Remembrances of War

Every year on November 11, Canadians commemorate Remembrance Day in memory of those who perished during World War I. Some 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died during what is called the “Great War”, though I fail to see anything great about it. There is no doubt there was no shortage of incredible bravery and sacrifice during those four bloody years of war, yet it was a war that happened only because of the vanity and hubris of a small number of maniacal monarchs and political leaders determined to exercise their military muscle in the pursuit of reactionary imperialistic ambitions.
At its end, it was dubbed as the “War to End all Wars”, but of course that is not the way it turned out. A little over two decades later, World War II broke out and resulted in even more fatalities, estimated at between 50 to 85 million people. That was followed by the Korean War with some 1.2 million dead and the Vietnam War with about a million. We should also not forget the seemingly unending conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Central America, the Pacific and Southern Asia that have added millions and millions more to the body count over the past century. As much as we may like to think that we live in a civilized world, war is as prevalent and, because of modern technology, in many ways deadlier than at any time in the history of mankind.
Ukrainians have suffered more than their fair share of war’s brutality during their thousand year history, and this continues to today. Each morning as I check on the situation in the Donbas through the Internet, the death count continues to mount, as the latest imperialistic maniac of a Russian Tsar, Vladimir Putin, continues to display the barbaric tendencies inherited from his predecessors. War, killing, death and destruction – how and why do we in the 21st century continue to tolerate such barbaric practices as a legitimate tool in the achievement of any kind of political or social goal? And yet we do.
Political leaders manipulate the truth, foment hatred and spend countless millions on weapons of mass destruction. Priests, ministers and religious leaders, who one would think should know better, continue to bless endless columns of young troops heading off to war and for many, a short future ending in death or dismemberment. Greed, nationalism, revenge, poverty and fanaticism weave their deadly spells throughout the world and people die. It is a vicious circle that has been around since time immemorial and shows no signs of abating.
And so every year people gather on Remembrance Day and VE Day and Veterans Day and Memorial Day and Independence Day and Heroes Day and Holocaust Memorial Day and Holodomor Memorial Day, and any of a large number of similar days, to remember the sacrifices made and the lives lost. Stories are told, speeches are made, tears are shed. And then we go back to business as usual until the next conflict and the next war.
Why is it that in our day and age, when we have made so many advances in science and learning, in spreading democracy and human rights throughout the globe, in gaining a better understanding of human psychology and behavior, that we still resort to war and killing to resolve even the most basic political and economic issues.
Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the Putins, the Ayatollahs, the Bin Ladens, the Lenins and Stalins and Kaisers and Hitlers and Kim Jong-ils, and yes, even the George Bushes, and march off to unnecessary and questionable wars that have cost us so many lives. Why has there been so little real effort made to eliminate war as a tool to achieve anything?
Those young Ukrainians that have been fighting and dying in the Donbas are undoubtedly fighting a “just” war against a barbaric invading foe. The point is that we should have figured out a way by now to ensure that purveyors of evil such as Putin are never able to start and pursue such a conflict in the first place.
It is long overdue that people throughout the world take upon themselves the cause of eliminating war itself. The creation of the United Nations was a good first step, but one that regrettably has not evolved or progressed beyond a symbolic effect. It is imperative that we make ending war a civilizational priority, or we may not have “civilization” for much longer.