What the Armistice Day Means 100 Years Later

Source: Irish Independent

Today is a big day. It is exactly 100 years since the Armistice was signed, silencing the guns across the Western Front and relieving fatigued, abused soldiers fighting the First World War. The leaders of France and Germany, hand in hand, walked up to the newly unveiled monument.

Leaders of the world were present in Paris to commemorate the occasion and observe remembrance of the fallen soldiers of probably the most traumatic battlefield experiences in history. The moment is celebrated around the world as two civilized nations reiterate the commitment to peace and promise to avoid war at all costs. People around the world aspire to moments such as these.

The European colonial powers have finally figured out how destructive war is and rightly so. The bitter experiences of centuries of war had reduced a very small continent to rubble. War has vanished from Europe, thank God. But has it from the world?

The Armistice Day 100 years later brings a message of hope and optimism. A message inspiring nations in conflict around the world to set aside their differences and settle issues with diplomacy. Even to nations like India and Pakistan and those in the Middle East.

More importantly, a message of caution was sent out by the French leader who recognized that the “old demons” were coming back to life again. He warned against “nationalism,” which like a century ago had become synonymous with fascism.

However, it also sends a message of disappointment to nations where many wars are actually being fueled, directly or indirectly, by the very nations that are commemorating the Armistice Day. The citizens of Libya, Yemen, and Syria might not appreciate this ode to European harmony too much. And not just out of plain envy.

Perhaps on this Armistice Day, the world is satisfied that the center of war and conflict has shifted outside Europe 100 years later.

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Elie Wiesel Leaves a World With Antisemitism Alive and Well

Source: cufi.org.uk

Source: cufi.org.uk

When Elie Wiesel would have been liberated from the Nazi concentration camps, the last of his third one, he would have started life with a renewed hope.

It probably would have restored his faith in humanity and in hope, though it never restored his faith completely in God. At least not in the way it was before.

There is surely a lot to read about the Shoah or the Holocaust, but nothing equals the viewpoint of a sensitive soul that has lived through the living hell of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Not everyone believes his words, which is why he ensured that other than Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., remains an undeniable evidence backing them.

Still nowhere near reflecting the human suffering.

What is the material evidence of that?

Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Source: Jewish Virtual Library

The pain and suffering endured by Elie Wiesel, resulted in the creation of the play “The Trial of God“, which was a brilliant, iconoclastic idea for a people with a theistic tradition, and to someone who saw God as an important part of his life.

But can you blame him to dare to rebel? In his own words, he could never forget the flames of the body, which consumed his faith forever. The moments which murdered his God and turned his dreams to dust.

In his own words, he was there when God was put on trial in Auschwitz.

While it is easier for some people with full, partial, distant or spiritual relation to the Jewish culture to relate with the pain of the Holocaust, it is important to accentuate its importance in a global, more humanist manner. It is important not to simply reduce it to references about the deliverance of the Jewish people, such as referring to it as the “birth pangs of the Messiah.” I am not sure if Elie Wiesel himself would be thrilled by the thought.

Elie Wiesel would rather focus on the sheer absurdity of creation and the unacceptability of the nightmare that the Jewish people and many more such as the Romani and the homosexuals went through during the reign of the Third Reich. It was simply something that was not supposed to be.

In any case, it is important to explicitly establish the Holocaust as a burden on the conscience of humanity, instead of tying it as an accident exclusive to the Jewish identity. It is important because gentiles, who are particularly anti-Israel politically, find it easier to dismiss this human atrocity as something that happened to the Jews. And the antisemites and anti-Zionists who are kind enough not to dismiss the Holocaust widely believe that it was something that the “Jews deserved” and something that they “deserve to go through again.”

While there are scholars like Norman Finkelstein who believe that the Holocaust has been exploited to further the Zionist cause, the fact remains that in our world, the Holocaust is trivialized more than anything else. Something perhaps more horrific than Holocaust denial. This is not to condemn Holocaust jokes because that attains nothing, but everyday approach people take to the atrocity in political discourse. Probably because so many genocides have been committed since then, without getting nearly as much attention.

Perhaps this was why Elie Wiesel feared indifference more than hate. Hate, in his words, you could fight.

