Friday, 12 November 2004

Armistice Day

Well, I'm ashamed to say that my earlier entry made no mention of the fact that today is Rembrance Day. Nor, in fact, did I consciously observe the 11 o'clock silence. With all of the nonsense going on in Iraq, it is very easy to be anti-war. But in the days of modern technology we have the luxury of being able to see far more of the "big picture" than people could in years gone by. You were pawns in the game, you just accepted what your leaders said, and went off to die. Very sad. We can be anti-war, but we should never forget the sacrifices people made for us. I'll never forget how moved I was when I saw the cemetery at Colleville.

Just watching Question Time on TV. Almost anarchic. They seem to have lots of input from the audience, whose comments are predictable, and are asking the same old questions (Iraq) which are predictable. All very bogged down.

Obviously Arafat came up - what do people think is going to happen. The audience is very anti-Israeli - the Palestinians have lots of sympathy these days. Personally, I can't see anything moving forward in the short term. If there was an alternative to Arafat, we'd know about them already. It'll take some time for someone to emerge out of this mess. I wouldn't be surprised if we're still talking about these things when Alice is my age.
Question about taxation. Tories want lower taxes, fewer services, Labour want higher taxes, more services. Tell me something new. The Labour woman has just told me I'm better off under Tony than I was under the Tories. Rubbish. The Tories need to look out, though, you can't just cut taxes and cut services, because the government has a duty of care to its citizens, but by the same token you need to make sure that your services run efficiently. The Tory guy (Francis Maude) quite rightly says that they reckon they can cut taxes in certain areas, but won't give any definite committments. Of course you can't, how can you say anything definite until you finally get to see the books? Of course he was laughed at by the likes of Alex Salmond, but this was exactly what Blair said in 96-97.

Interesting question about smoking. I think the Scottish parliament has just voted to ban smoking in enclosed public places. The passive smoking argument. One woman in the audience hit the nail on the head - that employers have a duty of care to their employees. Simple as that. So you limit smoking to places where people can't be "by accident". I can see going forward that places to smoke will be licensed in the same way that places to drink are. But the issue goes further than that, and this is where it gets interesting. What about people who continue to smoke? What do you do about their healthcare? Do you say "We won't pay for smoking related illnesses?" But, of course, these people have paid their NI contributions. And what about people who eat themselves into obesity and heart problems? I don't have an answer, but when you think about it it is a deeper issue than it first appears.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army

We must always remember them, if only to learn for the future.

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