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Lest we forget

January 17, 2014

One hundred years ago the greatest conflict in history began. It not only heralded an astonishing peak in technological advance, but it also reminded us of the might, cruelty, brutality and bestiality of mankind.

Unfortunately we haven’t evolved since the guns fell silent and WWI came to an end. Men are still dominated by their base instincts, there need to dominate, subjugate and kill. Since the Great War we have had a second global war and numerous violent battles and wars across the globe. But what makes the first World War so utterly different to any other conflict is the sheer loss of life, the astonishing conditions in which men fought and the mechanisation of warfare.

Trench warfare touches us in a very deep way. It plays into our cult memory as it is such an unnatural environment in which to operate. Mud and water not only breed bacteria and infection but are hazardous – the risk of drowning in mud and water great. The unconventional theatre of war – the disordered skirmishing, the lack of formation on a plain or field. Allied to this, the devastating use of gas, machine gun and explosives. These factors struck deep into the soldier’s soul, in the same way as the images and concepts strike a disharmonic and unnerving chord in the souls of the modern man.

So, during a centenary year what is the best way to remember the war? surely we are left with a moral dilemma. Can we celebrate a short-lived victory that came at the cost of so many young lives? Can we celebrate the strength and fortitude of the allies? Or should we simply read accounts and diary entries from the front in an attempt to better understand their hell. In my opinion we should celebrate the fortitude of the human spirit, the ability for normal men and women to realise what the human animal is capable of; what acts of kindness, bravery and strength in the face of absolute carnage and horror. Surely we also owe a debt of gratitude to the past, a debt that can only be realised through remembering and never, ever forgetting.

Inter arma enim silent legis – in times of war the law falls silent.

In times of peace we need the law to stand up for morality, for despots, dictators and war criminals to be punished. Only then, when there is a will to do the right thing, to actualise as a species can our society move on.

From → History, Society, war

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