Penny Arcade Aka Susana Ventura is a performance artist, author…
Paul Hardcastle has just re-released ’19’ on its 30th anniversary, to raise money for victims of PTSD. Meanwhile, Michael Caine, Jamelia and Prince Harry are all fans National Service. If we can’t look after our veterans, we shouldn’t send them to war in the first place, says Stewart Who?
Prince Harry caused a bit of a stir the other day when he suggested they might bring back National Service. “I dread to think where I’d be without the Army”, he pondered. Wearing a Nazi uniform at a party in Knightsbridge, instead of combats and a beret in Sandhurst?
It’s unlikely he’d have wound up on Job Seekers Allowance or scratching around the reduced section of the supermarket.
Apparently, about 56% of us would like to see a return of compulsory military service, according to a Metro/Harris poll. Highest support for it is in the south-east where 66% would welcome it.
Many reckon it might be an effective way of reducing street crime and instilling discipline in feckless, fame hungry youngsters who don’t know they’re born.
It’s not just unknown members of the public who yearn for teens to be sent to their possible deaths. Michael Caine and Jamelia are also united on this front.
Caine, who did two years of national service and served in the Korean War, claimed he was ‘very anti-war’ but added, somewhat incongruously: “I’m just saying put them in the army for six months. You’re there to learn how to defend your country. You belong to the country.
‘Then when you come out, you have a sense of belonging rather than a sense of violence.’
That’s if you weren’t bullied due to the fact that firearms, press ups and a brutal macho culture didn’t fill you with joy. Jamelia had less caveats than Caine when she told The Sun: “National Service and the death penalty should be brought back.”
Hmmmmm, thanks for that Jamelia. Always dazzling us with your astute observations and considered philosophies.
As a child of Irish Catholic parents, joining the police or the army wasn’t encouraged. As it transpired, it seemed more likely that I‘d join the Twickenham Amateur Dramatic Society than the Territorial Army, so it was away with war and out with the legwarmers. I became a dancing pacifist, in a CND leotard, clashing with the police on variety of ’80s demos.
By my early twenties, I’d dated both a policeman and a Regimental Sergeant Major. These relationships proved enlightening. I learned that political principles are no match for physical desire (and that service men aren’t allowed to get their nipples pierced).
It also became clear that there are individuals in the forces and the Met who challenge the status quo by their mere existence. This was especially true thirty years ago.
In the ’80s, it was consistently hard to understand the motivations for gay men in choosing such careers, their principled, risky little acts of rebellion were often heart warming. As were the uniforms.
Loving the enemy
So, loving the enemy physically, if not mentally, can broaden one’s horizon and there’s possibly a solution to terrorism in there somewhere. I haven’t quite formulated it yet.
All these thoughts were troubling my dwindling mind when Paul Hardcastle’s ’19’ came on the radio. For those unfamiliar with the tune, it’s about America’s role in the Vietnam War and it topped the charts for five weeks in 1985.
It had an aspect of the novelty about it, but it was also a cracking slice of electro pop. Compared to the hollow offerings of today’s chart, it now dazzles as a critique of war, national service and the damaging effects of modern conflict on mental health.
Whatever happened to the protest song? Well, it’s back. Paul Hardcastle’s 19 has been reworked to raise money for Talking2Minds, a charity that helps soldiers returning from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder. The organisation also helps emergency services workers and victims of abuse.
Paul Hardcastle said of the re-release, on its 30th anniversary:
“The idea is to raise awareness of PTSD, which is a ticking time bomb in this country. From the people I have talked to who have suffered from it, not enough is being done to help them. If we’re going to send people off to war then it’s our duty help to them when they come home with their brains scrambled.”
“One of the facts that shocked me was that more soldiers committed suicide after coming back from Afghanistan than actually died in battle.
If ever there was an argument for not sending people to war in the first place, it’s that salient fact. They might come back alive, but if they wish they were dead, that’s a battle lost right there. It’s grotesque that we fight wars, it’s even more revolting that a society that sends them into combat relies on charity to pick up the pieces.
Main picture: Kingsman Sean Dawson, 19.
Sean was from Woodside Street, Stalybridge.
A former Copley High pupil – Dawson was on his first tour of duty with Chindit Company, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. The teenager was shot dead after a breakdown in communication caused British and Afghan troops to open fire on each other.
Paul Hardcastle’s new album, 19 The 30th Anniversary Mixes and his new single the PTSD Remix are available on iTunes and Amazon with proceeds going to charity Talking2Minds