This year we will “commemorate” the start of the First World War. Will we do so with wisdom, or only in the usual fashion polluted by politics and politicians’ demand to forget the pathology of how that war came to be?
The war was avoidable. Repeat that a few times. Most wars are. The war with Hitler, universally agreed to have been a very good thing for all who fought the Nazis, never need have happened. The First World War is the origin of the Second World War; no serious historian thinks otherwise.
The vast abyss between what historians know and try to teach, and what the public mind knows about wars of our past, keeps us from ever learning from history. Politicians have no interest in educating us. They want only to keep us in a state of ignorance and illusion so we will go to war the next time they and their masters decide Canada must use violence to “solve” an international problem.
We have been violent in Afghanistan in a way unprecedented in Canadian history. Canadians do not know it was radically unlike what we have done in the past.
Now, having done such a mission once, we are ripe to be led into others like it. The Afghan Mission was of no lasting value. Its cost to our public debt and in lives is absolutely unjustifiable.
But it will be justified ad infinitum by governments, parties, the legion, and all military families; the latter have to feel the “sacrifice” of some of their members in the war have “meaning.”
Sorry to say it, but no one is assured that their death has meaning. Death in war is not more noble than death on the job in any other occupation. Soldiers are not automatic heroes. Their death can be a waste, and by far most of them are.
The First World War will be remembered according to official memory, which was written by the same people who wrote the justifications of the war while it was happening.
The needs of past generations to explain and comfort themselves for that horrible, stupid war, will dictate that we continue to distort what really caused the war and the insanity that continued it, and the total failure to make a peace that was just and avoided future wars. The grief we feel for loved ones lost in war is exploited by the need for government to manufacture consent for the next war.
Please resist the ceremonial spell our public media and politicians and interest groups will try to cast over us in commemorations for that so-called “Great War.”