Shaming people to act virtuously


In the UK and some countries of the Commonwealth, the poppy symbol began to be used after World War I to commemorate the deaths of soldiers in wars on Remembrance Day, their equivalent to Memorial Day in the US. Little red plastic poppies are given out in return for a charitable contribution and then worn on the clothing to signify that the person has donated money to the cause. Collectors will stop you in the street or come to offices (with permission) with little tin cans into which you drop your money and get a flower in return.

In the US, we do not have charities going up to people and asking for a charitable donation in return for a token but the pressure can be similar. Here it is the flag pin or the flags flown on cars and houses especially when wars are begun, or demands that stores say ‘Merry Christmas’, and to a lesser extent, the ‘I voted today’ stickers that have become ostentatious symbols that one is on the ‘right’ side. This can have the effect that those who do not publicly conform are somehow lesser people.

Jonathan Pie rails about how what were once harmless symbols have now become weaponized and used to stoke nationalism and pressure people. (Language advisory)

Comments

  1. says

    We have Remembrance Day in Canada too and one of the most famous people in this country, hockey commentator Don Cherry, was just fired after a racist rant about immigrants not wearing poppies. While I haven’t watched the video posted here yet, yup, the pressure and nationalism is happening here too. Cherry’s firing has really riled up a bunch of people but especially white conservatives.

  2. Steve Cameron says

    I love that Cherry got booted. Good riddance to him, especially since his bigoted rant became the big headline on what’s supposed to be a solemn day. His outburst showed more disrespect to the occasion than any imagined slight he claimed immigrants were responsible for.

  3. Jenora Feuer says

    @Tabby Lavalamp:
    Granted, this was hardly Cherry’s first go-round with stuff like this, either. A lot of the people I know had reactions along the lines of ‘about time’ and ‘why was this of all things the straw that broke the camel’s back?’

    The man’s 85, he really should have just retired years ago.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    Of course, Cherry doubled down by saying he simply should have said “everybody” instead of “you people”, hoping we all missed the obvious reference to immigrants -- “you people who come here [Canada]…”.

    Bet he’s a yuge Trump fan.

  5. says

    Little red plastic poppies are given out in return for a charitable contribution and then worn on the clothing to signify that the person has donated money to the cause.

    Firstly, plastic decorations are ugly. Secondly, they don’t last long and are disposable thus contributing to humanity’s plastic waste problem. OK, I understand that complaining about some tiny plastic flowers is petty given how many other people buy bottled water every day and just throw out one disposable bottle after another, but still, I personally try not to use any disposable plastic items whenever possible.

    Collectors will stop you in the street

    People who stop me on the streets in order to ask for money are super irritating. They are the reason why I walk on whenever somebody tries to stop me, which is unfortunate given how some percentage of the people who try to approach me probably have legitimate reasons to ask for help. (Last time I stopped, it turned out that a deaf tourist needed help figuring out in which direction to find her hotel. I’d be happy to help out people like her, but unfortunately most of the time people who stop me just want money instead of having actual problems.)

    Here it is the flag pin or the flags flown on cars and houses especially when wars are begun, or demands that stores say ‘Merry Christmas’, and to a lesser extent, the ‘I voted today’ stickers that have become ostentatious symbols that one is on the ‘right’ side.

    Personally, I refuse to be a walking advertisement for anybody, be it a clothing brand or some charity. For example, nowadays finding sportswear without any logotypes on it has become pretty hard. A logotype on the chest is pretty much the norm for all the athletic shirts and jackets, even jeans have logotypes on the wearer’s butt. I strongly dislike how humanity has come to the point that people are willing to advertise Nike or whatever other clothing brand for free and even imagine that they are the ones who gain some prestige from doing so.

    Anyway, if somebody wants to wear a piece of plastic on their chest, they should be free to do so. Whatever, it’s their choice. But I do dislike being told how I am supposed to look like.

