Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Poppies We Breed

I was seeing red everywhere. Those lovely little red flowers being flaunted on so many lapels. And my ignorance led me to believe that it may be an innocent donation drive that has gained popularity. The Marketer in me thought, how clever is the charity that is giving people an opportunity to feel part of a larger movement by giving out these flowers. In the past couple of months, my rigorous (and desperate) job hunt in the not-for-profit sector has made me realise how many 3rd world causes Canada is trying to champion. The poppies, in my assumption, were probably a representation of another such cause emanating from a poor country like mine. I was inclined to donate and earn my red poppy in an attempt to feel more Canadian. But before committing, I needed to research the cause. That is when I discovered that the red poppy was a symbol for Remembrance Day, when the 'Common Wealth' commemorates the lives lost in wars of the worlds (a.k.a. World Wars). The donations collected against the poppies are in support of current and former military personnel. Lest we forget is the beautiful phrase of the campaign.

This new knowledge allayed my curiosity but it did nothing to make me less ignorant. Back home we celebrated some wars we thought we had won. We sang songs and held military parades. And then there is the war we were living; the war against and with terrorism. This war does not need to be comemorated as it is ever so much alive and an every day part of lives. This is the war that says to us 'lest you forget' with every new terrorist attack or military operation. The sides are blurred and the relentless damage is making dead soldiers out of innocent children. Fearful when alive, revered and glorified when dead. 

As I ramble about the two perspectives on war that I have encountered, I realise that there are at least 10 wars going on in the world today with more than 1000 battle related deaths in a year per war. If you account for the non-battle deaths, civilian attacks and other armed conflicts, the number goes significantly higher. According to a study (2014), out of the 162 countries of the world, only 11 are not involved, directly or indirectly, in an armed conflict.

The developed world comemorates a bygone war and continues to fund the current out-of-sight ones; the developing world is almost anesthetised with the ongoing wars; the under developed world is unaware of any state of being that is not war; and the recently shattered world is desperately trying to escape from the inexplicable war and drowning in the process. So many worlds, so many wars, so many perspectives. Red poppies or white or none, I remain confused. I remain ignorant.

In all this confusion, the fact remains that soldiers and civilians are still dying every day in real or converted battlefields, for causes unknown, contexts unsure. Lest we forget.