100 years ago today, August 4th, 1914, Britain entered the First World War ‘in defence of little Belgium’.
It would be four long years of pointless, senseless slaughter, ‘the war to end all wars’ until we -the human race- opted for a sequel only 21 years later.
At the going down of the sun…
My heart is heavy right now, thinking back over that century, and of how old men without much danger to themselves often sent young men, almost an entire generation of Britain’s young men, out to die in a hail of bullets as they ‘went over the top’ without much chance to even fire a shot back or properly defend themselves. The chances are that, wherever you are in the world, your nation has been involved, centrally or peripherally, to some conflict which has blighted a generation of its young.
Those who did return from WW1 were often physically or mentally destroyed. I’m personally aware of one man who fought in the artillery in the Second World War, who taught me at school, who would essentially ‘fold up’ at the sound of, say, a car back-firing. The memories flooded back. The friends lost. A lifetime of mental torture.
OK, so you’re younger than me, perhaps, and these things don’t resonate in quite the same manner to you as they do to me. But wherever you are in the world, you will remember wars in Iraq, 9/11, conflict in the Balkans, life-changing events involving large numbers of innocent casualties.
It’s important we remember. It’s important we educate our young people to be alert to the dangers of war, of hate, of dogma, of blind faith. Because right now it seems the world is in a more dangerous place than it ever has been in my lifetime. I’m over 50 now, yes, that old, and I can remember the great achievements of man in my lifetime. Man landing on the moon in 1969. Man eradicating smallpox in 1979. Reagan & Gorbachev reaching historic nuclear arms treaties to rid the world of ‘the cold war’ (although we can note that there are concerted attempts by one idiot to rekindle that big freeze (if that doesn’t mix metaphors too much).
I also remember some dark, dark days of humanity. Massacre at the Olympic Games in 1972. Terrorism. Plane hijacks. 9/11. A never ending collection of isolated wars around the globe in which, again, the young were sent out to fight wars at enormous, lifelong suffering to themselves (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq1, Iraq2, The Balkans, and others, all in my lifetime). Each time, it has appeared that humanity has been prepared to plumb the depths of its own inhumanity. The current situation in the Middle East, war crimes and genocide, is another demonstration of that.
Second Life is a wonderful creation. Largely devoid of politics (if you leave the ‘benign dictatorship’ of Linden Labs aside, and while that assessment of their role is often voiced, I also think it’s also over-stated), we have the chance to meet people from around the globe. We don’t know what they are a lot of the time. Their colour, religion, sexual orientation, politics are all left to one side. We encounter other avatars and treat them as humans. And wherever they’re from, they react as humans. Be honest, you’ve met people in SL you’d never have had the opportunity to encounter in RL, haven’t you? And they’ve had the same human values you possess, don’t they? Could the politicians around the world learn a little from this lack of pigeon-holing? I don’t know. I’m sure I could write a Ph.D. thesis on that topic if it hasn’t already been done.
My role in SLN is ‘publisher’. In reality, it means I simply bankroll it in an almost invisible ‘back office’ role. And nothing gives me greater delight than in see those who give their time and enthusiasm to bring you the blog posting about events in SL that provide you, its readers, the opportunity to come together as one big family of keyboard-driven pixel ‘humans’ (or in animated human form, at least, driven by the humans at the keyboard) without politics being part of the gig, without sexual orientation being an issue, without skin colour being noticed (I do note that, for some users, the post-feminist male is still a matter that needs addressing).
Harry’s managed to find a cenotaph in SL (at the Argentan WW2 sim) to accompany this post. It should remind us that we live in difficult times, and that we should always be alert to the dangers that little men with big power pose a danger to all of us. Get out there into SL and have a conversation with someone from a different part of the globe. Come to realise that they’re just the same as you or me. No different.
My experience of globetrotting has been that, wherever I’ve gone, I’ve been treated with kindness by strangers, in some weird locations. Everyone has the same basic human qualities and instincts we we’re rid of the agendas being driven by politicians.
I’ve asked Pookes not to make any other SLN postings today (I don’t like to interfere with how she, Ella, Harry & Diane operate, they do a fantastic job, but today should maybe be an exception to my hands-off role) and allow this post to stand alone for today’s date. Remember those who’ve fallen, wherever you are. And take a moment to remember their ‘enemies’ who were & are probably not that much different from themselves. Cannon fodder. ‘Collateral damage’. And ask what it was all about.
(note: many thanks to Pookes for typing up my words in a format that could be used on the blog, and to Harry for sourcing that cenotaph photo)