There was a time in the last century when the armed forces became extremely unfashionable. A combination of the Swinging 60’s, the disaster that was the Vietnam War, slogans like ‘Make love not war’; all contributed to a general feeling that joining the forces was now seriously uncool. This also came about at the same time that the powers of advertising were starting to realise just how powerful they could be so the two parties sat down at the table. Advertising and the Armed Forces.
Numbers falling short – what do we do? A bit of mindbending might be in order…………
‘Why are numbers short ?’ The Armed Forces are no longer cool – Solution – make it cool. ‘What are people now interested in?’ Travel, a career, education, money. Perfect – we’ll give it to them. We’ll get them to understand/ comprehend/swallow that joining the Forces is an opportunity to do/have all these things. You’ll travel the world. You’ll learn skills that set you up for life when you leave. You’ll meet wonderful people, make lifelong friendships. You will be respected in society and most importantly you’ll have just as much (if not more) fun as those long-haired hippie-freak anti-war friends of yours. Sooooooooooooooooo
Fast forward to 2007.
Well we’re in a fine pickle aren’t we? It is very difficult to embarrass Morag and she is not given to bouts of extreme national feeling. However I am now embarrassed, ashamed and saddened. How and when did we become a nation where it is considered ok or fine for members of the Armed Forces to come home and sell their stories? And please don’t even waste my time or yours with statements like ‘well someone else would have made money out of it so why not they?’ There are many unseemly activities that will always be moneyspinners should we then indulge whenever the opportunity for a bit of quick cash arises? The logic that money would be made no matter what so therefore……..should be beneath us – that is what ethics, morals and standards are all about. Knowing when to say ‘actually this is not appropriate’.
Better we had stood up and said ‘well actually the MOD needs to get the general population onside and as no one believes them anymore after the Iraq debacle and in an effort to continue the propaganda let’s let the story come from the horses mouths’ (albeit from typewritten reams of foolscap). I am hoping against hope that this is the real reason this quell-and-tell was suggested or allowed. Yes it would be despicable and manipulative (where have we heard this before…..) but I guess even knowing that it is a propaganda exercise pure and simple would be better than this tacky and tawdry spectacle we are now beholding. And that is without delving into the content of the stories…………
“I was frightened”, “I feared for my life”……..I can’t even repeat any more. Of course the hell you were frightened. Yes being in that position if you had any sense you would be fearing for your life. But ‘I heard hammers and sawing and ………coffin’? That’s one step away from a branch falls on your roof and you ‘just know’ King Kong has landed and has come to get you.
For those of us who can remember the concept of armed forces before they got tarted up it was “Join the forces defend your country. Good chance of kill or be killed. Good chance of torture or be tortured.” None of this see the world, have fun crap. And that’s where the problem lies (in my mind) – we have become a nation of people (many of us, especially the under 60-s) who do not understand the real concept of what armed forces are supposed to do. It is a serious job, with serious downsides. I’ve been watching hostages for many a long year now and trust me – those were the ‘happiest’ hostages I’ve ever seen. Iranian propaganda? Well you know what – better a bit of chess and some five-a-side than what you see going on at Guantanamo Bay. Better cheap and nasty suits than orange jumpsuits and shackles. Better ‘fake’ smiles and laughter, than sacks over their heads.
Before the shouting starts let me be VERY CLEAR about something. My complaint is not with the sailors. My complaints are with the puppetmasters not the puppets.
My heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of soldiers and sailors who have been killed on duty. Families who sent their children off to be trained and then got a phonecall that they had ‘somehow accidentally killed themselves’. Sympathies to to all the families with stories they wanted the world to know but because the MOD didn’t feel them worthy of being told they live nowhere but in their hearts.
Now when the Powers That Be at the MOD sit around a table they will be able to use their calculators to add up what price our dignity as a nation was worth. And hopefully we as a nation don’t fall for it and these papers become what they deserve to be – yesterday’s chip-wrapping.
And yes welcome home to the sailors, and yes we are all pleased that you are home safely – this isn’t about you this is about they who pull your strings, and ours. We’ve had enough.