Monday 19 May 2008

Cheeky holiday

A government-backed study has recommended the creation of a new public holiday, Armed Forces Day (BBC News: Backing for Armed Forces Day plan). At a time when there is a significant shortfall in recruitment to the Armed Forces, as a result of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would it be cynical of me to ask if this was another ploy by the government to promote militarism? As someone who (for my sins in a previous life?) grew up in the 1980's, the idea of an Armed Forces Day cunjures up images of the public military parades in Red Square, Moscow, during Russia's Stalinist (ie so called "communist") days!

There have been a number of ideas put forward recently, to encourage more people to join the Army. Gordon Brown (or should that be Bliar Mk II?) has said young people should be encouraged to join the Army Cadets - despite the fact that, in many areas, the Army Cadets are the dominant (if not the only) organisation providing youth activities. This is hardly surprising, considering the Cadets have an £80 million budget at a time when council youth clubs are being cut back, and many youth organisations now find it increasingly difficult to recruit organisers etc (not helped by measures brought in over the past 5+ years to combat Paedophiles™). There are now proposals to increase Cadets involvement in state schools (The Independent: Use the force: Why ministers want all pupils to learn to fight) - no doubt tied in with the de-facto privatisation of schools which comes with Academies (for more info on Academies, see the Anti-Academies Alliance website).

One idea I do agree with, however, is the proposal to ban discrimination against army soldiers in uniform. Opposition to war and the military should not be allowed to translate into abuse of soldiers who have little say over where they are sent to fight. Instead, such anger should be targeted at those who give the orders - namely the Army Generals and the Government. (Now how about the MOD dropping its own exemptions from anti-discrimination legislation, eg the Disability Discrimination Act ?)

Then again, while the government and MOD cry crocodile tears about the abuse of military personnel, they are the worst for riding roughshod over their own soldiers' rights and welfare. By keeping soldiers in sub-standard accommodation, ill-equipping them for battle, and - last but certainly not least - sending them to fight and die in illegal, immoral and unjustifiable wars :-(

It would be extremely difficult to argue against another public holiday, however. Especially when UK workers have fewer paid holidays per year than elsewhere in Europe. But I can think of at least 2 possible holidays, which do not involve promoting militarism. How about a Peace Day, celebrating peace and opposition to war. Or Diversity Day, celebrating the contributions to society made by minorities and opposition to all oppressions, eg racism, sexism, homophobia, disablism.

But there's one holiday I'd love to celebrate in my lifetime ...

Overthrow of Capitalism and Imperialism Day !

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