Remembrance Day originates at the end of World War I. The idea is to honor those who died in the line of duty, defending their country from enemies. For all its pompous words and fancy granite memorials littered with colorful flower bouquets, Remembrance Day and others like it have failed miserably in achieving this goal.
I've often been criticized as having no respect, and that can be an impediment when discussing certain topics. However, I am often in luck – hypocrisy deserves no respect. What changed as a result of the enormous sacrifice of those who died in WW1? As the first bombs of WW2 fell just two decades later, millions once again obediently lined up under various pieces of colored cloths to slaughter and be slaughtered. It became obvious that absolutely nothing had changed, and that the millions of WW1 had died in vain.
Most would agree that all that lip service paid to the sacrifice between the two world wars wasn't good enough. To truly honor their sacrifice would be to create a world where another world war is impossible due to the moral and intellectual development of the populace. That is what I mean by ending remembrance: a ceasing of wholesale slaughter, a further step in the direction of civilization. The holiday would become pointless within a few generations.
If a politician tells you to pick up a gun and kill someone who was told to do the opposite by another leader, are you really doing the honorable thing by following through with it? In normal situations, civilized people agree that using violence is the insecure thing to do. But apparently, if a politician says so, killing or getting killed is suddenly an honorable and virtuous course of action. That's what the society around you believes – but, of course, not seen in these bullshitless terms. The more I've studied history, economics, and philosophy, the more obvious it became to me what the honorable thing for both parties actually is. That's for the soldiers on both sides to refuse fighting, assert that might doesn't make right, and demand that the politicians resolve their differences in a mature, reasonable, and logical manner.
I am not a moral relativist, and I believe in the existence of an objective reality. Almost all countries around the world honor their fallen soldiers in a similar vein. The revelation is that as we honor those who died, someone across the pond honors those sent to kill them – and vice versa. Is it surprising that most people in country X think that country X was on the right side of history, while those in country Y think the opposite? Sadly, although the facts are not determined by geographical location, biases are.
This is the horrendous "us versus them" mentality, the evolutionary remnant in the primitive part of our imperfect brains riddled with cognitive biases. Do you strongly consider yourself an American or Canadian, a fan of certain basketball or hockey team, race, gender, religion, etc? Do you view others as parts of groups rather than individuals, even unconsciously? Look at the world around you, and the answer for the vast majority of people is an unambiguous 'yes'. That is precisely why it's so easy for politicians to rally people around the flag and legitimize murder.
I enjoy a certain comfort in knowing that we all share our humanity. One should not feel differently towards someone across that imaginary line on the map. It's nothing but an extension of other primitive lies, such as racism. I strongly reject the notion that patriotism is a virtue in any sense of that word. Before you criticize this opinion, admit that if everyone shared it, there would never have been a single world war. A patriot loves his government, or possibly his countrymen, and is easily exploited and controlled in the presence of a real or imaginary external threat. A humanist like myself does not suffer this folly.
Bathtubs, car accidents, and many other run of the mill things kill way more people than terrorism does (yes, including 9/11 into the count). However, most people would not be willing to live with a Patriot Act to fight bathtub drowning. Notice the name of this glorious document – it is so Orwellian. War truly is peace. Just imagine Obama seeking authorization for a Camera in Every Bathroom to Keep America Safe ©. It's too stupid to even pass for an April fool's joke. But just bring the concept of a bearded foreigners in, and they can get away with assassination without trial, no questions asked.
What of the famed War on Terror? Aren't we, the West, the good guys? Don't be so naïve. The moronic Islamic savages who are ready to kill for virgins in heaven are almost evenly matched by our willingness to allow the death of the innocents as we take out the supposed enemies of civilization. Collateral Murder. If these words don't ring a bell, watch this YouTube video, and realize that these soldiers did nothing illegal under US law. Their actions were within the rules of engagement. In other words, the military is freely admitting that this is how they operate. If you live in the United States, and you pay your taxes, then you are the one who funded the above actions. As drone warfare continues to expand more and more civilians are getting killed in Pakistan and Yemen. Don't get me wrong, this is not the firebombing of Dresden, but neither is the enemy nearly as vicious.
