Proud of Your Country – Chapter 3 Peace and War

Photo by Kaye Bewley

Bringing us a little closer to our modern day, when we consider what it was like for the population between the World Wars of the last century, we can see the devastation and destruction that it brought to individual lives on a small scale.

Thankfully, there are people who live in this world whose sole purpose is to save life.  People like, miacrystals, for instance, who have a pride in the work they do for that very life:

“Hi there, I’m extremely proud of my country because I’m a nurse working in the NHS and without exception it is the envy of the world. I’ve delivered life and seen death, I work hard and am paid well. I know that lots feel we should be paid more when you see footballers etc are paid x amount but I choose to be a nurse, its my vocation x    I have my own unit with 30 staff, we deliver excellent care and I am proud of them all, we work as a team and when things are tough we look after each other, we are not perfect but we fight to the death to make sure our patients get the care they deserve x” miacrystals @ NetLog (UK)

The good old National Health Service, who miacrystals toils away for, was set up to help the people of Great Britain after the Second World War (even though it is still paid for out of the British Taxpayers pocket).  It has since gone on to freely help the rest of the world that arrives on its doorstep – whatever the residents of the country think about that generosity.

The resident population of the UK, and indeed whole world, has increased rapidly over the past few years.  Those figures can be very scary numbers indeed.  Some of the ways that governments have tried to ‘calm’ them down is through sex education and health awareness.  Regardless, one of the primary control mechanisms (whether orchestrated or not) have been disease and war.

I’m not disregarding health as an important point to consider, but as we’re talking countries here, it is to the topic of war that I now turn.

Nope, not guns and big boys toys.  Sorry guys – but in this blog about proud of your country, it could only be about people and places and the obligations that are placed upon each individual under the flag they choose to reside.

Why do I need to bring up the subject of warfare in a blog about pride in your country?

Well, war nearly always ends up as the result of that ‘fight the good fight’ attitude we feel in our hearts.  We can see it on a small scale as in miacrystal’s case where she admirably ‘fights to the death’ to give the care needed, or indeed as we are witnessing amongst today’s young men in the Middle East.  But, we witness it more on a large scale – when we are all called to do our duty and march our merry way off for the Motherland.

That is, merry until we see the harm that is done to our fellow man.

Instinctively, we become angry on their behalf and we have a need inside in us to fight for that person.  It is then that a surge of protectiveness wells up inside us and we go out and defend, not only them, but what that person stands for – as well as the values that country holds.

I think, by now, all my friends on this channel are aware that I read a great many books.  And, like I did when I looked at my little finger from close up (and imagined it situated on that tiny globe of mine), when I take an overall view of those books and the war books in particular; the wars of the last centuy tell us that fighting to the death is a terribly sad fact of life.  In the last century alone, we have ‘legally’ murdered over 100 million people.

More pain has been caused through fighting for our own values, past hurts and an unwillingness to forgive, than at any other time in human history.  Countless more have suffered as a result of bereavement, becoming a refugee, or wounded.

This comment by Lil_menot got me thinking.

“Well I live in Australia and what makes me puff up with pride is the attitude the majority of Australians have when it comes to giving a helping hand to others, regardless of what Country they are in. By this I mean when someone else/country is in trouble, the Aussies are generally very generous helpers as in a monetary sense, getting in and helping restore infrastructure etc. It seems to be not a question of can we as Australians help, but “right here we are, where do you want us to start”. Its not only overseas but here at home as well. Mostly the Australians do this without being asked.   yup, they have got big hearts.”  Lil_menot @ NetLog (Australia)

If I take you deeper into that little globe, on a more personal (up close) journey, I can confess that I was in the Territorial Army for a while.  I enjoyed that experience and it offered me a sense of pride in my own country (the British are told we have the best fighting force in the world – is your nation told that too?), though I continually counted my blessings at how fortunate I was never to have entered a real battlefield.

Like the Australians that Lil_menot speaks of I, too, wanted to go out and help people – whoever they were, wherever they were, no questions asked.  It gave me a sense of pride, to know that I was doing at least some good for the benefit of mankind.

However, the experience of seeing the horrors of war is nigh on impossible for me to imagine.  Heck, I even hated it when I had to spear a soggy sand bag on an assault course!  I cannot imagine, nor do I wish to know, what it is like to have to kill someone. I’ve heard it said that an empathetic soldier is a useless one – as he’ll never follow orders without questioning.  So, except for when I watch the opening scenes of films like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Gladiator”, I can only be given a snippet of the awfulness that is involved for the soldiers having to perform it – and the civvies caught up in it.

But, I ask here:

Do we really have a right to compalin about warfare – and the men who perform it in blind service to their fellow countrymen – when, at its heart, like the contributions made here, war may possibly be a machine designed to save life?

Yes, you read right.  I did ask that question.

Is war, the machine of death, designed to save our life?  Our lifestyle and our freedom?  Is it to protect the freedom for us to think and explore in our own way as we do in whatever society we come from?

At home, we see a dashing soldier in uniform and read those romantic poems reaching far out from the bloody battlefield itself.  But the reality and the fear, the sweat and the tears, shows that no man undergoing it sees any romance in it.

On the other side of the coin, victory in war always shows us how much bravery and courageousness there can be within one individual when it’s called for.  An act of heroism that isn’t necessarily demonstrated in ordinary everyday life is seen every minute on the battlefield.

Obviously, even though technology has changed warfare over the centuries, battles remain a human concern: a matter of facing the fear, the issuing and following of orders, of cruelty and of compassion, of solidarity and of self-preservation.

And, at the end of all things, isn’t warfare a matter of ordinary men having to face the most extra-ordinary circumstances?  And underlying this, doesn’t it help us focus on what is important?  Comradeship in the face of hatred?  Unity in the face of separation?

“I am very proud of my country, not so much what it is now. But what it used to be. The British Empire, world wars 1 & 2. All make me proud to be English. I have an England tattoo on my back and a lot of people think it’s a bit tacky and represents hooliganism but i got it in tribute to my elders who fought to make this country what it is was, before it slowly slid into a warzone on the streets!”  Mike @ MySpace (England)

Just as Mike so honourably says, in our lives, there is always somebody who says or does something that will forever have an impact on us enough to change the way we view our world.  The courageous spirit of the men of the First World War quite rightly instill in us a glorious pride.

But big wars start in small, seemingly insignificant ways.

Kaye Bewley (c) 2012

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