• unenlightened
    2.8k
    Last night I heard the author, recorded when I was just born, reading his poetry. This one is nearly a century old.

    Aftermath.

    Have you forgotten yet?…
    For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
    Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
    And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
    Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
    Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
    But the past is just the same–and War’s a bloody game…
    Have you forgotten yet?…
    Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

    Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
    The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
    Do you remember the rats; and the stench
    Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
    And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
    Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

    Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
    And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
    As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
    Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
    With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
    Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

    Have you forgotten yet?…
    Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.
    — Siegfried Sassoon

    The horror of the green spring is that it brought, just a few years later, the Holocaust, and an hundred new poems. The crime of the green spring of renewal is that it readies us to do it all again.

    We are doing it now, and turning the rotting corpses into a romance, and the defeat and destruction and turning back of the tide of misery fleeing new horrors into some heroic victory. We have no right to renewal.

    We who, by good fortune, have not been shelled and gassed and bombed who have not marched and hobbled from nowhere to nowhere on rotting feet, starving and traumatised - we too are traumatised.

    This reinforced Rivers’s view that it was prolonged strain, immobility and helplessness that did the damage, and not the sudden shocks or bizarre horrors that the patients themselves were inclined to point to as the explanation for their condition. That would help to account for the greater prevalence of anxiety neuroses and hysterical disorders in women in peacetime, since their relatively more confined lives gave them fewer opportunities of reacting to stress in active and constructive ways. Any explanation of war neurosis must account for the fact that this apparently intensely masculine life of war and danger and hardship produced in men the same disorders that women suffered from in peace.”
    ― Pat Barker, Regeneration

    There is no peace, even in peace.

    My helpless rage at my own helpless rage cannot quite capture itself; the trauma of my lack of trauma leaks out into this post or that, and like Rivers, the flow of my patching and healing, of my own ongoing renewal, serves the all-consuming machinery of war. To offer hope would be to serve the monstrous continuation, and yet...

    This is what I carry into each discussion, of whether suffering has meaning, or the difference between wants and needs, or how to save the world. This is what I do, or do not, hold in remembrance, sitting in comfort to declare where you all have gone wrong. This is where I find my joy.
  • frank
    1.7k
    thanks for that
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    common form

    If any question why we died,
    Tell them, because our fathers lied.


    a dead statesman

    I could not dig: I dared not rob:
    Therefore I lied to please the mob.
    Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew.
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?
    — Rudyard Kipling

    There is a ritual of remembrance - poppies, the Last Post, 2 minutes silence, that express, and thus evoke, honour, respect, gratitude, sadness.

    Fuck that!

    Remember horror, futility, obscenity. Even Kipling the great patriot wants to evoke guilt and anger - he was one of the liars.

    And this was the lie, that you are still being told:

    Dulce et Decorum Est
    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.
    — Wilfred Owen

    Remember, for pity's sake remember; tell your friends and enemies, that there is no depth to which we cannot sink, with one self-righteous lie. Have you heard that lie recently? Have you told it? Or the lie that that was all a long time ago, and things are different now?
  • Ciceronianus the White
    765
    The Latin is taken from a poem by Horace. The poem could be taken as urging that Romans appear to be so inclined to war, so filled with martial spirit, as to terrify their opponents (in that case the Persians/Parthians) into submission without the need for battle--why, those crazy Romans love war so much they even think it's sweet and fitting to die for the land of their ancestors! But, who knows the poet's intent?

    The Great War produced many poets. Some, like Rupert Brooke, actually wrote of the impending death of war in an artful, compelling way, as being something even to be welcomed--":To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping, Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary." He joined the English Navy and died of blood poisoning on a ship bound for Gallipoli.

    It was a peculiarly grotesque war, which nonetheless didn't stop us from having others. America didn't suffer the kind of horrible losses incurred by the European nations.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    But, who knows the poet's intent?Ciceronianus the White

    I bow to your erudition on Horace, but I think I know Owen's intent well enough.

