Those Ethics Girls (Issue 4)

Mavis: Pass over those last few poppy tins would you please, Lil? Let’s get them opened and counted.
Gladys: I count five, Mavis!
Mavis: Thank you, Gladys! Just for that, you’re banished to the kitchen to make the coffees. Oh, and bring some of Lil’s latticed apple pie back with you. Another culinary triumph there, Lil.
Lil: Thanks, Mave, but I can’t claim the credit for that one. It was given to me by a friend of mine.
Mavis: Well, pass on my compliments – it’s delicious. There you are, Lil, can you count this one?
Lil: Certainly. So, how much do you think you’ve raised this year?
Mavis: It looks a little more than last year – around £600.00 I’d say.
Lil: Oh dear! You’ll need a bit more than that to get those two days in London!
Mavis: Pardon?
Lil: You know. The WI outing this Christmas. It was a joke!
Sheila: Oh, very funny, Lil.
Mavis: It may not sound a lot, but it’s for a good cause.
Lil: Well, yes, I suppose so, but what if you’re a pacifist? I know there’s talk of those morally opposed to war wearing a white poppy, but would you feel comfortable contributing to an organisation directly related to war, albeit one that deals with its aftermath? Or would you see your donation as somehow condoning war – almost saying that it’s all right to carry on killing one another because the Fund is here to dish out a few pounds to your relatives if the worst happens?
Mavis: I’m not sure if it is a moral issue. War exists. The Haig Fund is there to help those servicemen and women and their families who are caught up in it.
Sheila: Unfortunately, Mavis, that’s not always the case.
Lil: Something wrong, Sheila?
Sheila: Just recalling the lives my mother and grandparents had, that’s all.
Mavis: Times have changed, though, Sheila.
Sheila: But the aims of the Haig Fund were the same then as they are now, weren’t they?
Mavis: Definitely, but the distribution methods were not as well administered.
Sheila: It couldn’t have been that difficult to identify who needed help. The casualties themselves were not that easy to overlook and anyone with an ounce of intelligence could have imagined the impact their loss or disablement would have on their families.
Lil: I take it your grandfather didn’t return?
Sheila: Oh, he returned. He was wounded on The Somme in 1916 and sent home to recuperate. He was never fit enough to return, though, and after the war his disability meant he couldn’t get a job.
Lil: So how did he look after his family?
Sheila: He couldn’t. My grandmother worked as a seamstress and earned enough to get the essentials. My grandfather grew what food he could in the back garden and between them they survived. My point, though, is that when the Haig Fund was set up, my grandparents applied for help, but were turned down time after time. It’s funny, but they were never told why. They believed it was because my grandmother was working and the little she was bringing in took them over some threshold for assistance, but I don’t know if that’s true. I would have thought that to have fought and nearly been killed for your country would’ve entitled you to something, no matter what. Anyway, because they were never helped, it coloured their outlook somewhat and they never gave to the poppy appeal.
Mavis: Understandable in the circumstances, but their lack of a donation wasn’t a moral issue. Many people do need help and are helped today by the appeal.
Gladys: Coffee’s here, ladies.
Sheila: Thanks, Gladys. That’s true enough, Mavis, but you’ll forgive my scepticism. However, do you want to know the irony of that story? I always give, every year, to the appeal and I do it in honour of my grandfather.  Despite the fact that my family never received a penny, the Fund, today, does help where it can and if, in doing so, it helps someone like my grandfather, then it’s worth it.
Lil: Mind you, the services today are very different from your grandfather’s time. They’re all volunteers for a start and seem to join up more for the opportunity to go skiing in Norway or The Rockies than do any fighting! When they are shot at, they immediately claim Post Traumatic Stress and sue the Government for thousands. You’d think they’d be aware of the possibility, especially in today’s world, that they’re going to be sent to some dodgy places. However, if they’re sent off to fight in a war that nobody believes is right, or one that is fought for the wrong reasons, does that make it more or less morally acceptable for your poppy tin donations to be used for their or their families benefit? After all, they don’t have a say in where they are sent, but no-one forced them to join the services in the first place.
Gladys: Lil, you don’t know what you’re talking about!
Mavis: Yes, Lil. It would’ve been better if you’d kept those thoughts to yourself.
Lil: I’m only voicing what a lot of people think! Besides, why is Gladys getting so upset?
Gladys: I’ll tell you, shall I?
Mavis: Just forget it, Gladys. Lil didn’t know.
Gladys: I’m okay, Mavis. I want Lil to hear this. My son, Scott, joined the army in 1989 at 18. It’s all he ever wanted to do and couldn’t wait for the day he could sign up. And yes, you’re right. He was looking forward to the social side, to the trips abroad, to the ‘perks’ if you like. Equally, he was aware that he might be called upon to fight and was ready to do so if it came to that. Though, he could never hurt a fly really. Anyway, 1991 came around and he was sent off to the Gulf, to fight in Kuwait. He never came back. It wasn’t
a courageous, noble death. He didn’t die in battle, saving his colleagues by storming a machine-gun post or something like that. The fighting had finished. He happened to be driving a jeep – going to pick up his sergeant, I think they said – when a dog ran out in front of him. He swerved to avoid it and the jeep ended up on its side in a ditch. Scott died instantly. Naturally, my husband and I were aware of the Haig Fund, but we neither knew nor cared if we were entitled to anything. We didn’t want money, just our son back. So you see, Lil, I’m not in a position to answer your question and, frankly, I don’t know who would be, but I’m willing to venture that every member of a fallen serviceman or woman’s family would return every penny they’d ever had from the Haig Fund if it meant they could have their loved one back.
Lil: I’m so sorry, Glad. I just never knew.
Gladys: Look, Lil, don’t worry about it. Just remember, next year and each year after that, when you buy your poppy, don’t think you’re promoting or perpetuating war, or showing your support for a Government, of any colour, that uses war as a vote catcher, or that you’re keeping a board of directors in petrol and lunch money. You’re just giving something for those who gave everything. Now, pass me that last tin over. It’s time we finished counting.

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