Power and Control—At The Expense of Millions
I was always fascinated and shocked when learning about the Great War as a child. The stupidity of all wars was here made doubly stupid by the ineptitude of “leaders” who were prepared to see men die in millions in the mud, facing each other across a few hundred yards of barbed-wire and shell holes. Two great industrial nations had strutted on the stage of Europe striking warlike postures for so long that when a crazed student assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand at Sarajevo it was too late for the fools to back down. And so the whole crazy steamroller got under way, supported as ever by the profiteers, the racketeers and the arms manufacturers.
The comfortable warmongers, safe at home, were hurrying the young men onto the troop trains en masse. The soldiers were merely pawns—and ultimately, unfathomable statistics—in their governments’ negligent and narcissistic push for power and profit. While the fat brigadiers and generals were safe behind the lines, battles were won and lost by young boys and men facing the most unbelievable horrors.
Between 1914 and 1918 a whole generation was killed, gassed and maimed. Atrocities one can barely muster the strength to imagine. Now, we can only offer thanks to these brave young men, remember and learn from their horrors, and chart a new course for humanity where no one must suffer so deeply. After all, of what value would the soldiers’ sacrifices be if we fail to honour their courage and uphold the freedom and peace they fought for?
A Light, in the Darkness
On Christmas morning of 1914, five months after the war started, British, French and German troops began to hesitantly rise from their trenches.
From the winter fog and misery that pervaded the soldiers, something truly miraculous emerged. A story of unity—a beacon of light we can look to in our darkest hours.
The soldiers, who had expected to return home by Christmas, were drawn together by a shared experience, shared homesickness and a shared desire to, at least for one day, escape the deadly gravity of war.
It was a spontaneous series of incidents that seemed to organically occur along a small stretch of the 500-mile Western Front in Belgium. Some 100,000 soldiers were involved.
Greetings of “Merry Christmas” and “Fröhliche Weihnachten” were exchanged, along with chocolate, biscuits, cigarettes and cigars. In some areas, according to veterans’ letters, a makeshift soccer ball was produced and both sides shared in a frolicsome kickabout. In one poignant moment, German troops helped British soldiers bury a slain French comrade, a German officer holding service over the grave.
Their truce—the famous Christmas Truce—was unofficial and illicit. The generals denied that it ever happened, fearful that the desire for peace might spread like an epidemic along the trenches, but the diaries and journals of the men who were there and the photographs that were taken on that historic occasion when men said ‘no’ to war and embraced their enemy prove beyond doubt that it did indeed happen.
In the midst of the most deadly war humanity had experienced until that time, enemies shed their weapons and their hatred to celebrate the Christmas promise of peace. Soldiers—terrified and exhausted—overcame their fear and dis-covered their enemies across the muddy flat were deeply relatable, with their commonalities far greater than their differences.
While the truce did not last—it did happen. It is part of our historical consciousness and heritage. In the midst of war, the troops along the British sector of the Western Front profoundly challenged hate by choosing to celebrate the message of love and peace at the heart of the Christmas tradition. United by the shared misery of trench warfare, they broke the code of war and stepped out onto no man’s land and transformed it into graced ground.
The Possibility of Peace and Prosperity for All
Fast forward to our current no man’s lands. Today it’s just as difficult to believe peace is possible, and just as seemingly impossible to turn our contemporary death zones of war, public policy, enmity, racism and economic disparity into the common ground of equality and friendship.
As the world descends deeper into darkness, people are being supercharged with fear and hate. Incompetent governments, corporate elite and mainstream media have weaponized this fear and hatred against its own people. While we engage in futile shouting matches, one of the greatest wealth transfers in human history (to the tune of $10.2 trillion in 5 months, between April-July 2020) has taken place, along with unprecedented expansion of governmental power and control on a global scale.
Once again, we have blindly trusted our “leaders” to steer us to safety. Instead, they are herding us under the warm blanket of (corrupt) technocracy, where basic freedoms begin to be seen as irresponsible and reckless.
Full disclosure: this scares the shit out of me.
However, despite my complete lack of trust in our public institutions run by oligarchs to do what’s best for the 99%, I hold deep faith in humanity.
So I am stepping out of the trenches, waving the white flag of truce.
I believe in the promise of peace.
I believe we can come together, from our respective sides, and meet in no man’s land. I believe when we enter that space—with no preconceived agenda and a willingness to listen—we will see there is much more that unites us than divides us. I believe we can choose to value Truth over being “right”. I believe that we can disagree over politics, religion, or philosophy and still choose Love.
Together, I believe we can create the more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible.
I invite you to put down your weapons and join me at the table. Or on the dancefloor, whichever you prefer.