Imagining the horrors of the Holocaust, how thrillingly secure it feels to be able to witness such a living hell and having the comfort that you are completely safe from it. How reassuring is this feeling that such a threat could possibly not threaten your life.

Let’s just stop. You can’t even imagine. But the relics, the documentation and the haunting photographs from the not so distant past do leave you shaken.

But I wonder how many times Elie Wiesel and thousands of other Holocaust survivors and their children would have woken up in the middle of the night, not being able to shake away the horrors of the death camps, the ovens, the gas chambers. Checking if they are still not on those horrible bunk beds by the corpses, still not required to shower together every morning.

Because believe it or not, any day it could happen again.

I could not help marvel at the irony that Elie Wiesel is leaving the world with antisemitism alive and well, but not without considerably retreating him. It is shocking how vulnerable Jewish people still are, despite “controlling the world” in some people’s view.

I feel disgusted when I have to lecture someone on the basic morality of it. But I guess that is what his good fight was all about. A fight that all of us must fight. It’s the least we can do.

Elie Wiesel is not just important as a literary figure, but because he left the empathy in the world for the Holocaust, its victims and its survivors.

This day is important in history, because the most enduring living symbol of human resistance to inhumanity, to the Holocaust, is alive no more.

 

The Value of Freedom

Source: npr.org

Source: npr.org

Alright, let’s give credit where it is due, even though I mostly find promoting Google Doodles very distasteful.

I woke up to this Google Doodle, and in a minute and a half, it made me realize something very striking.

Source: Google

You don’t value freedom, or even recognize its cost, until you find it gone or threatened by political forces that could so easily part individual from individual.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall, an almost universal symbol of tyranny and everything contrary to freedom, since the beginning of the Cold War.

And that’s the only thought that comes to my mind today.

How fragile freedom is.

Today, it means nothing to us because we have overcome the political conflict that gave rise to the human tragedy of a divided German Republic. The supposed liberators of the city ended up having it divided in the most terrible manner, even with deadly consequences.

How would you react if that happened to your city tomorrow? No matter where you live and no matter who forces the division.

There are many other examples too. The Koreas, the partition of Kashmir and the Indian sub continent, the Arab Israeli conflict.

But it’s easy to observe that not just 25 years, but a much shorter period, was sufficient to forget the misery of more than 3 decades of suffering that Berliners endured in the name of political conflict.

It is important to notice how two opposing political forces can actually divide a part of your lives for their own authoritarian power grab.

Just imagine you being unable to walk into a part of your own town, just because it belongs to an alien political entity now.

Is there anything more horrifying?

That’s just how precious freedom is.

The scary part is that all of this can happen tomorrow. All over again.

Source: TIME
Source: TIME

How to Stop a War?

Source: The Guardian

So what is the best way to end a war?

Pretty simple. Obliterate your enemy. Wipe every trace of life from their cities.

But is it really so?

Unfortunately, the people, who fight wars under the impression that they are saving humanity, forget that the people that they are fighting, who are not very dissimilar to themselves, have mostly absolutely no concern about what happens to the people that are fighting on their side. Or there would hardly ever be wars in the first place.

They are so blinded by the lustful glory of feasting on the spoils of war that they lose all connection with the pains and pleasures of flesh and bone that belonged to another soul. They are so absorbed in their greed for power and control that they have absolutely no regard for anyone outside their league. This is what they call the good life. Indeed.

You can talk about it incessantly, untiringly and repetitively like a record machine and yet that would have no effect. Your words will only fall on deaf ears.

It is often said that Hiroshima, Nagasaki and even Dresden were necessary. That they were used to hasten the end of the war.

That the Japanese were a very evil and wicked people during the Second World War.

If they were evil people and if it was necessary to subject them to one of the most horrifying military weapon experiments of all time, then wouldn’t those carrying it out would become evil and wicked themselves?

And wouldn’t they deserve the very same or even worse treatment themselves?

These are indeed tough questions to ask but all they do is to help us arrive to a simple conclusion. The following were the precise reasons for attacking Hiroshima, Nagasaki and even Dresden.

