Wednesday, 29 August 2012


This is not about young people, especially gang members, showing or not showing ("dissing")"respec'" to other similar people. That's an interesting development of language, but that kind of respect is about enhancing someone's self-image.

It's not about traditional respect for elders (children for adults, young adults for older adults), or for clergy, upper-class landowners or whatever - even teachers. My belief at fifteen is pretty much my belief fifty years later, that while some systems, to function effectively, need a fair amount of people acting as if they respect people of "standing" - so, for example, in an effective school, hospital or military unit, if the decision-makers were regularly treated with open disrespect, the work of the unit would be damaged - real respect either has to be earned (so I respect Stephen Hawking, Kelly Holmes or Rowan Williams) or it's due to all humans,perhaps all life-forms.

It's about memorials. Today I was waiting for some other people in a village (Dedham) by the war memorial, so I read what was written on the memorial. I thought at first it was a rare exception, with as many names recorded for the Second World War as the First (this has only happened in my experience when the place was by the sea and had a strong naval connection, since British military losses in the First World War were far higher than in the Second, but naval casualties were higher in the Second). But I'd failed to see that there were two panels of names for 1914-18 and one for 1939-45. In three cases, I think, surnames occurred twice in the 1914-18 list. This might just indicate that this surname was traditionally common in that village, but it might well indicate the loss of two brothers. In one case a surname not nationally at all common appeared in both lists: perhaps a child lost his father in one war and himself died in the next. The 1939-45 list included two civilians, evidently a woman and her young child. That must have been a bomb. Dedham is not the sort of place to have been a deliberate target, but maybe the bomb was off-target for the mail railway line a few miles off, or the plane was unloading its bombs having turned back from its intended target for some reason such as damage, mechanical problems or fog. In Britain as in other countries, such losses were numerous in cities, ports and so on, but rare well into the countryside.

I thought a bit about what I had learnt and the stories of these people, stories I would never learn.

Some children jumped up on the higher steps of the memorial and played noisily. Their parents called them once and after a while they left. When I returned to the place later, more children were playing on the memorial.

Now - I had mixed feelings about this. I feel such a memorial ought to be treated seriously - whatever you think of war in general or these wars in particular - and we should show respect for those who died. But might not they have been happy that children were happy there?

1 comment:

  1. Siba, it seems respect has gone the way of the dodo bird. Old-school manners have gone the way of the steam engine.
    That, however, should not cause people to be blatantly disrespectful ---or forget that children ARE happier left to play, wherever they may be, memorial or not.
    Yes, those passed would definitely appreciate the laughter and happiness of children beside them. Well said.