Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

It’s Remembrance Day


…and I can’t add much to what I wrote two years ago, except that the death toll of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan is higher now, I haven’t got my Christmas shopping started this year yet, and I still don’t see any easy answers to the problem of war.  I watched the movie Passchendaele  the other night. It was odd, because if you read what Paul Gross, the filmmaker (and star) says about the movie on the official site, he made the movie to make Canadians more aware of the heroism and courage of Canadian soldiers in World War One.  But to me, the film’s main effect was to underscore the horror and futility of war.  Yes, men were brave to go through this horror — but for what? And brave men and women are doing the same today — but could we, as a country, as a human race, not imagine a better cause for all that bravery and courage? A better way to be heroes than to kill and die so the next generation can do it all again?


6 thoughts on “It’s Remembrance Day

  1. A columnist in my local newspaper wrote recently that although a whole generation of historians had written off the First World War, in fact it was fought for “the best of reasons” – honour and self-defense. I’m still shaking my head. Do we REALLY want to go back there – to the time where “honour” was a good reason to go to war?

  2. Oops, I’m not done. I’m assuming that what the columnist was getting at was that if we turn the clock back carefully enough we’ll find a time, sometime in 1914, where going to war was better than the alternatives. But the whole point is that if we’re turning the clock back at all, let’s turn it back to some earlier point where the cascade of factors was starting to accumulate to make 1914 inevitable and figure out how NOT to be in a position where “honour” requires four years of pointless fighting.

  3. I’m not sure going to war is ever better than the alternative, though I think you could make a better case with Hitler in WW2 than in most wars of the modern era. But I can’t believe anybody would hold up WW1 as any kind of an example of war as “honourable.” To me it’s the most tragic of all modern wars because the scale of human suffering measured against the scale of any kind of justification or purpose for why they were fighting, was more extremely out of balance than in any other war I can think of. I think the great WW1 poets, like Owen and Sassoon, really captured the tragedy and the futility, and I wish we read “Suicide in the Trenches” and “Dulce et Decorum Est” alongside “In Flanders Fields” every remembrance day. I want to honour those who fought and died WITHOUT taking up their quarrel or taking hold of that particular torch.

  4. For those who bring up WWII, let us remember that without WWI it never would have happened. American intervention in the war lead to a crushing defeat for the Germans and subsequent crippling reparations payments that created the environment in which Hitler could rise to power. Actually, many problems we face today can be traced back to that war, including Iraq.

    I understand that Newfoundland suffered especially heavy losses during WWI from which it never recovered until after the Great Depression. Can anyone enlighten me on this?

  5. See my note under “Happy Birthday.” BAR

  6. David, very good point about the direct link between WW1 and WW2. I really believe the maineffect of war is to breed more war.

    Newfoundland did suffer very heavy losses, both in terms of loss of life and also its war debt. The worst single-day loss of life in WW1 was, I think, the loss of a huge proportion of the Newfoundland Regiment at the Battle of Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916, but that was certainly not our only loss. Newfoundland of the 20s and 30s was crippled by the loss of so many potential leaders among the young men who died in the war, and by the tremendous burden of debt from the war. It was probably a major contributing factor to the loss of our independence as a nation in 1949.

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