Friday, 8 August 2014

Beyond the jingoism

Whilst mainstream media overheats on WWI memorabilia there is danger that the other side of the argument is being overlooked.

Not many media hours have been given to those who countered the jingoism of the time; the conscientious objectors, the pacifists, those against any war, and those who were against this war in particular. .

It took a great deal of courage and commitment to stand up against the forces leading to what we now call World War One. Those challenging the movement towards war were not treated kindly.

Time has thrown a new light upon those brave objectors, and arguably those against British mobilisation at the time were right. At the very least they made some good points.  WWI destroyed a generation, an economy and a way of life. Most of us know of family forebears from that time who died, who were horribly damaged, or who were left bereft.

More attention should have been paid to those warning against war in 1914. Those voices should be remembered today.

At least one activist from Norwich was determined to remind others of the forgotten few who spoke out against WWI.

Ellen Nierop wrote: 
(The) WW1 commemoration at the Forum in Norwich had no mention of opposition to the war in any of its exhibitions and displays.

I made a sign with "conscientious objector" on and held it next to the 'Recruiting Office' mock up.

The organisers were initially negative and refused to take on board how disgracefully one sided it was, but after two hours of complaints, debate and discussion one of the gentlemen re-enacting as a recruiting officer showed me a copy of a newspaper dated August 5th 1914 with a full page anti-war message.

The organisers argument that the event was commemorating only the first day, and COs only existed after conscription, and how it wasn't putting across political sides was all forgotten by them.

I showed it to them, asked them to photocopy it, and they did so and put it up on a board with an apology for not putting across both sides as it had not come up in their discussions and asked me to get involved in future events to put across the CO view.

Big thanks to the chap in the photo who goes round schools and educated about the war, dressed as he was today, or as a medic or as a conscientious objector. He had the newspaper copy which I never would have seen otherwise. 
At least the organisers at The Forum did eventually listen to Ellen and displayed proof that there were those voices against War from the very beginning.  Many thanks to the gentleman who found the page.

Ellen adds:
If anyone has other knowledge of anti war WW1 resources please (let me know through comments below) so I can send it on. They will be doing many other events over the next 4 years so its good to get it out there...

Please raise awareness of the anti war perspective at any WW1 events where you live.
Local teachers covering the topic in class and curators of smaller local museums with a WWI display, please do not forget the other side of the jingoism.