Only wor­thy fight is a fight for peace

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

THIS morn­ing many thou­sands of us will mark the Ar­mistice that ended what was known as the Great War. Those who do so al­most ex­clu­sively will be peo­ple with rel­a­tives who ei­ther fought and came home, or who rest for eter­nity in ceme­ter­ies in France, or Bel­gium, or Turkey.

With­out per­sonal con­nec­tions to the slaugh­ter, oth­ers sim­ply will ig­nore the an­niver­sary, es­pe­cially those who have lived through an un­prece­dented pe­riod of peace in Euro­pean his­tory.

Nowa­days we know the Great War as the First World War, be­cause the un­fin­ished busi­ness it left cre­ated the con­di­tions for the sec­ond. Brow­beaten and hu­mil­i­ated, or­di­nary Ger­mans were eas­ily ma­nip­u­lated by a dem­a­gogue promis­ing to re­store not just their pride, but their su­pe­ri­or­ity.

To do this, Adolf Hitler de­monised Jews, and this week saw an­other an­niver­sary – that of the Kristall­nacht pogrom in 1938. Within seven years, six mil­lion Jews had been ex­ter­mi­nated – a Holo­caust that has reper­cus­sions even to­day.

This morn­ing, as si­lences are ended by a peal of bells across the coun­try, we will re­mem­ber the tens of thou­sands of Ir­ish who died in the trenches, and we will give thanks that such a hor­ror could never hap­pen again in our life­times.

That com­pla­cency could be our un­do­ing. WWI cre­ated our mod­ern world, and WWII de­fined it, break­ing it down into ri­val ide­olo­gies, cap­i­tal­ism and com­mu­nism, that rubbed against each other like tec­tonic plates for most of the last cen­tury – with­out, thank­fully, caus­ing an­other earth­quake as many feared.

The wars taught us that talk­ing was bet­ter than fight­ing, and, while con­flict is ever present some­where on the globe, there has not been a third war.

Yet we don’t have to look very far to see mi­nori­ties be­ing de­monised for po­lit­i­cal gain, and even the wars are of­ten ro­man­ti­cised and politi­cised. There is noth­ing to cel­e­brate in war. It all is fu­tile, as even the great-grand­chil­dren know when they look at that faded pho­to­graph of a smil­ing young man, who was promised an ad­ven­ture but was in­stead shred­ded by ar­tillery fire as he went over the top of a trench.

While it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber these men, it is even more im­por­tant to re­mem­ber how frag­ile peace is – and how hard we have to work at it. Dem­a­goguery and de­mon­i­sa­tion are on the rise again, feed­ing the dis­ad­van­taged with false promises of great­ness and re­birth. The lan­guage is ter­ri­fy­ingly fa­mil­iar. One hun­dred years is a heart­beat in his­tory and we must fight as never be­fore for peace.

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