Sunday, 4 May 2014

War and Peace, Elements of the Human Condition

I have been watching the BBC2 TV series, Generation War: Our Mothers, Our Fathers that follows the lives of five German friends during World War II. It is an apt reminder of not only the horrors of war but also how the real victims of any conflict are those ordinary men and women, on both sides, struggling to survive and left to pick up the pieces both as it progresses and when it is all over. Events in various parts of the world today - Syria and Ukraine to name but two - are a cruel reminder of history’s penchant for repeating itself.

This year, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. It is especially disturbing, therefore, even if only (dangerous) rhetoric, that President Arseny Yatseniuk of Ukraine should be accusing Russia’s President Putin of trying to start World War III. He also warned the crisis in his country could spread throughout the rest of Europe. We may like to think such a thing could never happen, but history tells us differently.

People fight, initially at least, because they believe or are led to believe they are in the right and any opposing force has to be in the wrong. It is one of humanity’s greater tragedies that there are at least two sides to every conflict, and that we believe or are led to believe we are free to choose if only for freedom’s own sake. Yet, win or lose, the Mandarins of Power, for all they may well undergo a cosmetic transformation,  remain free to stoke the ashes, penetrate the dust, and go about their business in much the same way as before…


Ready to fight,
kill or be killed for the right
to live, be free,
and let others, too, go free
from whatever cage
imposed on us by powers that be
last glimpsed haunting
shadowy corridors, responsibility
taking cover in morality

In the thick of a war
against the inner self, denying
mind, body, and spirit,
intent only upon survival
of the fittest,
no time to consider the weak
and vulnerable except
to defend a moral high ground
for their sakes

Battles lost or won,
history will make out it was all
for the best
in the longer run of humanity’s
kinder attributes,
winners and losers joining forces
to create a better world,
take a more constructive view on
bettering its betters

Ashes, to ashes, century to century;
opposing forces, same cover story

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

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