    By the way, in Latvia nationalists are insisting on wearing a ribbon in the colors of the flag on 18th November. So yeah, this crap happens everywhere.

  6. says

    And then Cherry goes on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox, and well…

    CHERRY: Like, I went downtown — yeah, and fair enough to the whole thing. Its the two words that got it, that “you people” — as you know, people are very sensitive like that, and that’s — that got me.

    CARLSON: Well, they’re not — I mean, if I can just clarify, they’re not sensitive at all. They are fascists. They’re not — they actually have no real feelings. They are faking their outrage.

    They’re trying to crush you because they want to exert power, because it makes them feel big, when actually inside they are small. But, just to clarify, you didn’t — did you mean to say something hateful?

    https://www.mediamatters.org/tucker-carlson/tucker-carlson-says-critics-don-cherrys-anti-immigrant-rant-are-fascists-no-real

    Yeah, that’s a worse look than your suits, Don.

  7. Jazzlet says

    Just a point of accuracy, the black stem of the poppy is plastic, the petals and leaves are paper. You can also buy enamel versions and even begemmed versions if you want a more permanent version. There is also a white poppy that pacifists can buy. Or you can still just not buy them at all without being lynched or even tut-tutted.

  8. Steve Cameron says

    @Jazzlet 7
    Here in Canada the whole thing is plastic with a metal pin. (We don’t, however, have a green leaf like in the UK.) I’d never thought of the plastic waste involved, but that’s another good reason I don’t wear one.

  9. Jazzlet says

    Steve Cameron @#8
    The Royal british Legion used to make a big thing aboutt how the poppies were put together by ex-service men (it was always men) disabled in combat, I haven’t seen anything about that recently, so they’ve probably outsourced to China or where ever is cheapest.

  10. Ridana says

    Personally, I refuse to be a walking advertisement for anybody

    I’ve always wondered about people who keep the dealer’s license plate holder on their cars. It’s just a frame, not what’s keeping the plate on, so why would you want to advertise for them for free?
    .
    As for the poppies, when I was a kid, I remember them being made of crepe paper with wire stems wrapped in florists’ tape. The made-by-people-with-disabilities kinda rings a bell too.
    I’ve never been much for flag waving, especially since I think the US flag is way too busy and gaudy. Canada. Japan (the modern one). Wales (dragon!). Simple. Those are national flags I’d fly. The only flags I’ve ever displayed were the green & white ecology flag (which I made 3D out of wood in H.S. art class) and the rainbow flag.

  11. Trickster Goddess says

    Growing up in a religious pacifist family we were taught to abhor the idea of wearing a poppy to commemorate soldiers who chose to go to war and kill people. In response to my question, my father explained that even if they were drafted, they could have refused to fight, even if it meant spending the war in a jail cell.

    Religion didn’t stick to me but the pacifism did. Even though it has been a long time since anyone has chastised me for not wearing a poppy, I still feel apprehensive on November 11 walking around with my bare lapel.

    I might follow my sister’s example one these years and get a white poppy which is meant to commemorate ALL victims of war, not just the soldiers.

  12. says

    In the US, we do not have charities going up to people and asking for a charitable donation in return for a token…

    Actually, we do and I wear my poppy every year in remembrance of my fallen comrades.

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  13. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Tabby Lavalamp

    hockey commentator Don Cherry, was just fired after a racist rant about immigrants not wearing poppies. the pressure and nationalism is happening here too.

    IMO Cherry’s rant was a straight-forward, disgusting, racist, rant aimed at recent immigrants. If it had not been poppies it would have been something else on another day. Good that he got fired!

    I was not wearing a poppy this year—the main one being that punching holes in my leather coat did not appeal to me. And for medical reasons I even missed the 11 A.M ceremony in the park. StillI had not realized that I was such a terrible Canadian.

  14. Holms says

    I did what I thought was the entire point of the day: I thought about my great grandfather, a veteran of Gallipoli. I observed the 11AM silence, but did not bother with any kind of display. I think I did it right.