    America didn't suffer the kind of horrible losses incurred by the European nations.Ciceronianus the White

    Yes, it's a Europe thing, and some of the rhetoric that comes from the US sounds appallingly Victorian to my ears, at least - it's a lesson half-learnt here, though there is much mis-remembrance that continues to glorify the 'noble sacrifice'.
  • ssu
    712
    Usually it's the fourth generation when history doesn't touch us anymore personally as few have had their great grandparents alive to tell them to how was for them and how they experienced history. Then history becomes just pages in a history book.
  • frank
    1.7k
    some of the rhetoric that comes from the US sounds appallingly Victorian to my ears,unenlightened

    There wasn't a lot of war mongering going on prior to WW1. It was a bizarre event from beginning to end. I mean, if you're going to remember, how about, you know.
  • Moliere
    1.4k
    It may seem odd, given our recent disagreements, to say that I agree with the sentiments you present here. There is nothing glorious in war -- and especially so with war for the state, as the first world war was. I had to read Dulce et Decorum Est in my secondary education, which means it's widespread if not universal for U.S. citizens. I totally agree with its sentiments.

    I suppose I'd say: War, though it is not glorious or something to be celebrated, is sometimes necessary. In what sense necessary? I don't believe I'd say even morally speaking. Or even ethically speaking. Only that we find ourselves at an impasse, and here it is we are now. I don't wish for it, and think it a good to avoid at most costs. But sometimes it seems to me that war cannot be avoided, because it would mean such and such for not just the people I love now, but forever the people I love into the future -- or, if not forever, then at least war for them.
  • frank
    1.7k
    But sometimes it seems to me that war cannot be avoided,Moliere

    I think WW1 was an effort on the part of the great powers of Europe to lower their collective unemployment rate. For the US, getting involved in it was a terrible mistake. And I guess this thread was just more Fox News, more CNN, more Washington Post, more spew in a sea of spew. For a second there I thought it was something else. :confused:
  • ssu
    712
    I suppose I'd say: War, though it is not glorious or something to be celebrated, is sometimes necessary. In what sense necessary? I don't believe I'd say even morally speaking. Or even ethically speaking. Only that we find ourselves at an impasse, and here it is we are now. I don't wish for it, and think it a good to avoid at most costs. But sometimes it seems to me that war cannot be avoided, because it would mean such and such for not just the people I love now, but forever the people I love into the future -- or, if not forever, then at least war for them.Moliere
    I would say defending against an attacker is justified. War isn't anything glorious, but defending against an agressor it is justified and isn't a futile endeavour. As coming from a tiny and quite expendable country which got it's independence thanks to WW1 and barely avoided defeat, occupation and the Soviet dictatorship in WW2 my views perhaps are different from others.

    Many see WW1 as something totally avoidable and as an accident that just happened because of stupidity of the ruling people (who as monarchs perhaps shouldn't have held power in the first Place). Yet then WW2 seems for them to be something else, as the justified war against evil. This view is highly distorted as WW1 and WW2 are interlinked with the second truly being the sequel to the first. And how avoidable was WW1? Luckily it didn't happen after the Agadir incident and if Serbian extremists would haven't been successfull in their , I am sure something would have started it. After all, the continent hadn't blown up since the Napoleonic Wars and those wars were ancient history even then. No way without WW1 and WW2 and a pile of millions of dead bodies would Europeans started an integration process and formed an European Union. The bellicosity of Europeans wouldn't have waned just by time. Yes, it's sad, but unfortunately true.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    There wasn't a lot of war mongering going on prior to WW1.frank

    Not in Britain. Britain was complacently dominant as the world's leader. However:

    All witnesses agree that Britain became hysterical with hatred of the Germans when the First World War broke out, and Kipling (whose genius had a hysterical side) caught the infection, as these poems show, and as is also shown by such stories as '"Swept and Garnished'" and "Mary Postgate" (15) (not to mention the poem, "The Beginnings", which accompanies "Mary Postgate").
    http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_greatwar1.htm

    I'm not an historian, nor a poet, but a philosopher and psychologist, and it is of interest to me that 'hysteria' has come up again, and as a symptom of a society, not just of an individual.

    The op proposes, "it was prolonged strain, immobility and helplessness that did the damage, and not the sudden shocks or bizarre horrors". I imagine the situation that provokes road-rage; one is in the business of driving, but one cannot make progress. As a passenger, one is helpless, but there is less strain, because one accepts the helplessness, but the driver is helplessly responsible. It is an identity of power in conflict with the reality of helplessness that causes the strain.

    In the case of Britain, perhaps we could talk about identity as natural rulers of the world and purveyors of civilisation meeting the reality of decline, as the industrial revolution spread around the world, and Britain's pre-eminence began to be challenged. Perhaps we could consider too a pre-industrial social order meeting the new money, and new morality of the industrial age.

