Sunday 11 November 2018

Thoughts For Armistice Day

I could not go myself today to the local war memorial for the two minutes silence, young children do not understand such things and I could not have relied on them to stay quiet. Instead I watched the ceremonies at the Cenotaph on television.

Of the bombastic nationalism that some say surrounds Remembrance day nowadays, there was no sign. Instead the German president laid his wreath next to that of the other assembled dignitaries of a dozen other countries of the Commonwealth under the eyes of the Queen and the assembled veterans.

Today marks the final significant anniversary of the First World War in which there are still people alive who remember the conflict, albeit as children. It demonstrates the process by which that war (and all other events of more than 100 years ago) stops being a lived event and starts being part of a history that people know only from books and television programs.

It is common now to say that, with the passing of the war generation, and without their reservoir of experience and their guidance, we will make the same mistakes that they made. Indeed France's President Macron said as much at today's ceremony in Paris.

I am not so sure this is the case, instead we seem to be inventing a whole new set of new mistakes which the war-generation's wisdom might have advised us against based on lived experience, but the mere knowledge of the historical record of their times does not immunise us against. Brexit is one of these mistakes, Trump another.

And of course, at it's most basic, today's ceremonies reminds us that nothing lasts for ever, not even the conflict that Lloyd George called "the most terrible war that has ever scourged mankind", and that everything eventually passes.

[Picture: Siegfried Sassoon, 1915, via Wiki]

1 comment:

justrecently said...

I seem to remember one or two generations - in Germany - that were too skeptical to fall for "simple solutions", if not three (I'm not sure if this includes mine - maybe it does.) But that was only after WW2. Both world wars had a brutalizing effect here, but only the second also had a sobering effect.

Sobriety may be boring, but it's a good thing. We can't do without it, but many of us are trying to do away with it. That for one is a mistake that repeats itself, and one of its guises is a press that appeals to peoples' nerves, rather than to their minds.