World at War: Believing in Old Men’s Lies

 

They lived in holes, trenched in desperation before the newest WMD—the German Machine Gun.

The German bunkers were well-built and well-supplied. German soldiers sat, waited for an English head to pop up, just for a peak, and then…

.. bapbapbapbap …

Like a really long, slow game of shooting ducks.

At first, unfamiliar with the realities of this new weapon, the English charged the German bunkers in waves.

Come on, Lads! Some will get through. A few will penetrate the enemy line. They can’t shoot all of us!

But with machine guns, the Germans could easily shoot them all.

So it went.

.. charge! …

.. bapbapbapbapbapbapbapbap ..

.. charge! …

.. bapbapbapbapbapbapbapbap ..

.. charge! …

.. bapbapbapbapbapbapbapbap ..

.. charge! …

.. bapbapbapbapbapbapbapbap ..

The British learned fast. They dug into holes, dug into the ground like animals. So much so that rats began regarding them as such—attacking, fighting with soldiers over army rations.

And the piles of dead comrades that lay rotting in the “no man’s land” between the two armies—the corpses of friends—decomposed to dust, slowly rotting before the eyes of those who dared to watch.

Many minds were shattered—succumbing to bouts of psychosomatic blindness, paralysis, or seizures.

More often than not, these men were accused of cowardice.

Soon the British soldiers began raising their arms, or legs, high out of the trench—an easy target. They would sacrifice a hand, or a foot, to the claws of machine gun fire—just to go home, finally.

Or at least  to be sent to London on a medical leave.

But in London the civilians told them:

England is winning the Great War! It says so in the Newspapers!

They would tell the enraged soldiers:

Your horror stories are obvious fantasies. Just read these OFFICIAL REPORTS!

Most returned to the war more disillusioned than when they left it.

Word spread fast through the trenches. The lies being told, and accepted, in London—mere miles from the fighting—gave rise to an intense bitterness, and a massive wave of culture shock.

This shock ripped away a lifetime of indoctrination and social programming—lies about the grandeur of England, the heroics of war, and especially the oldest of the lies: patriotism.

The “Official” lies were laughably irrelevant in the face of war reality.

And from this nightmare of slaughter, shattered psyches, cultural ruptures, a young poet sent an angry warning—a message to the future “Commanders” and “Chiefs”

His name was Wilfred Owen. He wrote his poems in the trench where he would soon die. In the tail end of his most famous poem, he tells us the truth about love of country, honor, and war.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
[It is a great honor…]
Pro patria mori.
[…to die for your country.]

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Read Wilfred Owen’s full poem: “Dulce Et Decorum Est”

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