    And that makes me think of the digital revolution, and the decline of European and American dominance. And the new hysteria of fake news and enemies everywhere; of making America great again, and making Britain sovereign again, and all the other national nostalgias, presented as renewals.

    Such nostalgia must lead to hysteria, as it attempts to hold onto the identity that conflicts with reality, and my hope, next time, is to look at some other form of renewal that does not.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    The Peaceful Shepherd

    If heaven were to do again,
    And on the pasture bars,
    I leaned to line the figures in
    Between the dotted starts,

    I should be tempted to forget,
    I fear, the Crown of Rule,
    The Scales of Trade, the Cross of Faith,
    As hardly worth renewal.


    For these have governed in our lives,
    And see how men have warred.

    The Cross, the Crown, the Scales may all
    As well have been the Sword.
    — Robert Frost

    If one sees the violence in everything we do, in every institution, every nation, every righteous identity, even every family, what is left of man to renew? Even despair is violent. This is the question that is answered adequately only by silence. All we have known is violence, all we have known is noise that covers up the sound of distant gunfire. Where will you go and what will you do, when you come to this?
    There is fear of this unknown, that is not fear of the unknown, but of the loss of the known - of everything known, of my own identity.

    I stand on the edge the known; I stand in silent witness; this is the last post. There is meaning in this ritual of farewell. Two minutes' silence and then, mostly, we go back to the same old same again, but we do not have to. We can go on into the silence, but not 'we'; one goes alone.

    There is a road, no simple highway
    Between the dawn and the dark of night
    And if you go no one may follow
    That path is for your steps alone
    Ripple in still water
    When there is no pebble tossed
    Nor wind to blow
    You who choose to lead must follow
    But if you fall you fall alone
    If you should stand then who's to guide you?
    If I knew the way I would take you home.
    — Hunter/Garcia

  • Number2018
    156
    Remarque "All Quiet on the Western Front":
    "For us lads of eighteen, they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress--to the future. We often made fun of them and played jokes on them, but in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs.
    They surpassed us only in phrases and in cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.
    While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one's country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that we were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards--they were very free with all these expressions. We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone, and alone we must see it through.
    ...we stood on the threshold of life. And so it would seem. We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away. For the others, the older men, it is but an interruption. They are able to think beyond it. We, however, have been gripped by it and do not know what the end may be. We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a wasteland. All the same, we are not often sad. "

    Millions of people, whole generations had been sucked into the enormous vortex
    of the WW1. Can we understand their experiences?
  • frank
    1.7k
    I've been reading a book by a leading authority on Homer. It's fascinating the way truth and fiction dance around one another in the words of a heroic poet. The cosmic figures whose acts we witness are objectifications of our own psychic states. The audience both implicitly knows this and explicitly agrees that the gods actually did clash and thus move the mortals here and there as if they were helpless dust moved by a divine wind.

    The poem is actually about us. It's about the whole world to the extent that we each are microcosms, and our world is a microcosm. In other words, we know something about a solider in WW1 who died choking on mustard gas because we each have known some kind of helpless suffering. We know about how the world that soldier lived in seemed to be driven by forces beyond it.

    We know what the people who created the League of Nations felt in the way an autumn leaf that falls from a branch carries within in its dying all the ascending hope of last spring.

    I'm happy for you to be the way you are: troubled in mind and full of angst. But I have to let go of that in order to see that soldier. I have to stop judging long enough to see that he is me.
  • Rank Amateur
    556
    Would have thought "Terrapin Station" would have posted the Ripple link -
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    I have to stop judging long enough to see that he is me.frank

    Surely it is seeing that he is me that enables judgement? One does not judge a rock. But the mindset of the ancients is indeed fascinating. It seems they did not make the separation of psychic and physic - they had not quite excluded themselves from the world in the cartesian manner - and so the audience does not know two things, one psychological and one physical, but they are the same.

    There is more than one ageing hippy on the boards.
  • Rank Amateur
    556
    There is more than one ageing hippy on the boards.unenlightened

    ha - agree
  • frank
    1.7k
    Surely it is seeing that he is me that enables judgement?unenlightened

    I'm not proposing that we judge judgment to be bad. I'm pointing out that too much judgment obscures one's vision and so is not conducive to remembrance.

    But sometimes, try to remember the soldier. Putting him up as a prop in a propaganda piece is not how you do that. Try to honor his life even if you know that in the process, you're actually honoring your own. If it helps, think of it as honoring all of life.

