When Remembrance Day rolls around, you are forced to ask yourself: “Do I feel free?”
If your answer is “yes,” this article is for you.
To critique Remembrance Day is not being cruel to the dead. To disrespect the dead is to pretend that the collective struggle of humanity over 5,000 years has produced nothing, as the global capitalists pretend when they say “there is no money” while boarding yachts and letting the world starve. To disrespect the dead is to act as if billions of forgotten people haven’t suffered and died in the process of producing commodities from the earth under various forms of exploitation and domination. Is this not war, too?
The slaughter-glorifying gun-horny narrative of November 11 is a fantasy. Even if we did abolish monstrous fascism with redoubled reactionary violence in order to live under the comparative freedom of liberal capitalist democracy, should we really be so excited to experience the lesser of two evils? Every little privilege any person in our society benefits from stems from the exploitation of an incredible mass. How embarrassing that we find it praiseworthy to perform these celebrations of jingoistic nationalism — just like the authoritarian regimes we claim to have defeated.
Just over a year ago, the tensions of class war boiled to the surface of our McGill bubble when the MUNACA workers struck, but they were quickly swept under the rug by court injunctions. Then, on November 10, 2011, McGill had their phony social peace broken again when riot police stormed campus to smash protesters who had split off from the 30,000-strong march for free education and surrounded the James Administration building.
A visible crack in the façade of capitalism formed along with the mob, so the first response anti-riot unit entered the scene, using their bike tires to smash people in the face. After being repelled by protesters, the militarized anti-riot squad came. They walked calmly up to the students, who were now defensively linking arms, and pepper-sprayed them point-blank, beating stragglers with batons and lacing the air with tear gas.
I wonder how many poppy wearers also believe that the protesters deserve the beating because they fought back. Why be sympathetic with the person who hits other people for the bosses? Some blood-hungry death-fetishists actually refer to trained killers as ‘peace agents’ or ‘peace keepers.’
For the state and the powers-that-be, it is a necessarily violent act to take a small space and turn it into an autonomous zone. The powerful retaliate with violence because expressing the seed of real freedom is an actual act of escalation against a structure of domination that has already declared war on the people. I would probably be paranoid of being unmasked too, if it exposed my success as the result of exploiting a global mass of angry proletarians.
On Remembrance Day last year, I saw hundreds of uniformed men shoot fat cannons on lower field to celebrate “all-those-who-died-so-we-could-live-free-from-tyranny.” But we do not live free from tyranny, and war is not over – it claims hundreds of thousands of lives a year, and the majority of deaths are civilian. The fastest way to stop imperialist killing is to rid ourselves of our colonial society – which can only exist along with the war it propagates. The first step toward the end of global civil war is recognizing that it crosses every border and intersects every person.
Ethan Feldman is a U5 Philosophy student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.