridicule and aggression towards anyone who contravenes this, based on personal beliefs (such as John Snow), shows that this surely is fascism. Perhaps we should be allowed to remember the war dead in private if we choose to, but not be forced to do so in public to show our respect.
I will not make the same mistake again. If anything, next November 11th I will do things differently. For now, I am ashamed.
Claude in Hagley Road to Ladywood also comments on the poppy-bashers….