The day that I write this is the 11th November 2017. It is 99 years to the day that the First World War, the Great War ended. Traditionally in the UK two minutes of silence are undertaken at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Invariably though I forget to do this, or more accurately, I get distracted by something and 11am comes and goes outwith my awareness. I doubt also that I would be able to concentrate on remembering the war dead for two minutes either, my autistic brain just isn’t built like that. I do however have tremendous respect for people that join/joined the Armed Forces because I think it shows a dedication to something other than themselves.
I thought about becoming a Naval boat designer when I was eighteen. The Navy is in my blood to some extent and I grew up near one of the UK’s major naval ship bases. I love to sail. I love the open water. I love how in tune with nature one has to become in order to sail. I don’t however have sea legs and get terribly seasick. I have never ventured into the open sea, coastal sailing can be too rough for me. I have seen videos of naval boats out in open water in the middle of a storm. I am so glad I did not join the navy.
Whenever I pass by a war memorial I try to stop and read all the names on it. I don’t know what good that does, but in some way I hope it means somebody is remembering the sacrifice they made for the families and friends. I know the general term is to lay down your life for your country but “country” is such an ambiguous word that it is a concept that makes no sense to me. Perhaps I stop to show appreciation for their death even though they weren’t thinking about me when they went to war.
I do not think I could cope with being sent to war. Have you ever wondered which of the forces you would join if you were called up? Being so short sighted I thought the only one that would take me would be the air force, though perhaps the navy might consider me too. As in life though I suspect I would be of better use as a back room lad, organising, strategizing or creating. Front line war would have provoked sensory overload in me, perhaps I would have shut down if I was in the First World War trenches but more likely I would have run away in one direction or another. Shot by an enemy sniper or by firing squad for dissertation either way I would be dead.
I have never wanted to harm another soul so the whole concept of war is appalling to me. If it was just me in the equation, I would probably prefer to die than kill somebody else, but going to war means defending your friends and family against harm. It wouldn’t be just the friends back home either, it would be your company, shipmates, or squadron too. Your war time family would probably become the most important because without their help, you had a greater chance of death. Perhaps I would be Conscientious Objector, I have the mentality for it, but wartime brings out the worst of people on both sides. It can’t have been easy to refuse to go to war on the grounds of peace when everybody around you, hated you for it.
Fundamentally I think war is immoral. It shouldn’t happen in a thinking world but somehow people forget this. They want more than they have at the moment. I wonder if it all comes down to wanting to be secure. Secure in your borders and attacks against your way of life. Security in living your life the way you always have for instance by making sure you have access to oil. It seems to me that it is the perceived threat that endangers us all. Why are people so scared of change? Why should you have to change? I am autistic, the last thing I want is change going on around me but we do not live in a bubble. We interact in the world. The world changes and so the place where we live changes too.
I do not feel threatened by religions per se but I do feel threatened when somebody decides that they are right and others are wrong. Black and white thinking without compromise is the danger. We need to look at the similarities not the differences. Perhaps you think I am rude when I say I don’t like the food you serve me, but you grew up in a culture where it is important to always be polite, whereas my culture tells me to always be truthful. But rather than get hung up on our differences how about seeing that both cultures prefer people to show respect no matter how that is done.
I guess you could argue that without clear decisions nothing will get done and perhaps you are right. There are threats today that some perceive as unimportant and that others think are all important. If life in general is being endangered then we can’t wait until everybody reaches a consensus. Generally I think humans are too obsessed with getting things done sooner than later, we don’t play the long game over multiple generations. Politicians must be seen to be doing something within their elected term, or at least they think they do. I hope though that we humans as a whole can agree on the fundamental principal without getting caught up in the detail. With a principal people can make their own way forward and maybe someday, one of the many ways forward turns out to be the best way forward. Then maybe the world will agree on how to the way to fulfil the principal.
I would like to live in a world without wars but I don’t. Perhaps we all want to preserve what is ours and protect it from threats, but the question must be how real are those threats? I hate all killing but why do some people feel compelled to kill others? What has happened in their lives to believe they need to extinguish a threat? What is the agenda behind the action?
We need to build bridges not avoid them. Perhaps remember all those on both sides that died in the wars might be a way of doing that.