Catherine Marcus is a civil servant and writer.
It cannot be accidental that the organisers of the latest Occupy event have chosen the eleventh day of the eleventh month for their latest "global" outing – Occupy Everything. It is fascinating that the children, grand-children of the men and women who served, fought and died in the Second World War would choose to overshadow the remembrance of these brave people with their litany of complaints.
Over seventy years ago, those soldiers fought for us, came back maimed and wounded – or didn’t come back at all. And for years after, Britain was a ravaged shell, our fair and pleasant land pockmarked by bombs, our triumph replaced by trauma, as each family, each household, each street, each neighbourhood, each village and each town totted up its losses, and found a deep, gaping void at its heart, one that would not heal in a lifetime.
In the Holy Trinity Church on Micklegate, in York, there is a simple placard which lists the names of four soldiers, the sons of Captain Charles Fitzpatrick, all of whom died within years of each other in the Second World War. You can see from the dates that Captain Charles and his wife outlived their sons by decades. The placard would not be there if it wasn’t for Captain Fitzpatrick’s daughter, who donated some money to the church and had the sign placed there. And if it weren’t for that sign, no one would know of the sacrifice made by one family in North Yorkshire, one made by so many other families, a sacrifice that makes one cry for them, seventy years later, because of the depth of its magnitude. They made a sacrifice unimaginable to us now, and they made it so that we might never have to do so ourselves.
The peace that we and our parents have enjoyed for over two generations is largely down to this sacrifice, as nations worked together to forge bonds in the wake of the war, in the form of NATO and the United Nations, fostering greater economic co-dependency, and in so doing, lifting billions out of poverty in emerging countries. American-bashing is so common as to be cliché amongst the liberal elites complaining about Western hegemony, their Death to the West refrain all the more peculiar given that we owe our unprecedented period of peace to the United States of America, which has acted in the thankless role of the world’s policeman, and shown the will and force to defend our shared values when we haven’t been strong enough or willing to do so ourselves.
And now that America is showing an increasing reluctance to play that role, it will be interesting to see what happens when the nations that do not share our values and which bear a deep, unbending hostility towards the West sense our weakness and test our will to defend ourselves. Will these brave iconoclasts who railed against the armed forces take arms themselves, to protect their country and their families, as their forbears did? Or will they point out their prior credentials: “Hey man, I railed against the American Devil too!” in the hopes of a reprieve?
Much has been said about the backgrounds of the protesters occupying the front of St. Paul’s Cathedral – as many appear to belong to the disenfranchised middle-classes – whilst the rest of London steps around them, hurrying back to work from their lunch break. They have taken to the streets to complain about lack of opportunity that our present political system and order has yielded. I understand the impulse: when we fail to find the work commensurate with our education and interests, we look for a reason, something or someone to blame.
It is painful to admit, but the market is saturated with people like us, with decent degrees in liberal arts subjects from good universities. And now the economy’s tanked, and there aren’t so many jobs around for your well-educated, well-travelled graduate, and what few jobs there are aren’t so well paid. So what’s the solution? Suck it up and wait for the economy to recover? Take a look around and try to see whether there are any opportunities you can spot in the midst of the financial crisis? Acknowledge the vocational limitations of an English Literature degree and retrain as a plumber or camera man, hustle, get your hands dirty and differentiate yourself from the hoards of middle-class identi-grads?
Or… do you head on down to your local protest on Remembrance Day and agitate for a political movement that has been discredited time and time again, with the bloodiest and most tragic of outcomes for the people who were unlucky enough to live under them? Is it really that Capitalism isn’t Working, or is it that Capitalism isn’t Working for Me?
The proposal that Remembrance Day should be eclipsed by the Occupy Everything movement shows the affects of the cancer eating away at the fabric of our society, the cumulative creep of an ethos that teaches us to feel self-pity when we should take pride in our resilience; that teaches us to feel ashamed of our values when our society is looked upon as a beacon of civilisation across the globe; and one that encourages us to forget our past when we should take inspiration in remembering all that has come before.