EVER SINCE November 1919 the 11th of November has been designated Remembrance Day throughout the Commonwealth, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month having been set aside by decree of King George V as a time of “remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace.”
From the above follow a few general principles derived from but also exceeding the strict call to remember “the men and women who have served and continue to serve.” It is these principles which I try to keep in mind, and in no special order they are as follows:
– The comforts and security of modern civilization have been purchased with blood, and just as it was in the past, at this very moment others are endangered at the work of repelling those who would do you and your way of life harm.
– There is no such thing as a good war. Without exception war is brutal, tedious, violent, wasteful, disgusting and a case of moral failure. In some instances however it may be necessary and for this reason defensible.
– The actual business of murder is a very small part of war, most veterans having served as cooks, mechanics, machinists, deliverers, engineers, and so on — and most very far from the lines of battle. War for the great majority of veterans consisted of tedium, deprivation, discomfort and inconvenience, rather than the boredom punctuated by horror experienced at the front. In short, the notion of war as a heroic endeavour is empty nonsense.
– All war is at least in part a sacrifice of the lower classes’ children to the business of defending the property and interests of a small group of privileged adults, and there is no avoiding the fact that even wars undertaken on defensible principles will have a certain amount of this ugly fact mixed in.
– No one who has never participated in battle can know what it is like to do so.
– In the time of war, attacks upon language and intellectual honesty and the peacetime standards of decency may be taken as granted. The greatest challenge faced by the civilian throughout wartime is to sort the lies from the truth and the lazy misrepresentations from the active attempts to deceive, and not to fall into the habit of political and moral barbarism which will become commonplace.
– Civilization is a fragile thing. At any given moment, war is closer than we allow ourselves to believe.
– The study of history is a moral duty of the citizen. It is quite impossible to absorb any of the preceding without actively possessing historical consciousness.