new age spirituality

War and Remembrance

A Remembrance Day Reflection

At this time of year, actually the anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War, we remember those whose lives have been sacrificed as a result of armed combat.

In some nations it is common for (artificial) poppies to be sold and worn. The proceeds from these poppies is used to aid veterans in need. These reflect the poppies which grew in abundance on the most bloody battlefields of World War I. They may also symbolize the blood tragically shed not just on WWI, but also in war in general. Some people choose to wear white poppies to emphasize peace over war.

It is right that we remember the sacrifices made throughout history due to war. The single most important reason for doing so is that we might learn from the mistakes of the past in the hope they shall never be repeated. However as we observe the tragedies of Iraq and elsewhere it seems we still have much to learn. Indeed now that we have post-war baby boomers as world leaders, and as the suffering of WWI and WWII sip from living memory, we seem to be going backwards.

Let us take a moment or two on Remembrance Day, or whenever the equivalent happens to be in your country, to spare a thought for the many many victims o war. Not just those who were lost wearing the uniform of your country, not even all those killed and injured, but all those who have lived through the hell that is war. Even those who escaped with life and limb, and whose loved ones did the same, will not have escaped the fear and trauma that living through war brings.

Let us also remember the peoples of our so-called "enemies" for they too were every bit as much victims as those of our own country. They too suffered loss of life, physical injury, bereavement, trauma, and fear. Even those who wore "enemy" uniforms did so under duress.

But be sure that we never use Remembrance to celebrate or glorify war. I am English by birth. My nation supposedly "won" WWII. My mother and grandmother were bombed out of their home. My great-grandfather and uncle lost their lives. Try telling my family that England "won" the war! My father, whose family mercifuly came out of the war without loss, told me that the overriding feeling at the cessation of hostilities was not jubilation, but simple relief.

War is an unfortunate phenomenon of government and nationhood. One, or at best a very small number, of individuals are able to turn a whole nation against their brethren. And crowd psychology ensures that animosity and hatred spread like a plague.

Can war ever be justified?

This is a difficult question. There is never justification for striking the first blow. But what if you are under attack? If you personally were attacked you would instinctively, and rightly, try to render your assailant incapable of inflicting further damage.

What if a nation is being attacked? Then of course it has the right to defend itself, with they key word being defense. Any counter action should be aimed simply at rendering the attacking forces incapable of inflicting further damage. The sanctity of life, and the minimization of casualties should be paramount in achieving this objective.

National leaders, and indeed nations, often behave with the utmost immaturity. Hence the absolutely essential role of international bodies such as the United Nations, which deserve our full support.

The growth of education together with liberating technologies such as the Internet brings cause for optimism. Leaders cannot impose their will without the co-operation of their peoples, and it's to be hoped that the spread of knowledge will prevent such co-operation with clearly destructive demands. Furthermore it might be hoped that the "age of knowledge" will diminish the importance of nationhood and the powers that governments hold over individuals.

© 2006