Saturday, November 10, 2007

I dont often get to reach back for the history degree... but Remembrance Day is something we'd all be better off taking a bit more seriously. World War I was one of those many wars fought by legions of brave but ultimately poorly cultivated souls so that a few plutocrats sitting safely behind the lines could play at soldier and tyrant (which makes it different from certain more modern events exactly how... but then, if one thing has been proven by history it's that we are absolutely incapable of learning from it).

This was a more Commander McBragg sort of war - prone to the pompous buffoonery of commanders one might find fictionalized in Flashman or Sharpe - famously elitist generals ordering proletariat infantrymen back and forth into meatgrinders - with a brutality and callousness that's still hard to imagine nearly a century later. This was a war that broke societies... 3 million widows... 10 million orphans... but the battles; the battles of this war involved death on a scale and stupidity that's hard to fathom in todays terms. Yes - some of the eastern front battles were bad during Barbarosa - especially in the sense that many of those captured found their way into death camps - but this war was a different sort of insanity altogether. At the Somme, 1.1 million men lost their lives. 1.1 million men stood up and faced certain death... and still they stood.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

We may not teach the history to our children... Franz Ferdinand may live on only as a fairly crappy Scottish band... we may find the history itself at odds with our current belligerent mindset - or simply may not spend the money to educate the teachers much less the children on the truths of man's inhumanity to man... but on this day some few of us will remember - and live in hope that one day others can be bothered to care.

I hope you all keep that in mind tomorrow.

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