Monday, 11 November 2013

WW1.

Hey everyone,

Today is the 99th anniversary of World War One ending. At this time it seems appropriate to look back at the war & how we, as a modern society commemorate it. The culture in the UK at the beginning of the war in 1914 was, from a modern point of view, naive to the horrors of war with young men, as young as 14, signing up to the army and by 1918, just four years later, 10 million men, on both sides, had died.   

At the beginning of the war there was huge public pressure for young men to join up and fight (including the hideous practise of young men at home being handed the cowards white feather). Men who didn't fight were not seen as real men and certain war poets wrote about how wonderful it is to fight for King & County. However, when the public became aware of the horror of war there has been a public acceptance that war is terrible. Poets who had fought in the war, like Wilfred Owen wrote 'Dulce et Decorum Est' decrying the old myth that it was good to die for one's country. This change in attitude is reflected on Armistice when the entire country stops and mourns those who gave their lives for our freedom. We wear poppies and we stand in silence remember ingthe ultimate sacrifice that these men (or boys) gave. 

However, with the centenary coming up we should start to open the discussion, once again, on how we discuss war. It has occurred to me that when discussing the horror of the First World War, we only really ever discuss the sacrifice made by British or Allied Soldiers. Why don't we discuss the German or Austrian victims? It seems slightly hypocritical to wax lyrical about the destruction of war when we never discuss the victims of the 'enemy'. Surely, war is a bad thing because it impacts everyone, not just us? Also how can we want to stop the act of war when we lack empathy for our enemy?

The government has announced that millions of pounds has been set aside to commemorate the First World War, yet no one has stated anything about the tone or context. I would hope that next year when we commemorate the beginning of World War One we discuss the real impact of war & how it hurts & destroys lives on both sides of the trenches. Only then will we start to understand the totality of war and how it impacts everyone, even the enemy. 




Cheers,
Ben

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