Today on television I watched the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph. This year was the centenary of the First World War so great importance was focused upon this event. I watched with mixed feelings.
Considering we are supposed to be a nation of ‘stiff upper lips’ we put on remarkably emotive pageantry that is unbeaten anywhere else in the world. For one day the elders in our community are honoured as the narrator describes in respectful, measured tones all that these men and women did for us in the hour of our greatest need. Ordinary folk achieving extraordinary things.
Once all the fervour and rhetoric has died down, these self-same people will become, once again, the invisible generation. How ironic that these people can file proudly past the Cenotaph and be applauded by the crowds, and yet be completely marginalised and ignored by most of society for the rest of the time.
I used to work with the elderly and have seen first hand how so many of them have been literally dumped in nursing/ residential homes, their own homes sold from under them and left to die alone and unwanted. Obviously not every pensioner suffers in this way and some fortunate ones are supported by a loving family, but sadly the majority have been abandoned not only by relatives but also now by the State. Government cutbacks have shut so many care homes and respite centres that the future looks very bleak indeed for our older generation. Is this anyway to treat the very people who fought for our freedom?
During the war everyone had to pull together and learned to help each other out. Times were meagre and there was no room for wastage. Now they are surrounded by greed, fear, indifference and political apathy.
War still continues unabated so was it all just a futile, terrible waste?
This song sung by June Tabor sums up how I feel about this.