Saturday, 22 February 2014

Events that move so fast

I wonder how the Michael Gove analysis of World War 1 would have stood up if communications had been as fast then as now?
I wonder how many people would have shared the pompous arses' view that somehow it was a great war and a glorious moment i British history had our forebears had I-phones and facebook and the rest of modern communications?
The events over the last few hours in Kiev have demonstrated just how graphically and brutal war can be.
In 1914 cinematography was still in its infancy, and the press as well as being slow was also heavily censored by the military.
Reading a review by Rowan Williams of a new biography of Wilfred Owen in the New Statesman two things struck me.
Firstly how long it took for the full horrors to sink in, Owens poetry was published posthumously , and by the way its strange how the Gove talks glibly about 'Oh What a Lovely War' and 'Blackadder' and  manages to omit the work of eye witnesses to the slaughter like Owen and Sassoon and others.But then perhaps Gove only read Robert Graves and left it at that!
Secondly and even more moving in many ways was the illustration that accompanied Williams review.It was a stark black and white photograph of five young soldiers who had just finished basic training and were preparing to go to the front.The casual insouciance of the youngsters, a couple with fags in their mouths was tragic.The uniforms,already crumpled,seemed far too big for them, as if they were wearing someone elses' castoffs.
And in a sense they were, they were wearing the cast offs of a ruling class who thought that there was glory to be won somewhere along the Somme,an officer class who thought they were going to do daring=do's  in the way of their forebears.
They hadn't bothered to see that war had become slaughter on an industrial scale.
I doubt if any of those five children came back in one piece.
It's hard not to be angry when time and time again we see the same young men and women being sent into each new killing field, unprotected and innocent,hoping above hope that the war that they are engaged i will somehow be the 'war to end all wars' but sadly never seems to be.
Now I am no pacifist and I believe that sometimes we have to take up arms because what we are confronted with is simply too awful to contemplate.It was absolutely right for the people of Spain and the International Brigades to confront Franco, and because the rulers failed us over Spain it was right for us to confront and defeat Hitler,although the cost was far too high.
Similarly there have been 'just' wars since then too, the Vietnamese people,the Palestinians,the people of South Africa,but it is frustrating to know that throughout the last century if working people had stood together in their class interest then there would have been no wars.
If German workers had not been beguiled and lied to by their Keiser and the Russians by his cousin the Tsar and the British by their cousin George, then millions of lives would have been saved.
Ironic really that the European Royals were all sending armies to rip great lumps out of each other when it could all have been solved on somewhere like a playing field at Eton.
Jackets off boys and a bit of a punch up behind the bike shed-first one to draw blood gets to keep Africa!
But then of course those states were fighting for something tangible,control of the worlds natural resources,what I find impossible to comprehend is how anyone in their right mind can be persuaded to go and kill aother person,or wear an explosive vest or massacre innocent strangers simply ecause 'my God is better than your God!'
What on earth is all that about?
Did the enlightenment pass them all by?
And to go back to my original point, with the instant images of death and destruction on the worlds TV screens every night is the world still full of numpties who cannot see how pointless it all is?
The youngsters who went to the trenches in 1914 had no idea what was awaiting them, as soon as they knrw it was too late,but so many who fought echoed not simply Owen but Harry Patch, the last survivor of WW1- it just wasn't worth it.

But I guess there are still people like Michael Gove, who wonder around with beans in their ears.

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