Maybe instead of honoring the dead we should prosecute the ones who sent them to their deaths?

December 12, 2006

On November the 11th there was Remembrance Day in Canada. A Day where “the sacrifice” that many young men (and these days women) have made in the name of…. Well, whatever seem political opportune were made.

In the case of Canada it is “Vimy Ridge” or “World War II” that is “fondly” remembered.

But I guess what many people do not remember is that Remembrance Day (or Veterans Day in the US) is an invention that only exists since World War I.

Up until World War I there was no “remembering” the common soldier. They followed the call of their leader into war, and if they came back, great, if not, though. If a General or Officer was killed (who were mostly of noble birth) a state funeral was usually common, monuments were being built.

But with the meat grinder of World War I and the advent of mass media (and photography) instead of “noble” wars something else had to be found that could mobilize the masses.

In a way one could say the good old days were better (read, pre World War I) when the Governments didn’t had to lie, they just decided to go to war, and as it were mainly Monarchies nobody really had a say in it. Off they went to war, some came back, some came partially back and a lot didn’t come back at all, but that was just life.

But in the early 20th century the political climate started to change, “democracy” started to pour in and the majority of people started to feel they should have some kind of say in things.

It is in that way sort of interesting to note that it seems to be mainly the Commonwealth States that have a form of Remembrance Day every year, having grown up in Germany I look at this still a bit in awe, because Germany does not mourn it’s war dead.

This of course is in part due to World War II and the Nazi Regime, the idea to mourn those who helped an “evil” (it’s in quotes, because what is evil is usually defined by history, not humans) Government to slaughter people should not be remembered, hence we would consider maybe going to war again.

And this is where I have to wonder if Remembrance Day (and the like) are actually dangerous, they condition people to think of war as something noble, where easily the “support our troops or shut up” mentality kicks in.

War is a continuation of politics by other means.

Was coined by von Clausewitz in his book “On War“. Yet, Remembrance Day et. al. never seem to bring up politics. It is always about “heroics” about the implication that we should aspire to the same sacrifices without questioning, after all to question those sacrifices is “cheapening” the death of these men and women.

But is it really? The modern line of reasoning for “Why we Fight” the current wars is to bring “Freedom and Democracy” to those who don’t have it. But at the same time at home we should just shut up and get in line?

Maybe, instead of remembering the dead, we should remember those who sent them to their deaths, in a lot of cases for the wrong reasons. Obviously throughout history our perception on these conflicts has changed, there is an “established canon” in societies mind that makes their sacrifices noble, but by pointing out that they were just cogs in the machine of power, do we really do them a disservice? Or aren’t we doing what these holidays are supposed to do: “Never Again!” Preventing more young people dying for the power hunger of a few old men?

It takes good people to do nothing for bad things to happen.



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