    You do that for a minute and I'll take up your advice to hope for a better world. A minute is probably all I can give to that, but don't worry: that stuff springs eternal.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    I'll take up your advice to hope for a better world.frank

    I don't advise that. That's what propelled a million young men to their deaths in the war to end all wars.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    Try to honor his lifefrank

    No. I do not honour folly.
  • frank
    1.7k
    So you don't remember.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    Hmm. There seems to be a mis-understanding between us, but I'm not sure what it is. This thread is my act of remembrance. The question is how to remember a mass dismembering.

    Or rather, how to memorialise - I'm not that old.
  • frank
    1.7k
    There seems to be a mis-understanding between us, but I'm not sure what it is.unenlightened

    Memorializing is sacred territory. Maybe some think of it as a place for condemning or worshiping icons. To me, it's about real people, so we try to dispense with the narrative. Maybe we can never entirely escape narration, but memorializing is an act of trying to do that for the sake of witnessing.

    Otherwise, I think you're ambivalent about hope. I'm not.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    To me, it's about real people, so we try to dispense with the narrative.frank

    Can you explain? What is real about a person who died 100 years ago, apart from the narrative?
  • frank
    1.7k
    Can you explain? What is real about a person who died 100 years ago, apart from the narrative?unenlightened

    Everything that happens leaves traces. One dead soldier left a broken-hearted wife. Another dead soldier's family celebrated because he was an abusive drunk. Those traces are all around you.

    What all those routes lead back to was, as you said, not rocks. It was people. You know about what that is by looking out of your own eyeballs.

    How does your kind of memorializing work?
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    How does your kind of memorializing work?frank

    It is only what you see here, a patchwork of hand-me-downs, fragments of stories and songs. For me, these are the traces, the only traces I have. There is a little museum of the wars not 50 meters from my home, and one of their little projects is to put on each house of the town, a poppy and a little note of the soldier that lived there and died. So many little stories. Next door there is one from WW1. Next door on the other side, Walter is 98, a veteran of the far East conflict in WW2. He gave us the packing case that shipped his gear back home at the end of the war for firewood, and we gave it to the museum - just a big wooden packing case.

    This is a narrative, the stories you tell are narratives. Traces if you like, of what has been and is not.

    "He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning." But not at me, unenlightened, but at Wilfred Owen, that I have heard tell of and read, and I tell of the telling, that he brought to the world. And everyone seems to want me to say of this guttering, choking, drowning, in chlorine gas (I have had a whiff in chemistry class), that there is something noble, honourable, virtuous. And I say no. It is an irredeemable catastrophe. That is the good faith I want to keep with Wilfred and his experience as he narrates it.
  • frank
    1.7k
    And everyone seems to want me to say of this guttering, choking, drowning, in chlorine gas (I have had a whiff in chemistry class), that there is something noble, honourable, virtuous. And I say no. It is an irredeemable catastrophe.unenlightened

    I asked you honor a man's life, not the means of his death. The fact that you confused the two indicates to me that you have trouble distinguishing a person from a set of narratives. Is there a difference?

    And now you're talking about redemption. What does a living thing have to do to receive honor from you? Don't you realize the bad is wrapped up with the good?
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    I asked you honor a man's life, not the means of his death.frank

    Frank, who are you, to demand this of me? No. I have said it three times, "and what I say three times is true". Request denied. As if my honouring is of any value to a corpse. But it concerns you, as if I owe it to you.

    Don't you realize the bad is wrapped up with the good?frank

    Don't you realise life is wrapped up with death? Death is the culmination, and life is what these people gave, in exchange for what? My feeble sentiment or yours? No, it was for an idea of nation and righteousness - a LIE.

    I remember that.
  • frank
    1.7k
    . As if my honouring is of any value to a corpse .unenlightened

    All life is bound together. You can't condemn your childhood without condemning yourself. It all had to be the way it was for you to be who you are.

    I was asking you to honor your own life. You want to pick and choose, though. You approve of this, but won't accept that. It doesn't work that way.
  • unenlightened
    2.8k
    You approve of this, but won't accept that. It doesn't work that way.frank

    I get the feeling you don't approve of me for that.
  • frank
    1.7k
    I get the feeling you don't approve of me for that.unenlightened

    I'm happy for you to be the way you are: troubled in mind and full of angst.frank
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