After the ninety eighth anniversary of the start of the first world war, the British Legion poppy appeal is becoming increasingly politicised. Are we forgetting the true meaning of armistice day and the poppy symbol; Remembrance?
The most poignnant thing about the first world war is just its futility its pointlessness, its preventable nature. A war started over diplomatic squabbling, weak and ineffectual leadership, the bloody strategies of commanders on both sides, cramming their cannons with the lives of young boys. A continent left riddled with bullet holes, nations with uneven gender balances after the massacre of young males. Millions dead. All we can do is to read the poems, diaries and letters and listen to the accounts of veterans who know what the smell of blood, rotting corpses and tear gas is like. The accounts of men who marched bravely into their own graves driven by a loyal patriotism.
We must never forget. We must never forget. What is more, we must learn. That is the reason why we bare the poppies.
It may be controversial to say; but we as a human race will never shake off war completely. All we can do is work to regulate and contain it.They say that prostitution is the worlds oldest recorded profession. But “warrior” can’t be far behind. In the fathomless stretch of human history before us there has been war. It would be arrogant and naive of us to believe that humanity in he 21st C, in a supposedly globalised and interdependent era is somehow transcendent of war. Historical sociologists warn us against fetishizing our own time, that is, considering it as anything other than a drop in an ocean of existence. We are not special, paramount and superior beings spared from the perils of our ancestors. We will not now, nor never be able to annihilate war. That is not to say that we cannot strive for sustained periods of peace, bolster international law and accommodate dialogue, but war and the unquantifiable elements of human life and nature that cause it. Ideology, religion, inequality, jealousy, power hunger, nationalism and so on, will never be purged.
This is not to say that there is any glory to war, it is all but a vile, bitter and obscene necessity, but a necessity it sometimes remains. War will always be a part of human existence and that is why it is important that we study it. Warfare is progressive in nature, we must adapt. We might not see the trench warfare of the early 20th Century again. The days of man to man on bloody battlefields, with handheld weapons, when you saw the whites of your opponents eyes are more or less a thing of the past. Traditional concepts of state on state conflict are also becoming increasingly blurred. We must adapt to the new terrain, understand, evolving capabilities, and work to ensure that if war must happen, it is as minimalist and causes the as limited amount of damage as possible. States must take very seriously the welfare of its citizens. They must accommodate the development and study of diplomacy, security, defence and strategy. Global conflict might always occur, but we can be quietly confident that in Europe after centuries of war, hate, and suspicion we have finally found peace.
The Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War, the Crimean war, the First World War the Second World War, genocide, holocaust, extremism, failed peace, failed treaties, hate, bitterness, and grief. The boundless, lamenting, howling agony of grief disfiguring European history.
Over the last two decades, Europe has arguably gone from being the most war ravaged region on earth in this millennium to the most peaceful.
The EU has yanked states together by the scruff of their necks, like bickering children and made them open their arms and embrace.. It has encouraged a merging and an understanding.
As a rule eighty years ago, German students did not sit side by side with British ones in university lecture theaters. They did not share student flats. Young French men and Austrian women would not walk together publicly hand in hand. You could not buy Belgian beer in a British Bar, or Spanish sangria in a Slovakian supermarket. A casual weekend visiting Dutch friends in Amsterdam or your Swedish in laws in Gothenburg would have been unheard of not so long ago. Today we know and love our neighbor, we have no reason to hate and we have no grudges to bare. There are no territorial grievances or ambitions, no deluded ideas of ethnic superiority, no agendas to impose. And for that, we largely have the European Union to thank. The EU brought its member states together in reflection of its history of grief. It mediated and infused, added adhesive to state lines and through promotion of interdependence, and opening of borders and highlighted our similarities.
The European Union deserved to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.