Remembering the dead

“What’s to be done about the 7/7 memorial?” I hear you ask.

Obviously in this scenario “you” are one of the three fools who wrote in to the London Lite to ask this very question. Presumably this was in between wringing their hands at the various ills of London (knife crime, Bebo, teachers, drivers, politics, blonde women, and Russell Brand).

I would like to set up a camp dedicated to not having a 7/7 monument.

Firstly, I do understand the desire to remember and respect the dead. Henry David Thoreau observed, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” and I feel that this should be in some way recognised but I don’t see why grief seems to need to be so public and so shared. We seem to have this hope that if enough people remember the name we can achieve a type of immortality – as if, unless there’s some sort of government approved “I WOZ ERE”, then it was all pointless. I would argue that those that mourn us are those who knew us personally or who we inspired and they will mourn in their own way. The effect we have on their lives will be our legacy. The crux of it is that mourning and grief are personal. A monument to a whole group can never hope to be personal and you end up with a fountain or a garden or a sculpture, Lest We Forget.

To make a basic point about Lest We Forget, allow me to take you on a trip through time:

One year on from memorial park construction: “I went to the memorial park the other day and it was quite a moving experience”

Ten years on (a generous estimate): “I got absolutely wasted and vomited in the fountain in the park last night!”

The only fairly recent memorial which I think does it’s job with minimum fuss and maximum impact is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. For another as visceral and poignant you go back to the cemeteries in Belgium and France where the soldiers from the World Wars are interred, row upon row with an identical marker (Arlington National Cemetery makes use of the same). Something about the scale and the restraint pierces through our usual frame of mind and forces a reaction and a consideration in a way that a single object or an amenity can’t even dream of. And don’t even get me started on The Glorious Dead.

Memorials are remembrance and tribute and warning, and so rarely is this idea realised that humdrum sculptures pepper the world commemorating something everyone has forgotten.

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