Now, think about the soldiers in the above helicopter video. Suppose that just as they fired their last shot, the engine on their chopper had malfunctioned and they perished in the fiery crash. Do you really feel comfortable commemorating their "sacrifice" and honoring them for their service? What a profoundly disturbing notion. They show themselves to be murderous trigger-happy thugs, just waiting for an excuse to open fire on unsuspecting victims. If you were an Iraqi standing there with a bazooka and a clear understanding of what's about to happen – should you not take that chopper down? Now, if you were an American with a good conscience standing there, wouldn't you do the same? If there was any substance to the word "traitor", it just evaporated. What these pilots did had absolutely nothing with defending anybody from anything. If committing treason means protecting the innocent from the military industrial complex, that says something about the world we live in. Granted, this is an exception (not as rare as one may hope for), but have you ever heard anyone suggest on Remembrance Day that not all of the troops are honorable, brave, and worthy of respect?
World War 1 is ancient history, but the sad part is that nothing has changed after World War 2 either. There was no shifting of consciousness, no move by the populace from its historical role of pawns, ready for slaughter on a politicians' whim, to moral sentient beings that we ought to be. Let's all give a hand for nuclear weapons which I believe prevented World War 3 from breaking out – for now. That possibility is, sadly, as real as ever.
In many wars throughout history, there is no "good" and "bad" side. This is very obvious in WW1, where the subsequent outcome could very well have been more prosperous and less violent if Germany won the war. It's a complex geopolitical situation out there. The world is not a Rambo movie where the good guys win, and everyone can be happy. In fact, the closest you can come to such a classification would be the populations of both countries at war being "good", and the government in bed with the military industrial complex on both sides being "bad". Viewed in that sense, the bad guys always win if a war breaks out. The only way for the good guys to win is to reject the bullshit, and refuse to fight.
Here is a brief sampling of the atrocities committed by the US government for those of you who think that the United States is a shining beacon of freedom in the world. I don't mean to single only one country out, but a similar list could be compiled for almost any nation on earth on almost every side of any demarcation line.
1) The genocide against the Native Americas, including the infamous Trail of Tears.
2) Exposing unknowing US citizens to radiation poisoning, chemical, and biological weapons. This boggles my mind, since I would initially dismiss anyone who claimed such things were possible. Keep in mind that nobody was ever punished for any of it, since the governments are typically above the law.
3) Nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 200,000 civilians. Without a doubt, if any German or Japanese made that order, s/he would have been considered one of the worst war criminals in history and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials for crimes against humanity.
4) Overthrowing various peaceful and democratically elected governments around the world, such as Mossadeq's in 1953 Iran. This led to unintended consequences, such as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
If the thought of me hating America enters your mind just because I listed the above facts, without detailing the various abuses of Great Britain, France, Germany, USSR and Russia, etc – I promise you that it was only for brevity's sake.
So what is my idea for properly honoring those who perished? We out to promote the following -
1) Strong moral beliefs which preclude blind obedience to any authority
2) Critical thinking skills for anyone with the mental capacity to master them
3) Humanism over patriotism
4) A universal respect for human rights (sorry, Mr. Obama – no drone assassinations for you)
It's plainly obvious to me that almost no government would be willing to promote the above, as it would instantly make many functions of the government irrelevant and useless. Don't hold your breath for it to show up in the pathetic government school systems all around the world.
If people are universally exposed to these ideas, large scale warfare is unfathomable.
Can we honor those who died in a conflict without glorifying war ever so slightly? I don't think so. One day, I hope that all armies of the world will run out of recruits, and nobody would think that killing for any cause can ever be honorable. Wouldn't that be just swell, and end remembrance?
In memory of George Carlin (1937-2008)