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Everyday Militarism

Militarism is becoming more visible in the UK, seeping into ever more areas of life

“Everyday militarism” is a situation in which military ideas, values and imagery find their way into everyday life. This is normalised to the point where we can easily forget how disturbing militarism is. Examples include:

  • The increased visibility of military personnel in uniform in public spaces, encouraged by initiatives such as the Army Reserve’s annual “Wear your uniform to work” day
  • The broader unquestioning framing of soldiers as “heroes” which the public are expected to support
  • Cadet Forces, which have doubled since 2012 (with pledges of further increases by 2024)
  • “Military ethos” projects in schools, which have cost the UK government over £45 million 

The PPU rejects everyday militarism. It normalises and legitimises military power, restricting any critical questioning of the military’s activities. The military is an inherently problematic institution based on principles of violence, which reduces our ability to create a culture of peace: “When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. The PPU seeks to question and tackle militarism in their own communities, and increase public understanding of why military values are at odds with a peaceful society. 

Some of our recent work includes:

  • Resistance by a coalition of groups and activists, including Quakers, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Extinction Rebellion, under the banner of ‘Stop Telford’s Arms Fair’ to contest SDSC Arms’ Fair in November 2023
  • Protesting with other peace campaigners, including Cornwall Quakers and Cornwall Resists, against Armed Forces Day in Falmouth in June 2023
  • Ongoing work with peace campaigners and local groups in Wales to contest militarism, including by writing a report with Cymdeithas y Cymod and Forces Watch on military involvement in Welsh schools 

The rise of everyday militarism

The 21st century has seen a decline in enthusiasm for war amongst the British public, yet at the same time everyday militarism is on the rise. These two developments are connected.

Public support for war has drastically reduced due to the death, waste and lies of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Faced with a lack of support for military conflict, the establishment instead focuses on celebrating the armed forces.

Examples of everyday militarism include things like military visits to schools, the Invictus Games, military recruitment leaflets in cafes, and deals with local authorities to grant privileges to military employers.

Everyday militarism ties in with policies that promote militarism more directly, such as the UK Government's sharp rise in military spending since 2020, and Boris Johnson's decision to raise the cap on nuclear warheads by 44%. It can also be seen in polices that take a militaristic approach to society and political activity, such as the Police Bill.

Yet the very principles underlying militarism are inherently questionable. In particular, the PPU rejects all of the following:

  • The claim that violence solves conflict. Whilst many people want to resolve conflicts peacefully, keeping violence in the background as a “last resort” often means that nonviolent options are not properly explored.
  • The notion that unquestioning obedience is something to be admired. Armed forces require people to obey orders without question. Of all the reasons that might be given for killing a human being, surely the very weakest explanation is that you killed because someone told you to.
  • Nationalism. Whilst talk of “defending our country” and the “national interest” implies that everyone in the UK has the same interests, it usually means the interests of those with wealth and power; fighting for a country usually means fighting for its leaders and militarism diverts resources away from public services such as healthcare and education.

Find out more about the different aspects of everyday militarism by clicking on the right-hand tabs.