It is all very well me spouting off about how much I enjoy ignoring the rest of the world. And I have been advocating taking time away from the internet, and particularly news and facebook for quite some time. In fact, in my recent fortnight off work, I successfully ignored the entire online world for the whole time I was off. I liked it. And when I returned to work I was quite busy, and continued to not read online news, or mess about on facebook and twitter all day. I was also eating my breakfast, lunch and dinner out in the garden, away from the TV, and it left me all content and happy and marvellous inside.
All well and good you may say, well done you smug git, now leave us alone. But it turns out that if quite a large part of what you enjoy doing involves writing stuff about other stuff, you need to be in touch with the other stuff to have any ideas. Did any of that make sense? Probably not, but anyhow, I haven’t so much as written a note down on the back of an old receipt for a thing I should write later on in nearly a month. Because I have been sitting about in the sunshine all content and happy. So, if you rely on being annoyed at other people either for a living, or just for a hobby (like what I do) then you may have to keep on scrolling down people’s facebook feeds and being disappointed at the pictures from Britain First they are sharing, and hating their children and pets for being in your face all the time. Your children and pets are different of course, everybody loves seeing them, otherwise they wouldn’t keep ‘liking’ them all the time would they? Point being that moderation is a fine thing in all aspects of one’s life. Just as the odd drink won’t do you any harm, have a squizz at the internet once a day, keep in the loop a bit, you’ll be fine, the cat pictures are good.
Anyhow, none of this is really the point I wanted to make. It was more upsetting when I finally returned to looking at the internet, watching the news and reading the papers again, as the news hadn’t changed. Israel and Palestine at it again (really not going to get into that right now) and government cuts to essential services, while giving tax breaks to the ‘wealth creators’ so they don’t leave and join their off shore bank accounts. And then came the centenary of the first world war.
Let it be said from the off that the first world war was an almighty cock up from start to finish, and really there is nothing worth celebrating about any war. This one was the last great imperial land grab, nobody was fighting for anybody else’s freedom and it is naïve at best to try and paint it that way. Even a hundred years later no two historians can agree on the cause of this disaster, let alone who managed to balls up the treaty at the end so completely.
Nothing at all was achieved as the old method of lining up two armies and making them run at each other turned out to not work as well as it used to before machine guns, tanks and aerial bombing raids. Most of Europe lost almost an entire generation, no real gains were made by any sides, and the treaty was cocked up so badly we had to go back and have a rematch again a scant twenty years later, wiping out the next generation as well. So excuse me if I think all the commemorations of ‘heroism’ are missing the point a bit. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but we have learned absolutely fuck all about anything in the hundred years since. Have a look at Gaza and Iraq if you aren’t sure about that. Gaza is still suffering the fall out from the wars of the mid twentieth century and the ridiculousness of carving up land masses between different owners.
I can’t help thinking that the money that is being spent on yet more monuments (every village and town in this country already has a war memorial in it already, we don’t need more) might be better spent on putting back the services for the mentally and physically handicapped that we are systematically destroying. Ironically, those very heroes of 1914-18 that we are remembering would be left with nowhere to live and no help with the terrible mental and physical scarring that they were left with after their ordeals if they were living today. Much as they were at the time if they weren’t independently wealthy.
As to the wonderful plan of only having one light on in your home between 10 and 11 on the very anniversary of the outbreak of war, in memoriam to Sir Edward Grey’s enigmatic quote ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime’ was another example of our current awful tendency to conspicuous, self-aggrandising displays of what good people we are. I suspect everybody that did it left the fucking Telly on as well, or sat and surfed the interwebs at the same time. Certainly my facebook feed was full of pictures of candles with ‘remembrance’ captions all over them. As I said, ego-stroking, conspicuous, look at me wankery of the crappest nature. I also worry that some godawful PR company got paid a ton of cash to come up with it, though I haven’t checked, as I don’t want to be right. Apologies to anybody who actually sat in front of a candle in quiet contemplation for an hour, I have no problem with you if it helped you, otherwise, I fail to see the point.
Obviously Britain first got their oars in with their poppy covered memes, taunting you to share their page and get them likes, by saying only 1% will do it. Awful, nasty, political posturing of the most shameful kind, and many people I like, who would have nothing to do with Britain First still shared that fucking picture, because they like the sentiment. I will not apologise for the many comments I left that merely said ‘check your source and change your mind’.
I have no problem with remembering the victims of all wars, and am looking forward very much to next years centenaries of Agincourt and Waterloo, I will be lighting candles on St Crispins day, while quoting Shakespeare on Twitter. Oh, and singing along to Abba with my hand inside my coat and a funny hat on at my stepdaughter on her 22nd birthday. Except these centenaries aren’t going to happen are they? Point is, that on armistice day, every year, we put aside everything, and stop and remember everyone who has ever been duped into doing the dirty work for the power-mongers and gotten themselves killed in the process. And that’s a good thing, and also perhaps, enough. I can’t take four more years of airbrushed history being forced down my throat in every ‘news’ bulletin. If the anniversary of a thing from a century ago is the top story when UN shelters are being bombed by a US sponsored democratic state, then something has gone very wrong.
There will always be somebody making a lot of money from wars, and as long as they keep fooling the common man (whoever he is) that the wars need fighting, then nothing is going to change. Learn the real lessons of the big bad wars of the twentieth century, and don’t fight for anybody but yourself. Anybody who tells you the trenches of Belgium were the worst human suffering ever and that you are being disrespectful knows nothing of history. Napoleon’s russian campaign was no fun for anyone, neither was Hitler’s. And living in Aztec times was no fun at all, particularly when Cortez came along. You can’t just pick one awful thing from history and keep on banging on about it, it will lose all impact.
“I would like to see every single soldier on every single side, just take off your helmet, unbuckle your kit, lay down your rifle, and set down at the side of some shady lane, and say, nope, I ain’t a gonna kill nobody. Plenty of rich folks wants to fight. Give them the guns.” ~ Woody Guthrie