The trouble with war

Following on from yesterday’s post about Remembrance Day and my recent thoughts about venerating the military, I thought I would expand a bit on the subject based on some of the conversations I’ve had.

As I said in my previous post, it is interesting that we give so much respect to those who gave their live in war, but so little respect to those who gave their life to keep our supermarkets stocked with fish, or our power plants stocked with coal – even though fishing and mining are high fatality industries. You’re right, I wouldn’t want to go to war and I’m glad someone else is willing to do it, but I would equally hate working down a mine!

The standard response to such a question is that people choose to work as fishermen and miners, but then people choose to sign up to the military as well. We don’t operate any kind of conscription in the UK, beyond that of economic conscription that I discussed in my previous post, so every solider in the army today signed up voluntarily, and is handsomely rewarded for it. Interestingly, I’ve never heard anyone say “no, don’t bother paying me, I’m joining because it’s the right thing to do, not for the money.”

It becomes a different matter when we were talking about actual conscription during the world wars, when people were forced to go to war. But the sad reality of it is, if you were conscripted into the army, that wasn’t really a noble sacrifice was it, because you didn’t have a choice. It’s a pretty horrible truth, but a truth none the less.

Actually, the truth is much more horrible when you think about conscription. It wasn’t that these people chose to die for their country, it’s that we, as a society, murdered them. We executed them; sent them to their death. They didn’t decide to go and die, we made them go and die. If anything, Remembrance Day should share a similar tone to Holocaust Memorial Day.

What I found most interesting about the attitudes of people surrounding Remembrance Day, was how closely it fits in with what I said in my previous post about venerating the military. The upper classes sending the lower classes to die in their wars.

This was most apparently in specifically two of my friends, Kieran who retweeted extensively on the subject and Rebecca whose idea it was to go out to the war memorial on November 11th. Now, neither of these are people are either royalty nor right wing nutters. I consider them both good friends, but they are both from well off backgrounds and if I was to pick the two of my friends most likely to vote Conservative, I would pick those two (except for Norm, who I suspect mostly votes Conservative because even though he wants to vote Labour now, could never admit he was wrong about a political party 😉 ).

Indeed, when I had a discussion with Rebecca about it, and pointed out that if you sentence someone to death using conscription (it’s a to lot easier because you don’t have to bother with that whole trial by their peers nonsense), then it’s not really a noble sacrifice because they didn’t choose it, she seemed to get very flustered and told me to “just stop it now.”

That upset me somewhat because I felt like she was trying to claim the moral high ground, even though she was speaking on the pro-war side and I was suggesting it isn’t cool to sent working class people to their death just so our dirty work can get done. But this isn’t about my sensitive emotional centre carefully wrapped in an excessive amount of hair.

The response struck me as that of a religious believer when you’ve just found a massive problem with their worldview. They don’t know what to do. “You can’t say that – that’s not on the script! Don’t you understand how this works. We have to maintain the veneer or all the poor people will realise that our wars aren’t worth them dying for.”

Though as I discussed in my previous post, just because I feel that is the truth, doesn’t provide an answer as to what to do about it. Maybe we do need to keep even our own minds ignorant of the beast below.



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This entry was posted on Monday, December 5th, 2011 at 12:05 pm and is filed under Religion & Politics, Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.