Who do we remember on Remembrance Day?

November 9th, 2022 by Ken Farrell

Constant economic growth demands sacrifices from people and communities who benefit very little from capitalism’s greed.

A field of poppies. Credit: Marten Bjork / Unsplash

On every 11th of November, people around the world recognize the sacrifices of those who gave their lives to the great wars of the twentieth century.

I don’t aim to diminish the immensity of such personal sacrifice. One can pay no greater price than their life.

I am, however, inclined to remember what exactly our soldiers died to establish and preserve: the global hegemony of the West –by which I mean countries typically described as ‘democratic’ and ‘capitalist,’ among them, Canada.

Capitalist democracies demand the sacrifice of many lives. Soldiers, certainly, are asked to die for our way of life.

In return, at the very least, they have a special day of recognition.

A lapel decoration. A Highway of Heroes. The list goes on.

There is good return on championing our dead fighters. Especially if you rely on recruitment, rather than conscription, to populate your armed forces. Branding enlistment as a heroic act is quite clever. Good for morale, you might say.

We certainly don’t go around pinning medals on people experiencing homelessness. Like war, homelessness is considered collateral damage in the perpetuation of Western ideology.

We sacrifice the lives of soldiers and homeless people because the West demands constant economic growth. Because we accept asset inflation as an accumulation of wealth; because landlords need to charge rents high enough to cover the mortgages on their investment properties; because we need to stay in vacant houses on vacation rather than a hotel.

We have Labour Day. And we have a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Yet we have rampant worker exploitation and Indigenous communities in crisis.

At the very least, these commemorative days raise some awareness of the entire classes of people who’ve given more to Canada than they’ve received. Maybe a good next‑step towards recognizing the sacrifices necessary to make Canada what it is, would be to add a few more holidays to the calendar.

On Homelessness Day, we can thank those with nowhere to live for remembering to shelter in someone else’s backyard; on National Day of Starvation, we can thank those who can’t feed themselves regularly for not eating the rich and continuing to stay silent while grocers throw out tonnes of edible food that can’t be sold.

Days already designated for the recognition of the historically oppressed can be repurposed. On International Women’s Day, we can thank white women for being so consumed by fighting for a seat at patriarchy’s table and sharing in its feast, they haven’t yet turned to tearing down the banquet hall.

On Earth Day, we can take a moment to thank each species lost to the ongoing Holocene Extinction. (Of course, there are so many species that if we spend more than a nano‑second on each we may need to expand Earth Day to Earth Month just to have enough time to list each victim.)

What name should we give the day to commemorate the sacrifices of child labourers who provide us with trendy fast fashions? Or to remember the subjects of dictators who merit our support for keeping their population from forming any sort of non‑western government? Or climate’s sacrifices in exchange for the power of fossil fuels?

I am sure we’ll come up with something, as soon as those who benefit most from the Western Way… those privileged few who continually concentrate wealth and power… and the bootlickers who allow them to remain there for one reason or another… need to greenwash the next ‘unintended’ consequence of greed or placate the next group to dare abandon the general path of tacit complicity.

With so many sacrifices necessary to maintain our system, one wonders if it might take a full 365 days to recognize each one. What a dour existence that would be. Each day we would have to confront another grim reality about the system we find ourselves in.

Maybe if we fix the system, there wouldn’t have to be so many sacrifices?

Maybe the system isn’t broken and is doing exactly what it was designed to do: feed greed whatever it needs, regardless the number of human sacrifices.

Maybe it’s best we just focus on keeping up the supply of soldiers. Let’s give the enlisted free admission to war movies. Free popcorn too, if you served on a ‘peace keeping’ mission; patronize your local Legion; give a standing ovation to every member of the military who gets introduced at your favourite team’s home games.

Do everything you can.

If not for the soldiers, who will defend Canada when the rest of the world realizes we have a disproportionate amount of the word’s fresh water and a really, really, really hard border to defend?

Filed in: Civil Rights, Environment, Firm News

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