Today, the 11th of November, is Remembrance Day in much of the Commonwealth, including the United Kingdom. “Lest we forget” is the common sentiment, imploring us not to forget about those fallen heroes in all those many wars that have been fought over the past few decades. But is that really what we shouldn’t forget?
Here we are, a full century after the start of the First World War, commemorating the millions of people who died for their country. Who are still dying for their country. We remember them because we want to honour them, because we are thankful for their services and the sacrifices they have made. They have done our countries good, and their heroism is rewarded with eternal remembrance. But what if they aren’t heroes? What if, instead, they are victims?
All those soldiers, all those veterans, all those who died in the field, they could have been spared. Their suffering was unnecessary, the result of irrational wars spurred on by a public who saw war as good. They are innocent victims of regimes who sent them across their borders, armed with a gun and with the objective to go and kill other human beings, for no other reason than the fact that those people held different beliefs, honoured a different flag and were born in a different place. Each of them, victims.
We say lest we forget, but we have already forgotten. In fact, we have never known it in the first place. We see only heroes and glory, but forget the death and the destruction, the complete futility of war that takes so many victims for so little reason. War doesn’t solve problems, it never has, yet here we are, not pitying its victims, but glorifying them, as if their victimhood is something to be desired. Young men and women all over the world who are desperately looking for a meaningful way to spend their lives see millions, or even billions of people admiring these victims of war. What will they think? What will they decide? Will they see war as a cruel, unnecessary evil, or as a way to gain glory?
On Remembrance Sunday, the city centre of Dundee in Scotland was full of children, yes, children, wearing full military uniforms. Some of them might not have been older than 12, yet there they were, walking around in their army boots and their little cap on, trying to collect money for a cause that might one day be remembering their deaths as well.
War is everywhere. It has even invaded our homes, not just through news reports, but also in films and books and magazines. We consume them all as exciting tales of bravery and heroism, admiring the men and women who sacrifice their own lives for the greater good, without even once considering the futility of what they are achieving. In films, there are clearly defined enemies, the good guys against the bad guys, but in reality, there is no such thing. It is merely the good guys against the good guys, and in the end, after much misery and bloodshed, when the amount of good guys has been greatly reduced, we always end up almost where we started, or worse.
There has not been a single war in the past century that can be said to have been positive, that has actually improved more lives than it has destroyed. Yet here we are, sending more of our victims all across the world, wreaking their havoc in the Middle East without a single consideration about the effects it might have. We don’t consider that war is instability and that instability leads to more war. We don’t consider whether or not we are destroying these countries as well as the lives of our own victims. What we consider is only the glory, the irrational thought that war is good, just like it is in the movies. We send our “heroes” to fight the “enemy”, and they will win and return victorious so that they too can be honoured on Remembrance Day.
War is a central part of our culture, but it shouldn’t be. War is not glory, but destruction. War is not life-saving, but death-bringing. War is not to be desired, but to be dreaded. War, is misery.
Lest we forget, indeed.
While I am fully aware that this is a delicate and controversial topic, please keep any possible comments civil. Disagreement is not a bad thing. It means we can still learn. That said, I am always interested to hear your views, so feel free to leave them in the comments!
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