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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 11-Nov-11


Friday 11-November-11

11-11-11, 11am

On November the 11th at 11am, 1918, the First World War, also known as the Great War, ended. It was known as the war to end all wars, but sadly and all too soon this was proven untrue. My grandfather was in that war. He was buried alive by the displacement from a nearby shell. A friend dug him out and carried him to a battlefield hospital where he survived, though he ended up with what was known as 'shell shock' (now it would be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). In the second world war he moved his family from London to Wales, where my mother met my father. So I guess I have war and Adolf Hitler to thank for my existence. As a child, when there were thunderstorms, he'd turn out all the lights and hide under the table. We'd join him, thinking it was a game and wondering why he was crying.

War is the final stage of a failed negotiation, where two groups fail to agree. Sometimes it is an ethnic issue. Sometimes it is religious. Sometimes it is about oil (this was at the root of Pearl Harbor). Often, the issue has been ownership of land. Always it is harmful.

War used to be glorious, noble and in the service of King and country. Soldiers rallied to the flag and fought for the honor it all. Perhaps the First World War was the beginning of the end of this. Photographs, poems, stories and unbound reports showed the horror of it all. Exacerbated by the rise of war machines and the determination of armchair generals to use outdated methods of steady advance, people died in their millions.

Could learning to change minds more effectively stop wars? Why not? Maybe the person in the street is but a flea in the politician's ear, but everyone has far more power than most imagine. So why do we not all rise up and cry 'enough!' Why do politicians blithely continue, often in war by proxy in foreign fields? Because they can and because we believe we cannot stop them.

There were a million people in London protesting against Britain going to war in Iraq, but the politicians ignored them and the ramifications ripple on. What if we had not gone to war? What then? Who knows. Protests can be peaceful and effective. Gandhi was perhaps the most successful, ousting the English from India by not fighting, even under duress. The recent Arab Spring protests in Tunisia and Egypt achieved regime change mostly by people just turning out to show their support.

And what hopes for Europe and the West, bereft of cash as the world economy rebalances? We have traded on dying empires for years, borrowing en masse beyond our means. Will we descend again into war? I desperately hope not. Better that we talk it out, that we learn to understand one another and so find the best solution without recourse to military force.

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