We were really poor when I was growing up. One Christmas my Dad gave me an empty box, on seeing my puzzlement, he explained that it was an Action Man deserter. A joke but one that has been in the public domain for a while.
Darren Cullen has done nothing more than take something from the public domain and used his freedom of expression to create slightly macabre toy dolls. A project undertaken with the backing of many veterans of the armed forces. Art imitating life. Poorly in this instance. The wounds that I treated as a combat medic and sustained as an infantry soldier are much more outrageous than any pastiche.
The plastic figurines will not spend more than thirty plus years undergoing surgery and further amputations. Nor will they spend a lifetime remembering when they could walk to the toilet unaided. Certainly none of them will actually drink themselves to death. My colleagues do and will.
I do not consider myself to have pilloried, as has been suggested by a politician, by a piece of modern art. Rather I consider myself pilloried by the cost conscious bureaucrats who at the behest of these same politicians determined that my disability was one percentage point below pensionable. I consider myself pilloried when my bus pass is withdrawn. I consider myself pilloried when raising funds for a colleagues prosthetic limbs that are denied him under the NHS. I consider myself yet more pilloried when a politician with a record of voting for military intervention, serving a party responsible for illegal wars expresses faux outrage on my behalf.
The reality of joining the Armed Forces includes the chance that one may become wounded, a perk of the job as it were. Aspects of this are addressed during training. The reality of being wounded involves being removed from a nominal roll that you have dedicated everything hitherto to appearing on. You are placed on something known as a “Y” list and forgotten until discharge.Then you find yourself confronted by the benefits system. None of this addressed at all.
On leaving the Forces you discover that the same politicians that sent you to war are the ones cutting your benefits and means testing your pension, whilst granting themselves inflation busting pay rises and selecting a new war.
It is certainly better business to be outraged over a doll than removing one’s nose from the trough.
Steve Neville served with the British Army, he is a member of Veterans For Peace UK.