Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Poppies and Poundland.

So it's getting to that time of year when a particular paper flower is being adorned on almost every lapel in the British Isles.  Everyone from politicians and news readers to the proprietor of your local corner shop is likely to be sporting one like the annual fashion accessory it's become.  I will be wearing one as well - have done for years and its meaning to me hasn't changed; not just as a symbol of rememberence for the wars our nation has fought in the past but also as a symbol of solidarity for our troops today. 

As a whole, society agrees to this interpretation.  Sometimes though, a little too fanatically - an employee in Poundland in Lisburn was asked to remove their poppy because the store's dress policy doesn't allow for it.  Like any grown-up in a workplace, she walked out and the media was alerted.  As expected, Poundland didn't intend for any offence.
"On 28 October a situation in Northern Ireland was brought to the company's attention where a store colleague was politely asked to remove a poppy by our store manager in order to comply with company policy."
"The store colleague decided to walk out and stated that she would return on Monday next wearing her poppy."
Most work places allow the wearing of a poppy, but if somewhere doesn't approve of "accessorising" the uniform, as it were, then as an employee you are contractually obliged to comply.  If you don't agree with it, then bring it up in a mature manner, perhaps through a union or with a few of your colleagues who agree with you.  Walking out and proclaiming you haven't learnt anything isn't going to win you much favour in the workplace and will most likely label you as a troublemaker.  If anything else, just don't wear the poppy at work - there's nothing stopping you from pinning one on your coat after you leave.

I read another blogger's take on this (The Guyliner on Huffington Post UK) and he makes a good point. For some reason, people look down on you when you don't wear a poppy, or when you walk past the collection tins without putting something in.  When I was more naive, I used to think the same way about people who didn't wear poppies for Rememberence Day, and every year I would buy a poppy in part to show my support and in part because I didn't want people to think I DIDN'T support the soldiers.

Until recently, I had a fabric rose pinned to my coat for the local hospice when they were collecting outside my local supermarket.  I say until recently, because like anything pin to my coat, I eventually lose it from general moving around.  I lamented the loss slightly (it was a nice rose) but you know what?  Only I'd notice the missing flower.  And it didn't mean I lost my support for the organisation either.  The same applies here.  Just because there isn't a poppy on your lapel doesn't mean you don't support the troops or the charity - really, I think you can do no worse than the extremists last year who burned poppies as a deliberate act of incitement and display of non-support.

Breast Cancer Awareness has a pink ribbon, the Marie Curie Foundation has a yellow daffodil.  Heck, Help the Heroes has a little medal.  And yet, no one will look at you strangely if you don't wear any of these.  Just because this time of year, it becomes almost high fashion for this red poppy to be worn everywhere (and yes, high enough fashion that there are designer poppies for sale as well).  I think this story is a little blown out of proportion - a bit like when nurses and air stewardesses are asked to remove their crucifixes at work, though the reasoning behind this example is only slightly different. 

All in all, I guess what I was trying to say is that there's no need to blow up because your employer told you not to wear a flower to work - I can't wear my favourite ring to work and I don't whinge about it.  There's more important things to worry about and if you're worried about being able to wear a poppy to work, maybe you should be worrying more about why you're wearing that poppy in the first place.  In fact, maybe you should be thinking more about the troops who are represented by that flower than the flower itself.

1 comment:

  1. I know I just said I was going to bed (and I will!) but I just had to add my two pence...this reminds me very much of the "change your facebook picture to this to support this!". Unless you actually donated or volunteered with this charity, you aren't actually supporting or helping anything. Same with the poppy...when you buy the poppy you have supported the cause sure...but you help no one at all by wearing it. Nothing good is gained from you wearing it, nothing bad lost. Same with religious iconography.

    Actually the crucifix thing always pissed me off because you can buy a "pack of three rosary style necklaces" for fashion, so wearing a crucifix/rosary in Britain today actually means sweet shag all. I wear a cross regularly and whilst I am a Christian, actually I wear it as much as I do because a) my mum bought it for me last Christmas and so it holds sentimental value and b) it looks rather good on me and goes with just about any of my outfits. As a piece of jewellery it is very pretty and in a particular style which I like the aesthetic of. Go into any shop selling jewellery and you will find similar crosses designed to look a certain way selling by the truckload for unreligious purposes. And finally what really pisses me off is that no wear in any religious scripture does it say to wear a cross, in fact in the gospel read out every freaking ash Wednesday it states that when a man does an act of piety in the name of God they should freaking hide it because God knows and that is the important thing, and showing it off just pisses God off because it shows vanity. I mean last time I checked that basically means if anything you shouldn't be kicking up a fuss and shouldn't be flaunting it in the first place. Yet more hypocrites being stupid. But then I'm sure I have my fair share of it from time to time and, you know, let him without sin cast the first stone. Well I'm without the sin of running to the media and crying "IM A WHITE BRITISH WOMAN AND THEY WONT LET ME WEAR A WHITE BRITISH RELIGIOUS EMBLEM BUT THEY'LL LET THEM EVIL ASIANS WEAR THEIR ASIAN RELIGIOUS EMBLEMS BECAUSE THEYRE ALL ON THE PC BRIGADE!" Nothing pisses me off more than people who do that.

    I got on a rant.

    But anyhow.

    And there was a story about how someone wouldn't give a young girl a poppy because she didn't have the right amount of money to pay (she only had 10p) and you have to think hold on a second...the British Legion isn't here to supply you with pretty flowers...it's here to raise funds through the sale of pretty flowers to help veterans...little girl your mother who must have been the one to alert the media, and the media itself, you're all missing the point. Poppy's aren't there to be a fashion statement...they're there to be sold for a charitable purpose...nothing more...nothing less...and you most certainly do not have the right to deprive the charity of money so you can pat yourself on the back and say "yeah I'm wearing a poppy and that will cure all the ills of the world!"

    I'm sure I'm going to sleep much better tonight for getting all that off my chest...