Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Sun, Mick Hume on Poppies, WW1 and Vibe Bar closing

Mick Hume in The Sun on Poppies, WW1 and Vibe Bar closing...

Poppies are pretty great lesson for us all

Memorable sight of hundreds of thousands of flowers
By MICK HUME, Sun Guest Columnist
Published: 11 hrs ago
HANDS up all those who would queue to see the Tower of London moat filled with “barbed wire and bones” to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Slightly fewer, we might suspect, than the four million who have so far been to see the Tower’s memorial display of 888,246 ceramic poppies — one for every British and colonial serviceman and woman killed in The Great War.

Yet a political row broke out this week, after an art critic suggested that a moat full of bones and barbed wire would make a more fitting tribute to the carnage of 1914-18.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Jonathan Jones (no, me neither) damned the sea of poppies as a “prettified and toothless war memorial” trying to “sweep the grisly facts under a red carpet of artificial flowers”.

He called it a “Ukip-style memorial” which, in Guardian-speak, is about as bad as it gets.

David Cameron was even moved to dismiss the criticism and defend the Tower memorial at Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Others rallied to the critic’s defence online, describing the mass display of poppies as too nationalistic (there are no poppies for the dead of other nations) and militaristic. This sort of posturing says more about the pathetic state of political debate today than it does about the reality of the First World War.

The notion of nationalistic tub-thumping around the centenary is a figment of the old Left’s imagination. The British authorities, like other former Allies, have tried to avoid any hint of triumphalism.

Even while dismissing the critics in parliament, Cameron felt obliged to declare that “obviously the slaughter was horrendous”.

From the television studio to the school classroom, every discussion now emphasises the incomprehensible horror of the trenches.

Some might think that people are stupid enough to be duped by flowers and need instead to be bashed over the head with bones.

But those four million who went to see the Tower memorial are unlikely to have gone away with a “prettified” view of the war.

Far from an old-fashioned celebration of military victory, it looks more like a thoroughly modern tribute to the victims.

Today many will wear poppies and sympathise with the armed forces, through charities such as Help for Heroes, without necessarily supporting the wars they are sent to fight in places such as Afghanistan. And they can feel for the sacrifices of the First World War without being retrospectively converted into flag-waving imperialists.

If anybody wants to witness a truly nationalistic display, let them look back to 1915 when the Bishop of London, Arthur F Winnington-Ingram, urged British soldiers to, “Kill Germans — do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old.”

Today those words seem to come not just from another century but from a different planet.

By contrast the art critics and other poppy-bashers who read history backwards suggest that the First World War (if not all war) was just a terrible, meaningless waste. Now, I am nobody’s idea of a warmonger — I donate to the ex-serviceman’s fund, but don’t even wear a poppy.

On this, however, I am with the great Victorian philosopher JS Mill, who said that “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”

Nobody wants to celebrate the slaughter of the First World War.

But there will be dark times ahead if we teach our young people that nothing is worth fighting for, ever.

Goodbye mellow brick road

TWENTY years ago, Brick Lane in London’s old East End was a virtual no-go zone for trendy punters, still haunted by the ghosts of Jack the Ripper and Ronnie and Reggie.

The opening of the Vibe Bar in the old Truman brewery started Brick Lane’s transformation into one of the capital’s cultural hotspots.

Now the pioneering Vibe Bar is to close its famous gates, fed up with what co-founder Alan Miller calls the “petty-minded” war being waged on London’s night economy by police and licensing authorities.

The biggest risk you face in Brick Lane these days is being annoyed by a curry house tout or tripping over a Ripper walking tour.

Yet, says Miller, the authorities now insist venues operate “airport-style security – it’s almost like the council expects you to run a prison”.

He has had enough and the Vibe will sadly cease to vibrate on November 11.

We hear scare stories of Islamist patrols warning drinkers and partying women that they are not welcome in East London.

But who needs the Tower Hamlets Taliban when the Metropolitan Police and council are on the case?

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