I apologize for not doing the vignettes and promo post. I’ll do it sometime this week.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading of books (mostly mysteries, which are an amazing recreation of every day life and what people thought because their thing is to immerse you in daily life and sound plausible/likely) written in the early 20th century.
The bad ideas that are devouring Western civilization were there before WWI, but it was only after WWI that they took hold of population at large and went viral.
Now, there are tons of reasons for that. Technology allowed for faster, better and cheaper manufacturing, which in turn grew cities and shrunk the countryside, weakening family bonds. Transportation also became faster, cheaper and easier.
Oh, and we finally had enough surplus that you could be very, very silly without starving to death.
Oh, yeah, and the mass production led to mass distribution of ideas. The strongholds of transmission of those were immediately seized by the crackpots, who are the people who can devote their entire lives to very silly things. (I should know.)
None of that, however, justifies the corroding self-hatred of the west. Posturing against the past generation does not justify deciding every civilization is better than yours, that criminals are the only people worth helping (if you want to study those ideas, and also the protests against them you could do worse than reading Agatha Christie’s They Do It With Mirrors. Christie was a thoroughly conventional middle class woman, and so her opinions are worth reading. Though the book was written in the fifties, it “feels” older, because we all preserve something from the times of our upbringing.)
No, that was learned in the battle fields of WWI, where industrial civilization turned to mass killing in batch lots.
The fact the rot took hold in Europe first, where the destruction of WWI was more obvious would support the trauma theory.
Rivers of ink were spilled on WWI, and I haven’t read enough to tell you how much is true, and how much is ideological distortion.
I just know that somewhere after WWI and its echo WWII the bien-pensants in the west switched to thinking loving your country was a sin and that people who loved their country were war mongers.
Perhaps it is a way to justify the cowardice of the chattering classes who hoped the Soviet wolf in its inevitable victory would eat them last.
To my mind the West is still bleeding from a gaping wound inflicted by the long war of the 20th century.
It is important to neither romanticize war nor to demonize it. War is a function of being human. Yes, WWI might have been a senseless war (how do I know? All the materials on it have a point of view, and much of the later ones are corrupt) and it was certainly approached in a spirit and in a way that maximized both trauma and numbers of dead.
Was that because Western civilization is inherently bad?
Ah. I shudder to think what other civilizations given the newness of the mass-killing tech would have done.
Is industrial mass production inherently bad? Well, it lifted most of the world out of famine and dire poverty, so no. But applied to war it can be horrific. We simply didn’t (to an extent still don’t) have the technology to fight smarter.
I suspect it’s likely given that stage of civilization and production, the war would have happened, more or less as it did.
And I imagine it would have been worse if it hadn’t happened.
Which is hard to understand, or picture for us. The path not taken is ever sweeter. But real life doesn’t work like that.
On veterans day let us contemplate that war is terrible (and to be avoided if at all possible) but it’s not the most terrible thing.
And that sometimes it is needed for people to sacrifice themselves, if not for a cause or an idea, for their homes and those they love. Or as Heinlein put it “Roman mothers used to tell their sons ‘come back with your shield or on it’. Then they stopped staying it. Rome, itself, did not last much longer.” (Note I’m quoting from memory of the first time I read it which was in Portuguese. Errors of expression all mine, not RAH’s)
To be human (or really animal and from Earth) is to war. To war is to risk death. There are things worth dying for, else there’s nothing worth living for.
Our civilization has run away from the idea of things worth dying for (possibly because of the trauma of WWI) and therefore no longer knows what’s worth living for.
On this day let us remember those who gave their lives for home and country, so others could live free and flourish. Whether we are descended from them or not, their blood shaped the world we live in.
Ours it is to make sure their sacrifice — whether now viewed as futile like WWI or vital like WWII — is not forgotten nor cheapened. The left cheapens their sacrifice because they don’t understand there are things more important than self. Things worth risking sacrificing self for. It’s a strange and myopic view, one that leaves them stranded in a formless world in which only the wants and transient wishes of the self count.
We do not know, yet, the ramifications of the wars of the 20th century. It is therefore impossible to know which were vital or which were disastrous.
All we know is that without men willing to fight to protect others, only evildoers would fight — and win — and shape the world in their image.
Those who served and lost their lives are beyond thanking. But not beyond remembering.
Those who served and fought for my country and made it possible for my country to survive in a world inimical to our ideals and envious of our wealth: you have my gratitude.
May we have many more like you in future generations, and not suffer the fate of Rome.