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  • Remembrance.

    Here in the Commonwealth we make a day of it, wrapping it around a minute of silence, deifying and glorifying it with somewhat phoney piety.

    In Britain, at the heart of a once-empire, remembrance is White, when many of the fallen were Brown. History written by the victor and scrubbed extra-clean by colonial masters. Our minute of silence belies a greater silence, important voices obscured by the fogs of war and by imperial mythology.

    Two and a half million Indian troops formed the largest volunteer army in history. Two amongst this legion were my grandfathers. Both sergeant majors, both called Mohammed Ali. Yeh, the Greatest.

    They fought in Egypt and Libya and Tunisia, as soldiers of Britain's Eighth Army. Their friendship, forged in the flames of the desert war, endured for decades; the younger married the elder's sister, my grandmother-to-be.

    My mother's father was a poet, a driver, my father's father a mechanic. Caught behind German lines during a retreat, he fired his first shot with the trembling hands of a 21-year old boy. A stickler for appearances, he ordered his squad to smooth their hair with diesel when there was no more water. Nobody smoked that day.

    They weren't coerced, conscripted or pressganged nor did they enlist for riches or glory. They fought for European freedom, so that they might one day have their own.

    "There were no Pakis at Dunkirk."

    "There ain't no black in the Union Jack."

    Perhaps. But there's some Brown in her Crown… lest you forget.


    Image: The British Raj's Red Ensign.

    Stephen Hawking once speculated on why we cannot "remember the future" but our venal, arms peddling government is quite adept at sowing the seeds of future remembrance and tyranny.
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