As the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War is being marked around the world, I thought that I would share some of my thoughts about this war, and its legacy.
My maternal grandfather and all of his male cousins fought in this war, and Victor, his cousin, died in the conflict. The First World War marked him; and like many of his compatriots, he did not talk about it. It was indescribably horrible.
So many people died in this war. Lives were taken, altered and futures changed. In the aftermath of the war those touched by it were moved to change. They began to call the war “the war to end all wars,” and vowed “never again” and “never forget.” The great grief and the desire to see that such sacrifice was not in vain is most visible in the construction of memorials to the fallen. Every town, neighbourhood, business, and country built cenotaphs, erected plaques and named buildings in honour of the dead.
But humans are rather foolish, and very quick to forget. We haven’t learned from their blood and sacrifice. Their monuments remind us of very little; or rather we don’t internalize the message of loss. Wars continue to be waged. As we commemorate a hundred years since the start of the First World War numerous armed conflicts are underway.
How can we really mark the First World War’s centenary? I believe it is by honouring life, to learn from the enormous sacrifices made, and the loss of so many people. No issue should be resolved by the taking of lives. Rather than letting people die for a cause, give them a chance to live.