Sunday, April 26

Sticks and stones

Well another Anzac day splutters on by and why not make a cheap shot at all those whining about not getting a day off – Just be thankful you’re not charging up a bloody great hill headlong into machine gun fire. Stop.

*Wonderwall by Ryan Adams comes on - notices it’s only got a **** rating so changes it to a *****.

Watched Saving Private Ryan on Saturday – I’ve seen it plenty of times but it still blows me away – the sacrifice and so on. Like many people my age I have no concept of how I would feel if forced to fight in a war – Yes completely spoiled and softened by comfort.

I found myself watching that opening scene with the charge up Omaha beach saying ‘Our generation could use a good war’. What the bollocks do I mean? Dunno really –
but I often ponder the fact that these dudes were in a just war fighting true tyranny – it was very black and white to them – The evil of fascism needed to be stopped (yes a disputable yet common opinion). You don’t really get wars like that these days – look at the American invasion of Iraq – what a bubbling mass of confusion that is. But it’s very easy to firmly say that war is wholly a waste of life - but there must be some occasions when fighting is just - surely.

Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow’… Sanguine but true… Hmmm what if there are no other tools in the tool box? I’m reminded of an idiom
involving omelettes and broken eggs. What if the men and boys of World War II hadn’t sacrificed themselves against what was oozing through and out of Europe? How would the world be now? Better? Worse? Hard to say – but an instinct deep down tells me that it’s the former… I’ve always held the opinion that war is muddy – there is no truth only a buzzing confusion, a fog of darkness – I think I’ll stick with this opinion as it sings to me.

So could the world use another good war? Well it certainly would solve the population issue – but it’s a loaded question really – of course not. But I do believe the last 50 years or so have left people soft, weak and spoiled – most of us couldn’t fight a war if our life depended on it – or could we?

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” – Einstein


underajunipertree said...

Poorly structured rant follows: gotta hit the hay but thought I'd throw out a few thoughts. Feel free to get stuck in and I'll try to articulate it a bit better in any responses if I need to :)

A lot of soldiers in the second world war were drafted. And I think a lot of the ones who volunteered would have signed up for an adventure, out of a [misguided, in my opinion, but that's a different argument] sense of duty to their country, because their father or grandfather served in the first world war, or because they wanted to go shoot some Krauts.

From a purely moral perspective, this is worth turning on its head: if German soldiers hadn't been willing to sacrifice themselves in the same way, we wouldn't have had a war to fight in the first place. The sword cuts both ways.

More generally, the Allies didn't resist Germany on moral grounds. They resisted on geopolitical grounds: Germany was roaching in on their shit and was a threat to their land and resources. From what I remember, no one from "our side" [or, probably, a lot of Germans or Austrians] really knew about the concentration camps until the war was pretty much over, when they started to discover what had happened through liberating the camps.

Similarly with the US--they were pretty much out of it until Japan got stuck in at Pearl Harbour, and I wouldn't mind betting that the large majority of Americans were either ignorant or apathetic about the situation in Europe until it came knocking at their own door. [This won't be true of everyone.]

So even if WW2 was a just war, I don't think that's why it was fought.

If we set that aside, we still have some other thoughts about war as a crucible: that it creates harder, stronger, more resilient people. I don't really think that this is true... or at least, I don't think it's uniquely true of war. People adapt to hardship pretty quickly, and getting shot at in a trench or staring down a tank isn't something that anyone is used to in any age. If soldiers from past wars were more resilient and more willing to sacrifice, it was probably more of a function of their economic status at home [i.e. the fact that they probably worked on farms, in factories, as labourers, etc.] rather than because they had been through a war.

More generally still, even if we concede that we are softer and less grateful than we are now, perhaps this isn't a bad thing. Would you rather have a softer, more self-centred society that is largely provided for materially [for the moment], or a generation of disenfranchised refugees, broken homes, dead fathers sons and brothers, and widespread shortages of basic rations and comforts?

I don't necessarily have a view on this last point. It could be argued that a soft, arrogant, materialistic society [such as the one some think we now live in] is not worth living in, and that death and destruction should be welcomed if it will cut away at that fat. But it could also be argued that we should be glad we now live in a society where we have the luxury of forgetting, or never knowing, what our fathers or grandfathers lived through. Darfur doesn't exactly seem like the pinnacle of human potential right nows, for example.

underajunipertree said...

Er, this is Mr. Cawley by the way.

djkrpt said...

Went to the Arch de Triumph a few weeks ago, just for a look, you can actually go inside and up to the top but the queue was unbelievably long with tourists from all corners of the globe and you probably had to pay 6 or 7 euros which these days is the equivalent of about $650NZ ... so we didn't.

But we went up the stairs to outside and stood under the arch which stands in the middle of the worlds most beautiful carnage. IE the traffic roundabout. "How do you drive around in this? No lanes, cars five or six deep swerving madly around the arch trying to get to one of about 12 exits before the car next to, behind and in front of each other.

All this might not have been possible without the sacrifice of many, represented by one unknown soldier, who lays peacefully amidst the midness, his grave lit by the eternal flame and just as endlessly photgraphed and ruminated about quietly by whoever happens to be standing next to it. Because you can't help but wonder as you stand in awe beneath the magnificently ornate archway, what might have been had old One-Bollock got his way.

Elkano said...

Quite the quagmire - hindsight's a bitch really innit...

Andy said...

Love your work Bren. Been good reads here.