My digital SLR is at the manufacturers for repair, so while there are beautiful, snowy Christmas scenes beyond my window (such as the above, taken with my mobile phone), I’m unable to go out and fill my SD card with clichéd images of the UK under snow.
The snow added a little more festivity to Christmas 2014 – and for me personally, it was an interesting one. I spent it with my ageing parents and other members of my family, and in quiet periods read Kierkegaard and pondered life and the meaning thereof. Meanwhile the media theme for this holiday period seemed to be the centenary of what they now choose to call the great war. These labels are odd. Firstly this war was not great in either sense of the word (the second world war was bigger, and war ain’t great). Even the other moniker for this conflict the first world war also misses the mark because it was more of a European rather than a world war.
Anyway, enough of my carping. Let’s get on shall we.
The specific focus of media coverage was the well-documented Christmas day armistice, during which the troops in opposing trenches spontaneously ceased hostilities for a few hours. They shook hands, exchanged drinks, smokes and thoughts, and enjoyed an impromptu kick around in no-man’s-land. Our broadcasters are presenting this event to us as some kind of miracle of war; a modern fable, a wonderful story, which you can just tell that they are gearing up to promulgate through the ages. A new tradition like Christmas jumpers, to join the old ones like Scrooge and the events of the nativity.
Well let’s stop this baloney in its tracks right now shall we. Firstly this was no “miracle of war”. This was people doing what people do, getting on. The event was no outlier, it was normal. War is the outlier.
Let’s turn this discourse on its head – the Christmas day armistice is nothing to be celebrated over and above the man who speaks to you at the bus stop, or who returns your lost purse, or who helps to push your car when it is stuck in the snow. I’m with Aristotle and Kant – humans tend to goodness, there’s a moral law within. It’s what we do.
What should be remembered, pointed out or marked annually, is the madness of war. It is the conscription of innocent, impressionable young men to kill others who they would probably rather have a drink with or join in a game of football. We should point out that the personal sacrifices that these young men and their families, and the other victims make are often for the sake of high ambition, greed and political machinations which are no part of their world. This is what we should remember.
Look, I’m a peace lover and almost a pacifist, but not completely. There are times when one needs to fight; to save people in concentration camps or other such human nightmares. But during all war, ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ I believe that we should always try to keep in mind that it is madness. It’s an international nervous breakdown. We should commemorate this down the centuries, and not some manipulative ideas of ‘normality as miracle’.
I’m done. That’s my alternative Christmas message for y’all to ponder. All that’s left is for me to wish the WordPress massive a peaceful 2015, a year in which you can drink and have fun with strangers and not be considered an outlier for doing so.