The Dead of Dresden – Source: whale.to

  1. These were perfectly justifiable acts of war.
  2.  In wars, you destroy and annihilate your enemy, without regard to human life on the other side, without attaching any emotions and sensitivity to the victims.
  3. To test the effects and consequences of a new monster weapon created by science to help empower man and to make him feel good about how much control he has over destroying the world, in other words, harnessing the power of the atom.
  4. To help establish that the attacking power is the strongest in the world and must not be challenged again.

All these reasons make perfectly good sense and will be appreciated and accepted by almost anyone, even the suffering parties. However, the problem begins when the attacking powers start to associate these atrocious and senselessly barbaric acts with moral righteousness and start preaching why carrying out these attacks were necessary for humanity.

That is complete nonsense. Just like no wars are necessary, so are no such atrocious acts of war.

Furthermore, you just don’t stop an already dying war by completely squeezing all humanity out of your cause and squeezing all life out of your enemy. You can even accomplish the feat with diplomacy and going to the extent of making substantial and reasonable threats to your enemy. The facts and the politics of the time stand in their own right, but the ostentatious vanity and the needless cruelty of these events are simply too obvious to be ignored and appreciated.

Source: Boston.com/US National Archives

My sympathy with those who do.

But then again, war crimes have always been justified with moral reasons that make good sense to the people of that age, and still are. It will all happen again.

I would prefer and appreciate if you would at least drop the hypocrisy of moral righteousness.

There are No Lies in the Battlefield

Courtesy: James Montgomery, acclaimimages.com

What is it about wars that thrill us? What is it that makes us feel so good, so proud, as if we have accomplished something. Is it the bravery, the chivalry, the defiance to death that men can display, or simply because it makes great stories to tell? It does not matter, because in our world it is a glorious thing to go to wars.

But war is an intellectual concept nevertheless. I have to acknowledge that fact. It is as intellectual as it is stupid and nonsense. This is why it is fought by people far away from action in the battlefield. You know, far away from those mindless soldiers, who are brainwashed the moment they land into Boot Camp. They are fed lies, and they are fed truths. But one thing is for sure. They take away from them a part of humanity and they get to earn a part of it that no one else would ever know about.

But even more cruel are the ones who do not even set foot on the battlefield and expect others to sacrifice themselves for them. The one who dodges the bullet, the one who bears the wounds and the one who witnesses the horrors of war can only know what war is like and how vain national glory means when you only have your life to lose, unless they are hardened by war and it becomes their way of living. Some do it by choice and suffer, others are forced into it and made to suffer.

You would have heard about, if not watched, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), based on the novel of the same title by German veteran Erich Maria Remarque. It is just a movie, maybe a touch too exaggerating and maybe overdone for some, but it tells the story of men who lived through World War I, an overdone war after all,  if it is not too much to say. The film emphasizes this very idea more explicitly and deliberately than most of the others about the war that you would come across.

The film talks about sending the youth to the front lines for glory and their subsequent discovery of what war really is. The film was banned in the Nazi Germany for its anti-war content, which for no surprise was taken to be an attack on German nationalism. Rats were used to disperse audiences during the initial screening of the film in theaters. But let’s not take any sides here. To my mind, the American filmmakers have emphasized the human side of the war by choosing to tell the story of a non-allied nation.

How many politically motivated artists talk about the human side of the enemy soldier? Most of the war movies even have no faces for them, just silhouettes. The silhouette of the enemy.  There is no enemy soldier, just humans who agree to kill each other over something they are not even aware of. The film applies as much to France as it does to Germany. It applies as much to Britain, or any other allied nation. It applies to each and every nation of the world. It applies to humanity. The blood-thirsty humanity.

A Few Important Excerpts 

(Note: Right now, the complete movie is available on YouTube. However, I have only posted the excerpts in context of the post. It may or may not be accessible from different parts of the world.)

For those familiar with the history of World War I and Trench Warfare in the Western Front, are also familiar with the toll it took on men.  This film, also the novel, is about how a war changes a man, how a war destroys a man and how they are sent by civilization to die to lift their spirits. A remarkable motion picture for its time, it effectively portrays what a soldier goes through before, during and after war, whether an exaggerated portrayal or not. I think it really is a lot worse than this.

What I learned from this film and what shook me the most is this.

There are no Lies in the Battlefield.

But have we learned the lesson?

That’s why we are an intelligent species.