Wednesday, February 05, 2014

World War 1 anniversaries

There have been some interesting things around about the Great War, or WW1. The first two programmes by Jeremy Paxman have been interesting in documenting in greater detail the social impact of the war, and the changes it brought, as well as documenting the horror of the front line. There are also some debates around about just how badly the war was conducted. 

Lions led by donkeys is the phrase often used to describe the leaders of the war. Dan Snow has attempted a defence of those who led the British army during the conflict, and so has Michael Gove (not a great ally there, Dan). Others have documented the terrible losses and their impact, including the excellent set of programmes Not Forgotten by Ian Hislop on Channel 4. We can't reduce the war to simple stereotypes for anyone involved, but the overwhelming sense I always have looking at any of the material is one of tragedy.

This year we are going to be faced with some difficult choices about the tone of how the war is remembered and marked. It seems clear to me that anything hinting at a celebration would be deeply distasteful, including when we get to 11/11/2018. Millions of lives were lost in a war that exhausted the resources of all the great nations of Europe, and can only be looked back on with sorrow and sadness. 

Commemoration is very appropriate, or we never learn the lessons of history. Just don't ask me to celebrate anything.

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