Joined: 09 Feb 2007
|Posted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 12:11 am Post subject: National War Memorial v International Garden of Peace
|( I have been chewing on how I feel about how we are remembering war and peace around here in the nation's capital city : one of my ex-partners had a great passion for challenging the way that Remembrance Day is conducted e.g. walking out from the crowd and shoving a white poppy into the town memorial's central wreath - straight after her father, the mayor, had laid it who was not best pleased : he passed it off to his outraged party as a personal thing between himself and his daughter, but then ... maybe Gogs deal with these things that way ? Better not start a war with the North over that now ... the thing is, these war memorials and Remembrance Day are often the sole public focal point of civic life in Wales' smaller towns and villages and therefore how we treat them is potentially touchy, potentially good propoganda against the UK's regime, potentially rebounding as bad publicity.)
Since I was having a moan about how Remembrance Day seems to be turned into a celebration of ' us ' supporting ' our ' boys bombing the towel heads, I have since been corrected in that impression by a sympathetic but indignant member of the British Legion who assured me that the right note of concern for not waging war was struck by them at the National War Memorial of Wales on the 11th. It seems that the BBC etc slanted their reporting towards the senior politicians present who did say those sorts of things, and I started wondering about how to set about correcting the balance of things. I know that people have been trying to make the point now for nearly eighty years by occasionally infiltrating these Remembrance Day ceremonies to lay white poppy wreaths before, during or after them, or to stick white poppies into red poppy wreaths - but this sets up peace campaigning in opposition to remembering the military victims of war without really addressing the point about remembering the civilian victims of war. There are two issues at stake : " wage peace, not war " and " remember the civilians killed for military purposes " - and perhaps neither of these should be intruding into Remembrance Day which was after all originally called Armistice Day - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armistice_Day
It is just as well to remember that the figure that tops the National War Memorial of Wales is " The Angel of the Armistice " and it stands there as a warning : it presents the cross as a promise of peace, yet that cross is in fact a sword held by the blade and so is equally a promise of war. I've always relished the ambivalent symbolism of this, and the fact that the only national monument that Wales possesses encapsulates something of the republican values that had found their way into that self-consciously democratic and pompously Protestant Wales of a century or more ago. This is the message that the angel brings : accept the cross and live according to ( Welsh Protestant Non-Conformist Democratic ) Christian values and the angel will bestow peace ; reject the cross and reject those Christian ( Republican ) values taught to you and the angel will bestow war. There is no grey option on offer from this angel, the choice is between white or black, heaven and hell - but almost all of us are guilty of pleading for the grey option : we fail to do those things that nurture peace or indulge ourselves in those things which nourish war. As a consequence, that " Guardian Angel of Wales " is going to take its sword by the handle some day and give us a God-Almighty whack round the ear - or worse - for not listening. It is going to be far too late by then to be repenting for our international political sins as a society, of which chief amongst them will be sitting on our national backsides when it was obvious which things needed to be done to promote justice both at abroad and at home.
I have arguing elsewhere that " Ar Lan Y Mor " is in fact a political song about the landing of ' La Légion Noire ' at Carreg Wasted ( see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Ar_Lan_y_M%C3%B4r ) and the song may refer in its imagery to one of those Old Testament prophets, providing connotations that would have been very obvious to people two hundred years ago steeped in Christian Republican values but which just make it seem like a silly love song now :
KJV 2 Esdras 2 " THUS saith the Lord, I brought this people out of bondage ... Tell my people that I will give them the kingdom of Jerusalem, which I would have given unto Israel ... They shall have the tree of life for an ointment of sweet savour; they shall neither labour, nor be weary ... For thy help will I send my servants Esay and Jeremy, after whose counsel I have sanctified and prepared for thee twelve trees laden with divers fruits, And as many fountains flowing with milk and honey, and seven mighty mountains, whereupon there grow roses and lilies, whereby I will fill thy children with joy. Do right to the widow, judge for the fatherless, give to the poor, defend the orphan, clothe the naked, Heal the broken and the weak, laugh not a lame man to scorn, defend the maimed, and let the blind man come into the sight of my clearness ... Be not weary: for when the day of trouble and heaviness cometh, others shall weep and be sorrowful, but thou shalt be merry and have abundance ... " [ signed ' Dai Saw ' incidentally which was a nickname I acquired when I was 21, that I used to use as a pen name before I opted for just plain ' dai ' ]
Sure it is easy to sneer at the idea of a political culture that drew so heavily upon religion, but the idea that somehow we are all now detached and rational is highly debateable ... perhaps the reason why it is so easy to damn Victorian Wales as being full of political hypocrites is because they were so willing to admit their obvious faults and provide evidence of their less than obvious ones by publicly lamenting their sins, almost in competition with each other. Indulging in picky criticism of others is as often a way of diverting attention away from our own failings, enjoyable perhaps but wasting everybody's time and energy and not constructive.
So here is our little white sin, the state of the Welsh National Garden of Peace : I visited it a couple of days ago to see if there was any evidence of some alternative ceremony recently - I asked at the counter in the Temple of Peace and Health afterwards whether anybody had, since I had seen only a wreath of red poppies laid at the Armenian Memorial, and the girl there couldn't say because she did not even know that it existed ... so here are a few photos to illustrate it for strangers to Cardiff, it is in Cathays Park alongside North Road on the opposite side to the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and these are some activities in the Temple of Health and Peace :
The base of the flag pole has a mosaic commemorating the creation of The Peace Garden in 1981 :
Plaque commemorating the Greenham Common women's peace camps :
The flagpole in the centre of the three linked spaces :
The view across the northern space, deserves a Llaw Agored I think ...
The memorial to the Armenian Holocaust, it had two red poppy wreaths besides it and a heap of rubbish behind it :
There are a number of plaques, it is not obvious why some of them are there, and photo-fixing my mobile phone photos didn't reveal what this one said :
This plaque came out well ... touch of red-eye though that I couldn't photo-fix.
The view across the southern space, with the entrance from North Road :
This plaque declares that we are officially a Peace Nation ... I had not noticed ...
D.D. knows this one off by heart and often quotes it at me : OS MAI HAWL I FWYD YW'R HAWL DDYNOL GYNTAF, YR UN Y MAE BOB HAWL ARALL YN DDIBYNOL ARNI, MAE'N RHAID MAI'R HAWL I WRTHOD LLADD YW'R AIL - IF THE RIGHT TO LIFE IS THE FIRST OF ALL HUMAN RIGHTS, BEING THE ONE UPON WHICH ALL OTHER RIGHTS DEPEND, THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO KILL MUST BE THE SECOND
The interpretatative board for the Welsh National Garden of Peace
The interpratative board for the Temple of Health and Peace
The front porch of the Temple of Health and Peace, bombed by Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru in 1967, it would be nice to give it positive associations with republicanism of an internationalist sort, the better sort as far as I am concerned - the central figure in the portico is of Justice, so it could be a future Temple of Republicanism :
The Temple of Health and Peace from across the cross roads :
Back at the National War Memorial of Wales, amongst the mass produced meaningless wreaths provided for the various uniformed services, there was this child's contribution, and it made me think of every star in the sky as a civilian victim of war ... now if a seven year old could get the sentiments right, why couldn't the politicians ?
The wreaths laid by our great and glorious war leaders in local government were laid here at the western gate ... perhaps that angel will pass judgement on them one day ?