1. How many white poppies are sold each year?
Who makes the white poppies?
The short answer is that the British Legion in some quarters has 'assumed' a status that few feel able to challenge - not to wear a red poppy is to be disrespectful of those who 'gave their all' and for those who believe in this dishonest formulation social and peer pressure are enough for compliance. To a few, for a variety of reasons, the red poppy is a significant and meaningful symbol but that is not the case for most poppy wearers. It is worth noting that the red poppy is the ONLY symbol that the BBC allows to be worn on screen by newscasters, that the police allow officer to wear when in uniform; other institutions have a similar policy.
The longer version is a journey in time and a 'heritage' makeover of WW2
In Britain the 40th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe was a turning point in public attitude to that war and war-related issues in general. The countrywide celebrations brought the war into new focus for the generation that lived through it and was now collecting or about to collect their pensions as well as to the post war generation to whom it was all ‘ancient history’.
The anniversary was attended by the publication of books about the war and reminiscences about the war; those who lived through it now wanted to make sure that young people, blissfully unaware of the grimness of war, knew something about it – how their parents bravery fought off the evil Hun and Jap. In the process the war assumed a sentimental black and white quality. Memorials to long forgotten events began springing up. The last 25 years have seen the biggest growth of ‘war memorial’ building since the end of the First World War and attendance at Remembrance Day ceremonies which has been steadily decreasing since the end of WW2 began to grow. There are a number of reasons for this, which we look at elsewhere.
As well as the memorial makers and builders all kind of groups and institutions benefit from this atmosphere, not least the Royal British Legion, who even before the latest of Britains’ wars insisted that it needed ever more money each year for what must by the nature of things be an ever declining number of ex military personnel that it cares for. Britain's recent lunatic and illegal activities in Iraq and Afghanistan inevitably entered into the Legion's fund raising message; while not actually bellicose nonetheless the Legion supports the view that war is a proper function of the state. This may not be stated as plainly as that but like the dog that did not bark in the night the absence of questions about the validity let alone morality of the government's war policies is a clue. The Legion criticised the government for the often appalling way the it treats its employees in the armed forces but it never criticises the decision which lead to the death, injury or mental instability of the people it wishes to support. The Legion would argue that that is not their business, though it could equally well be argued that issues of war and peace are every citizens business. The Legion describes itself as the 'nation's de facto custodian of Remembrance, ensuring that people remember those who have given their lives for the freedom we enjoy' In other words it has taken upon itself the task of telling us how wonderful those who choose to go to war are and how much we should be grateful to them; and the 'best' way to show our gratitude is to give money to the Royal British Legion. This is moral blackmail which some support and others succumb to and pin up a red poppy. It is also simplistic and questionable whether those who 'have given their lives' did so 'for the freedom we enjoy'.
In Britain most people live in relative comfort and 'freedom' but it is not clear how somebody's death contributed to this. What freedoms are Britain's military contributing to in Iraq or Afghanistan? What freedom will be enjoyed by soldiers' death at the hands of the 'enemy', or 'friendly fire' or in accidents? What freedoms are the Iraqis and Afghans enjoying the hands of 'our brave lads'?