I finally read War and Peace last year; it was better than I expected because it actually doesn’t distort the unheroic chaos that is war. It is not art in the service of Propaganda, something all too common in our day. It describes in great detail Napoleon’s battles in Russia, but it’s fundamentally about the utter futility of war. There have been a lot of wars since then; we can’t seem to stop. Is it because it’s so much fun, such good business, or what? It is said that the first casualty of war is Truth, and in this era of endless wars, we also get endless lies, trotted out every year during Remembrance Day.
Every year, we ‘honour’ veterans; we wear poppies, we pretend we know what those Vets endured. YouTube, being the most democratic thing ever invented, will tell you both the Truth and the Lies. Anyone with access to a computer can easily find both sides of the war equation. With Remembrance Day looming just ahead, do yourself a favour and enter Remembrance Day on YouTube. Wow. All those earnest young people, posing as ‘rockers’ and singing the praises of our soldiers ‘on the highway of heroes’, about ‘the love that pays the price’. All those poems and marching soldiers, all those heavily edited images of war and soldiers in coffins, and Bryan Adams crooning softly in the background about the guns being silent.
It’s all lies.
The Truth about war cannot be shown; it has never been shown, and for good reason: nobody would ever go to war again. So says Chris Hedges, offering up an antidote to the lies we tend to swallow. Have a look; he speaks from experience as a 20 year war correspondent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcShsgdWSkg
He says that he, son of a minister and idealistic Harvard grad, became ‘addicted to the adrenaline rush of battle’. And that he sunk to the level of a child, bargaining with God to spare him. When he was, it was all a cosmic joke he had ‘won’. He describes his own and other war correspondents’ state of mind as ‘insane’. And he answers my question: war is simply the most powerful drug known to man that destroys our capacity to live any other way: you become a junkie. Perhaps we are living in a culture that is as addicted to war as Hedges once was? He says all this and more during a 2014 talk at an American University, in conjunction with “Mr Fish”, a young, radically brilliant cartoonist whose work is everywhere, even in this Blog. Together, they do a fine job of demolishing the myths that governments have always fed to a gullible population about ‘heroism’ and ‘defending our freedoms’.
Canadians, to their credit, were never into excessive flag waving patriotism until Mr. Harper made it cool. So now, we wave a lot of big flags, just like the Americans have always done. Our sensibilities, once so finely attuned to keeping the peace, not waging wars all over the globe, have been dulled. We seem to be okay with this type of ‘patriotism’ now, thanks to a decade of glorifying the military, the police, anyone in uniform.
The Nazis were very fond of their uniforms and flags as well; perhaps we should remember that fact lest we forget that war is an insanely addictive drug and we live in an addicted culture.