Most of us, including myself from time to time, forget the significance of acknowledging today. This 11th day of November 2011 dawns as arbitrary numbers from an artificial calendar. Popularly transcribed as 11/11/11, it has become wrapped in New Age mysticism as if something prophetic is to occur simply because of how numbers line up and combine in people’s minds. It also marks Remembrance Day among the victorious Allies of the First World War (1914-1918). It began as Armistice Day and, certainly in the United States, evolved into Veterans Day. Much was lost in the process, including remembering much of the world once agreed to outlaw war.
The First World War was known simply as the Great War for many years. People simply didn’t know what else to call it. The term “world war” was used, but it wasn’t the first or the last. It didn’t begin in a vacuum either. As do many large conflicts, this Great War arose from a convergence of smaller wars. While the Armistice of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918 marked the formal end of combat on the Western Front, the war continued elsewhere around the world.
The Great War morphed into a viper’s nest of local and regional wars around the planet. They eventually converged into the Second World War with such violence many historians consider the period 1914-1945 as one war much as we look back upon prolonged and widespread conflicts of old as singular wars with multiple phases and theaters.
We’ve forgotten the horror of it all. As veterans and survivors die out our memories become those of old photographs in old textbooks. While the First World War wasn’t the first, it was the first global war of industrialized mass slaughter on a scale previously unknown anywhere in history. The horror of industrial combat shocked Europeans and the rest of humanity. Battlefields had mutated into vast human slaughterhouses filled with broken charnel.
For a time the world made great effort to remember the horror and not turn away from the darkness. This was the war to end all wars. There was hope for world peace and even for a just and honorable world government. Those hopes were squashed by the ugly revenge sought by the Allies upon the defeated, the rise of Communism, Fascism, and global central banking cartels. The revenge of the Nazis upon the Allies, Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and others soon followed. The League of Nations proved too weak, undemocratic, it racist. It failed.
A worldwide effort, called the Outlawry movement, to abolish war, at least war between nations, rapidly evolved after the November 11 Armistice. Its high water mark was the Kellogg-Briand Pact of Paris. It was initially signed on August 27, 1928 by fourteen of fifteen nations (the Soviet Union abstained). Eventually a total of 62 countries, a majority of the world’s nation-states back then, signed the treaty. The purpose of the treaty was clear: it renounced war – all war – as an instrument of national policy in dealing with other states. War was thus legally abolished.
While used a few times to prevent war, the pact failed. It didn’t address internal wars. Nations began to by-pass this ban on war by engaging in undeclared wars. Invasions, conquests, and occupations were called “interventions.” Japan invaded China, Italy conquered Ethiopia, and the United States intervened and occupied a number of small, weak states. In other situations traditional military conquest was preceded by or followed by economic imperialism.
In a growing number of cases, partially as a result of the devastation of the Great War, economic control and exploitation replaced outright military conquest and political control. This explosion of greed justified by an aversion to the horrors of World War I led humanity quickly into the First Great Depression. The sum of these local-global breakdowns accelerated into the paroxysm of the Second World War.
The end of that conflict in turned spawned the United Nations, the Cold War (also a world war), and massive efforts by the global financial elite and their allies to dominate Earth with little violence. This included setting up non-democratic international bodies such as the BW3, or the Bretton Woods Three (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group, and what later became the World Trade Organization) interlocking with the international central bank cartel.
Instead of banning all war, violent self-defense by nations against wars of aggression was recognized as legitimate. Intervention in an internal war to prevent genocide was also recognized. The application of such principles, however, was very selective, hypocritical, and abused by the many states of the UN. Rather than failing as the League of Nations did or evolving into a democratic world union, the UN has become a symbol of weakness, chaos, and a tool for new, Postmodern models of empire-building.
Instead of remembering the horror of war regardless of “justifications” for war, we instead have come to honor those who fought in the war as Veterans’ Day. My paternal grandfather, for example, fought in the Great War as a sailor in the United States Navy hunting Imperial German submarines in the North Atlantic. Many members of my family were in wars from the American Revolution to Vietnam. They were always held in high regard.
We honor our veterans without questioning why they were sent to fight or what they did in combat. We don’t want to see how many veterans return disillusioned with “Patriotism” and opposed to war. We glorify and romanticize their efforts and call it “sacrifice.” We forget to face a horror so absolute we never want to repeat it. Even after the genocidal Second World War ended the phrase “Never again!” became as hollow and meaningless as “Outlaw war!” became after 1918. To engage in war has become equated with freedom, justice, and liberty. To engage in peace has become viewed as surrender to tyrants, despised as voluntary enslavement, and at best naïve.
Remember the Horror. Face it. All the world’s great religions in some form or fashion teach us the power of learning to simply be with what most disturbs us and not flee from our own shadows. From there the noble expressions of humanity emerge as true power: presence, agape, unity, love, compassion, peace, forgiveness, sharing, cooperation, lovingkindness, and mindful self-awareness.
Take time today to remember not warring nations feeding their populations into the meat grinder as “sacrifice,” but a stand for peace. Instead of parades mindless and automatically honoring those ordered into combat, let their true sacrifice be a cry not for more war but inspiration for us to take action for peace. Such efforts require integration and cooperation on a planet-wide scale. We see the underlying cause of war are often economic in nature and stirred up by excessive identification with divisive labels among religions, politics, nationalities, tribes, and ethnicities. Knowing this, we can work together in spite of our differences to end war. The greatest service we can give those soldiers and civilians who endured the horrors of war is for us to cooperate together to stigmatize, stop, and war once and for all. Where do you stand this 11-11-11?
William Dudley Bass
11 November 2011
Copyright © 2011, 2016 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.