Switching on to watch Match of the Day last night – the 23rd of October – I noticed that all three presenters wore Remembrance Day poppies. Remembrance Sunday this year will be on the 14th of November, which is 23 days away.
It made me uncomfortable and annoyed. Why wear them so soon? Hallowe’en, the next peg from which we hang the year, is still over a week off and most shops’ Christmas displays are only a few months old. I’d be happier if they kept their poppies in their pockets until – let’s pick a date – say the 4th November. That’s a week before the 11th November, when the guns fell silent.
Some may consider this a bit picky or even disrespectful towards those who have died in wars, those who survived but need our help, and their dependants.
It's a tricky one. Money from the Poppy Appeal goes to what most except a few, bonkers, people think is a fine cause, so shouldn’t we welcome all efforts to increase the sum raised? I’m sure this was in mind when they prematurely decked out Messrs Lineker, Hansen and Shearer. Match of the Day has a huge audience. If more money is raised by TV stars wearing poppies now, or from Easter, or all year round for that matter, then where’s the harm? Only good will come out of it.
I disagree. I think that wearing poppies too soon devalues the significance of Remembrance Day, which is fundamentally about respecting those who have fought and suffered not raising money for them. Charity should follow from that respect, which has its source and derives its meaning from elsewhere. Subjecting Remembrance Day to the utilitarian dictates of money making and marketing, however slick, however emotive and for however worthy a cause, puts things the wrong way round.
More, it further inures us to the idea that if something can be done, it must be done. This is a variant of the business imperative which says that you should do something if it suits your purpose and you can get away with it. Although it has no place there, it influences the actions of charities, public services and often well-meaning individuals. But it doesn't necessarily follow, even in a good cause, and the assumption that it does may one day blind us to what are good causes and what aren't, which is not always as clear-cut as we may think.
The reason that Remembrance Day is important is that we think it so and make it so, not that we are told it is so, however fine the motives.