June 18, 2006

The importance of commemoration

I read a comment in a newspaper recently, I can't remember where, in which the author complained about the commemoration of important tragedies: 9/11, 7/7, the world wars etc. He moaned about constantly being forced to remember depressing events.

Another man, Charles Wolfe, who moved to New York in 1979 and lost his wife Katherine who was working inside Tower One on 11 September, said: "I'm ready for the big ceremonies to stop, it is bringing up grief unnecessarily."

I seem to remember an outcry from some at the incredible extent of the mourning following Princess Diana's death. Speaking seven weeks before the anniverary of her death, the Most Rev David Hope, England's second most senior archbishop, called for people to stop "wallowing" in it.

Are we wallowing in the remembrance of tragedies to a greater extent than we have done before? How important is it for us to continue to celebrate the lives and sacrifices of soldiers, disaster victims etc? Does it also serve as an important reminder for future generations? And is any of our commemoration too over–the–top or even utterly inappropriate?

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. As with many things nowadays, it is the media telling us what to watch as well as the human psyche's "need" to see things that make us feel better about ourselves. Well, that's my opinion anyway.

    18 Jun 2006, 14:49

  2. James

    I don't see that it is wrong to mark significant past events, particularly those who made a sacrifice on our behalf and shaped the world in which we live today. Maybe understanding that we only enjoy a relatively free country because of the deft genius of Nelson, the sacrifice of millions in the world wars etc will alert us to future threats. If Tony Blair knew some military history he'd have been a lot less keen to charge off on his various colonial adventures (I wonder if he is aware that he has committed Britain to more wars than any PM since the C19?)

    Back to the topic. This generation seems keen to outdo all others. The dead of the Great War, all 950,000 from Britain and the Empire, only get 1 minutes' silence every year, yet the terrorist victims were given 2. Princess Diana would have been dismissed as an air–headed slapper in a previous generation, yet she received quite ridiculous amounts of media attention (I'd have given her none, though her brother's speech was entertaining).

    I do think it's worthwhile commemorating certain events. Of course there's no logical formula for determining which events are worth celebrating or how much attention each should receive, so the cynics can always carp about why a period of silence for X and not Y, or why Z got twice the airtime. But no–one who has been to the Menin Gate in Ypres could fail to be moved by the experience, still less question its appropriateness, even nine decades after the events with which it is concerned.

    19 Jun 2006, 10:08

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