Oh dear - I'd entirely forgotten about Remembrance Day. It's never been a big part of my calendar, and that's not just because I come from a line of COs. I remember my mother telling me, as if it were a reminiscence culled from the deep past, that when she was young (in the '20s and '30s), cars used to come to a halt in the street at 11.00 on 11.11. That seemed exotic and bizarre to me, and even to her in the post-war era. Now, apparently, it's back. Cars stopped in the Strand at 11.00am today. How/when/why did this happen?
I'd really like to think that it marks this generation as having (for want of a less pompous phrase) more moral seriousness than my own. And in fact I think it does. But that seriousness has grown in tandem with a tendency to maudlin nostalgia which I look at askance. I first noticed it in 1997, when Britain went so weird over the death of Diana Spencer. But it didn't stop there, and in even the most unimpeachable subjects (the success of Susan Boyle, the election of Obama, the release of the Chilean miners) there seems to be a sense that we are tasting prepackaged airline food, not the real thing. (On the other hand, I look at our photos of the 1977 Jubilee and ask, "What Were We Thinking???")
The ITV News this evening referred to Remembrance Day as marking the "sacrifice made by all those in war." That too made me a little queasy, since it seems to imply that all those deaths had been offered up willingly. That's not true for most civilians, and even in the case of conscripted soldiers it's too often a way of dressing up the stupidity and self-interest of their superiors in pretty ribbons and calling it patriotism. Their deaths were tragic in part because they weren't sacrifices. I wish we could commemorate that, as well.