From an olden church and (otherwise vacant) cenotaph at Fort Cochin, Kerala, India, Dave O – acknowledging an extended medical and death related hiatus – discusses the local history of colonization by Portuguese explorers, Dutch traders, then British Raj in the context of the colonization leading to exploitation, conscription and war with no meaning to local populace. Plus the meaning of reparations and the conflict of peaceful resistance – evidenced my Mahatma Gandhi beach a stone’s throw away – contrasted with continued wars throughout the world, shadowed by disposable tourism, economic and racial caste systems.
Recorded Nov. 11, 2016, Released 11:11 Nov. 11, 2017
Also of note: Vasco da Gama’s bones, black knee-high socks, French generational losses, siege of Leningrad, Churchill’s mishaps, lost human potential of engineers, poets and lovers, MacArthur’s folly, Australia’s vulnerability, the emergence of regions over nation-states, Brexit for British Columbia + Cascadia, Catalonia and Scottish successions, work of raising a child, trappings of hubris, death by disease and guns, aggressive use of intelligence, forethought and diplomacy, and unfiltered view of sacrifice and life.
Cover art photo: By Dave Olson at Fort Cochin, taken by Lomo Sardine can camera with expired B&W film.
Full Remembrance Day ceremony at the Japanese Memorial Cenotaph in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada, including: minute of silence, bagpipers, buglers, reading of Flander’s Field and other respectful meditations. Pardon rough edits etc.
Originally published in Vancouver Observer on Nov. 10, 2010. Republished here intact for posterity.
Each Remembrance Day, I’m sure to put forth that there is significant importance in documenting the stories from those affected by war—from veterans and dodgers to widowers and pacifists.
By gathering the anecdotes and artifacts of war, we honour the noble efforts of regular folk in desperate circumstances. Further, we aid in the prevention of costly violent errors in the future by bearing witness and sharing what already know.
Nobility of Documentation
I feel there is great power in documentation and in gathering and sharing stories.
For me, the reasons for capturing memories are most clear around Remembrance Day when otherwise pacific elders are resplendent with dusty spangles, propped by stiffened knees, and tears are rather expected.
With the fading and guarded memories of veterans in mind, I extol the virtues of archiving the oral tradition and preserving the ephemera in attics and shoeboxes with the maxim, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it,” in mind.
To my eyes, there is scant glory in the macro-reasons for war, but noble sadness (even wabi sabi in Japanese aesthetic terms), and I have utmost respect for the efforts made by the those who are obliged to participate in conflict – regardless of their roles or reasons.
Why I Gather
While wars go on, I would be a regrettable resister if I did not study, remix and share the stories of those at war, in years present and past. I’ve seen concentration camps near Muchen’s Oktoberfest and the rusted hulks of tanks reclaimed by jungles onPeleliu. I’ve dived amongst the leftover debris of dead sailors near Guam. I’ve sat with the winners and losers of wars and listened to stories from civilian employees, special ops and draft dodgers. All are equal to my ears.
Now, with the tactile poignancy of a brother in Afghanistan (expected home soon), who also toured Iraq, combined with a crust of cynicism from the recent US mid-term elections – and watching on-going domestic political squabbling while pragmatic advice is ignored and the fallen come home, I can offer no more reason to remember than the obvious. Flanders Field on endless loop, the narrative is still the same. No change, no evolution.
While my ballot apparently is not strong enough to spare lives, I can hope to change minds for the future by compiling the stories of those in the fray, both past and more recent.
Listen to Veterans
On this Remembrance Day, I’ve gathered two audio stories from wars, referred to anecdotally with names like the Great War, the Just War (and the Mistake War).
The first audio podcast features snippets from diaries written in the WWI trenches read by Ian Bell, the veteran’s grandson, on Remembrance Day – last year on the drizzly steps of the Library (with whiskey to keep us warm).
The second audio documentary includes musings from a US Navy officer who’d recently returned from Iraq. He doesn’t discuss the clumsy politics, weapons of missing destruction or casualties, but rather the everyday activities of eating and meeting locals.
Vimy Ridge Diaries on Remembrance Day
“On Remembrance Day in sunny, brisk Vancouver, Ian Bell (fresh from a CBC appearance “On The Coast“), joins Dave to read from Grandpa Mark’s diaries written in the trenches of WWI as a young Canadian. From the library steps with a flask of scotch, Ian and Dave reflect on the costs and motivations of war, the importance of friendship and the ethereal experience of going “over the top” and facing the terror on the other side. Their conversation features anecdotes about capturing Germans soldiers and a discourse on the importance of personal documentation to pass forward to generations.”
“With a US Naval Lieutenant at the table, Uncle Weed traces the history of the Tigris and Euphrates crescent and discusses the ground level experience of life in Iraq. Lt. Magnum explains his rebuilding mission to Kurdistan, plus his quests to various coalition bases including the Korean, Slovakian and Polish forces. Anecdotes includeHaliburton’s food, smoking hookah in Qatar, religious concessions, cables on marble walls, hiking the rolling hills and meeting local folks just getting by in a war-torn world.”
On Remembrance Day in sunny, brisk Vancouver, Ian Bell (fresh from a CBC appearance “On The Coast“) joins Dave to read from Grandpa Mark’s diaries written in the trenches in WW1 as a young Canadian. From the library steps with a flask of scotch, they reflect on the costs and motivations of war, importance of friendship and the ethereal experience of going “over the top” and facing the terror on the other side, plus anecdotes about capturing Germans soldiers and discourse on the importance of personal documentation to pass forward to generations.
Wrapping up the White Poppies for Remembrance series with a narrative late-night wander through Westminster, London, DaveO meanders past military monuments, victory squares, cenotaphs, palaces, royal parks, war museum, war chambers, riot fences, war protesters, churches, parliament and finishing at St. James park for a sitdown under a weeping willow to consider monarchy, individual rights and responsibilities, and the role of class division in waging war as London’s sirens, trains, and Big Ben fill the night.
Remembrance Day Run – Hershey Harriers @ Brockton Oval
Remembrance Day Service – City Legion @ Grandview Park
Remembrance Day Service – Royal Canadian Legion #16 @ Memorial South Park
Remembrance Day Service – Japanese Canadian Memorial Society @ Japanese War Memorial, Stanley Park
Remembrance Day Service – Royal Canadian Legion #179 @ Victory Square Park
Back home on the North Vancouver porch, Dave reads from Clay Mcleod’s essay Why I Don’t Wear a Poppy while sending peace and resistance towards the decent lieutenant Magnum in Iraq and the Philippines along with earnest comrades at arms and peaceful strangers in war torn lands. Plus he admonishes the Canadian Legion for blocking the sale of white poppies while banjo-ist Wm. Lenker sings from the woodshed and The Grateful Dead leave this Brokedown Palace … on my hands and my knees, I will roll roll roll …
Last year The Royal Canadian Legion through it legal representative demanded that Canadian groups stop distribution them and that the PPU stop making white poppies available in Canada, or else. That was the gist, though expressed in more formal language. According to the RCL’s legal representatives, the white poppy infringes the Legion’s poppy trademark. The PPU replied at length; our central point was that we disagreed with their argument. We have not heard from them since but the Canadian shop at the centre of this complaint regrettably had to acquiesce. You can read more about this at http://tinyurl.com/2mc7pq where you can also find out about the white poppy project and the PPU.
Following the legal threats both the promoters in Canada and Canadians who bought the poppy from us hoped that white poppies would again be available in Canada this year.
White poppies in any quantity are available from us for dispatch anywhere in the world including Canada.