I strongly disapprove of the expression Great War.
It was grand at best if you ask me. And it pales in comparison with the Mighty Massacre. Or the Brilliant Genocide. Or the Deadly Holocaust. Or the Sick Pandemic. Or the Rapid Tsunami. Or the Truly Fucking Excellent Second World War (now, that one was incredibly cool).
I have over a number of lunchtime breaks visited and revisited this brilliantly put together exhibition in the Dun Laoghaire town hall.
One session was not enough to take it all in. Because
a- I have the attention span of an ADHD butterfly
b- It was all too depressing for one lunch break, squeezed between a conference call and a blame storming session
Having grown up within one hour’s drive of Verdun and its acres upon acres of perfectly aligned white crosses and meticulously arranged ossuary, I had failed to realise just how far-reaching the consequences of this ignominy were. Perhaps the term world war should have been a clue…
All the villages in my native Lorraine and everywhere in France have their Monument aux Morts, as I am sure their German counterparts have, with the long list of names representing a large chunk of a whole generation of young (and not so young) lads who lost their lives in the surreal but all too nefarious experiment that was the trenches war.
The realisation that there was also a big contingent of young lads and a few lasses from the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area who saw the last spark of their twenty odd years fizzle out slowly in the mud of Ypres or go in a flash at Gallipoli was a big surprise.
I never expected their number to be so significant.
There were families from Dun Laoghaire, Deansgrange, Monkstown who lost one, two, some of them three (!!!) sons in a far away war.
The posters of the recruiting officers were a harrowing read. There is an incredible sadness inherent to these pictures of young lads going away on a bit of an expedition, with a big smile on their face and butterflies in their stomach, a mixture of fear and excitement at the thought of going away from home for the first time.
What cruel irony there is in the discrepancy between their 1915 youthful innocence and the knowledge for the 2014 reader of the Dark Beast that was awaiting them in the Marne, in Belgium, in Turkey.
What a waste. What a crime against humanity. Against a section of humanity. A whole generation.
I reject patriotism.
Patriotism is a celebration of the brilliance of the time/place/nationality we are at right now. A justification for the past massacres. A systematic rejection of the what-could-have been (shudder of utter horror). A reviling of the evil that could be us, had the Other won. With always a notion that the sacrifice of Ours was not in vain.
Lost in our lust for the purchase of the next iPad, our celebration of our singular greatness, we tend to forget that our needs, traits, habits are pretty much universal. The nationality around them is but a flimsy packaging.
We want more than the neighbour. We want it now. At all cost.
Because we are worth it. And the Other isn’t.
And we are prepared to defend what We have accumulated over the centuries with our lives.
Against the Other.
That murdering bastard.