How easy it is to create false idols! How literal we can be in identifying our false idols or any idols for that matter.
I look at the numerous ceremonies of remembrance for World War One and Two and it seems to me that honouring has morphed into revering and from there to worshipping, in ways which do not honour either their dead or their sacrifice, but which calcify history and mould it into rigid ‘statues’ and statutes which are then raised up and worshipped, not because of what they might represent, but for what they are seen to be.
The deification of those who fought in war has turned such events into religious dogma and no doubt this is the source of much of the Judaic and Christian writings – so it begins, in that process toward turning historical events into theology.
The victors, who always get to write history are the ‘goodies’ and those who lost are the ‘baddies,’ in such a simplistic and literal sense that projection onto a defined ‘other’ becomes a given. Nothing happens in a vacuum, not even war and murderous psychopathic tyrants do not appear out of nothing, suddenly, with no past which needs to be understood. The tyrants of this world have always been with us. The tyrants who get most effectively demonised are those who lose wars.
Stalin killed far more people than Hitler did and yet the endless parade of films, books, documentaries, generally presenting Hitler as some sort of sub-human demon, would have people believe, and no doubt some are ready to believe, that the Second World War happened because someone evil came to power and everyone who fought against him was good. It is not that simple. It was not that simple.
Hitler was as much a creation of Germany at the time as he was of the world at the time and of the world in which he grew up and came to power. Everyone is and when we do not understand those circumstances, or gain the perspective which played a part, we will never understand enough to prevent it happening again.
And that is demonstrably clear. Hitler was not the first and not the worst despite the hyperbole and propaganda that would have it so, but neither, tragically was he the last. More to the point, with its State sanctioned terrorism, the United States, aided and abetted by its sycophantic lackey allies, has, since the end of the Second World War, killed as many if not more people in its militaristic adventures and wars, than Hitler did.
But never let facts get in the way of propaganda or as someone once said: There is no truth in war. But until there is truth in and about war we will never be able to rid ourselves of this scourge. Perhaps it is because deep down, many of us know, that it is all a charade, that we need to glorify our victories in war, sanctify those who fought in our wars, forget the war crimes we carried out – like the bombing of Dresden and dropping the two atomic bombs on Japan – and lose the truth and ourselves in the theatre of what we tell ourselves war was and is about and the fantasy of who we were and what we did in those wars.
War is neither noble nor heroic. There are heroes in war always but they can be found on both sides and in the middle, which is where the civilians live and die and suffer. But war itself is never something to be honoured even if the acts of individuals are deserving of honour – whether they count as enemy or ally, whether they start a war or end it, whether they are what is called ‘good’ or what is called ‘bad.’
In recent decades there has been some appreciation of this fact, but not enough.
For all the poppies crushed under millions of feet for nearly a century; for all the fading footage of our ‘heroic’ soldiers fighting the craven enemy; for all the billions of words spewed forth in honour and rememberance; for all the crass and cloying documentaries and films made of the two world wars; for all the shuffling, aging soldiers dragged out with tears in their eyes and horrors in their minds; for all of the tedious, demonising, eternally repeated stories of the ‘monster’ Hitler and the ‘less than human’ Japanese, and occasionally the ridiculous Italians; for all of the sanctimonious braying into the ‘faces’ of the defeated and all of the knife-twisting into the metaphorical backs of long-gone and mostly dead enemies – nothing has changed!
And I find that shocking. Not only that, when these ‘holier than thou’ ceremonies come round yet again, it is a reminder of how shallow, ego-driven and pointless most of it has been and is.
Yes, yes, I realise it is healthy for those who have fought in wars to process trauma but does it really need such pompous circumstance?
The US president, Barack Obama, spoke in solemn tone about sacrifice and heroes, going on about the ‘glories’ of D Day when he is responsible for personally selecting targets for drones to drop bombs, which kill civilians – innocent men, women and children. He and his allies were responsible for the million plus killed in their illegal, immoral and unnecessary wars waged against Iraq and Afghanistan and yet, here he is, droning on, and don’t forgive the pun, about the nobility of war.
Am I the only one weary of this egregious hypocrisy?
I wonder how much thought, time and effort would or will go into ‘remembering’ the equivalent events of D Day in US-allied led wars against Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan?
Probably little but then we lost those wars and it is human nature only to want to remember the victories.
I think I am weary of the glorification of the Second and First World Wars where the West gets to be the good guys and the baddies get to be ritually humiliated every year.
And yes, I do know that in more recent times there has been attempt to involve the ‘baddies’- the Germans and Japanese in some of these commemorative events on the basis that things are not really black and white- but in general the political response and the media reaction is a sickly glorification of war and the ‘good guys’ beating the ‘bad guys,’ in some sort of ‘groundhog’ day re-run which achieves nothing. Well, it certainly achieves nothing in terms of us learning that war is a very poor problem-solving mechanism.
I mean it is not as if we have learned anything with all of this remembering. It is not as if there has been less war. It is not as if the dead do not still weep and moan at what is done in their name and what has not been learned.
It is not as if it serves any good or productive purpose. It is not as if it heals.If it healed these old men would not be crying and we would not still be waging war.
Instead it picks again at the most solid of scabs, points fingers of condemnation and encourages that base puffing and preening which better belongs in penguins than in people.
If one applies the basics of psychology, healthy recovery from trauma requires acknowledgment of past suffering and wrongs, but only in realistic terms, free from grandiosity, superiority and victimhood. One does not need to forget but neither does one dwell in the past as these annual events demand with levels of pomp and circumstance which verge on the ridiculous.
Here we are, nearly one hundred years after the end of the First World War and where are we? Has war been rejected as a problem-solving mechanism? No. Quite the opposite. Has the carnage diminished? No, quite the opposite. Have we been able to heal and move on? No, quite the opposite.
Only a fool keeps doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
Enough should be enough if nothing has been learned. The world is growing weary of war and some of us are growing even wearier of the glorification of war.