Gravestone

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the German President Joachim Gauck are in Kirkwall, Orkney today. Harry Giles writes.

Today my home has been overtaken by the descendants of people who profited from global mass murder to celebrate that mass murder in extortionate pageantry.

The Battle of Jutland began 100 years ago today, and by the end 8,645 sailors had been murdered by their political rulers as part of a worldwide murderous family feud between European monarchies over who got to exploit which people and resources in which parts of the globe.

To celebrate this, such entities as David Cameron, whose family made its money from slavery and British military-imperial expansion, and Anne, “Princess Royal” of the House of Windsor, whose family was one of the prime instigators of said four-year mass murder, have come to visit Orkney. To enable this, the county has gone through days of bizarre security audits of the local shops, road closures that have more or less sealed me off in one half of the Orkney mainland for most of the day, endless coverage across all news sources, and vast expenditure.

The ideological purpose of these activities is not remembrance but celebration. Remembrance is an act of mourning. Remembrance is an act of protest. Remembrance is a way of saying “These people died unnecessarily, because of the lies and greed of their rulers, and we must do everything we can to prevent this from ever happening again.” What we’re being subjected to, instead, is the full and unapologetic glory of the military state, and the dominance of stories of “honour” and “sacrifice” instead of the truth of “murder” and “greed”. To say these things is not to shame the dead, but to honour them by shaming their and our rulers.

The purpose of the Jutland celebrations is to soften us for future war. The purpose of this is not to make us remember, but to make us forget: forget the horror, forget the murder, forget the politics, in favour of a vague aesthetic of poppies, pipes and glory.

Don’t forget. Remember. Honour the dead by resisting militarism, so that they don’t have to die all over again.

About Harry Giles

Harry Giles is from Orkney, Scotland, and is a poet, performer and general doer of things, based in Edinburgh.