(The background to the short piece ‘In A Government Canteen’.)
I’ve a friend who says the state of the world is a cause for pessimism.
I’ve known him for years; extrovert optimism wouldn’t suit him but outright pessimism? I’m not sure, but I can’t deny that what he says feels well-founded. The right-wing is on the ascendant and wars are on the horizon whichever way you look. This is not a happy era we’re in now, let alone the era that we’re entering in to, and it seems we collectively can’t learn.
I don’t know how to respond to the prospects before us. Just as nothing about our stumbling towards wars is new, so there are no new responses.
So, no, I have nothing new to offer. That doesn’t stop it all looming large.
(Besides, we often idolise the new without good reason.)
Trying to think about it, I took stock of ‘military people’ I know or knew. I’ve known a junior commando officer; I’ve a good friend who was a career infantryman; I’ve newer acquaintances who were mid-ranking naval officers. I had a friend who was an NCO in the WRAF. I don’t know any of them as victims of war, though all of them were involved in conflicts. At the very least, they’re all doing a good impression of people who have happily moved on. And thus nothing about them illuminates anything new about people and war either. Humans adapt.
I don’t know what their nightmares might be. I don’t know if any of them are still fighting their wars in private.
Of course, none of us knows what happens behind closed doors. And even you only manage to keep a door closed for some of the time, you’ll rarely open it by choice.
Thinking about all that, in turn, made me remember a time, once, years ago in a government canteen, when I saw through a door that shouldn’t have been open.
That time, and the simple reality of the pointless waste that war represents, led to ‘In A Government Canteen’.* However long a war drags on, one day there will always have to be a peace. But peace can’t undo loss.
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