WWI Centenary

While it’s not a huge deal here in the US, I’ve been surprised by just how much attention the WWI centenary is getting.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it’s good that there are people who are finding out (some for the first time) just how horrendous the First World War really was.

Also, of late more and more people who recall past lives in the war have come forward. I think on the various reincarnation boards there are maybe a dozen or so who have clear enough memories to at least place where they were and maybe 5 or 6 of us who have identified who we were back then. I know of maybe 2 or 3 Americans (one of whom now lives in the UK), 3 to 5 British (two of us now in the US) and maybe 6 to 8 Germans. I can’t recall if any French, Belgian, Turkish, Italian, Austro-Hungarian, or the various colonial troops have surfaced yet. Obviously, there will be cases that are possible cryptomnesia (and I’ve never been entirely sure about my own case), but it’s gotten much less lonely than it was when my memories broke back in late 2012.

However, one thing I’m worried about is a flood of “me too” cases where people either promote their stories aggressively to the media, steal the stories of others, or make up stories whole-cloth just to sell books about themselves, which could cast some notoriety on those of us who would rather not use our claims to get attention. If I find out that someone has been claiming John as a past life for the money, then I will confront them; I would consider that the equivalent of stealing his medals and pawning them for whiskey. Even if I wasn’t him, I feel I have some duty now, knowing what he went through, to defend his honor against profiteers.

Another thing I’m worried about is that the great tragedy of the war will be obfuscated for political gain and the stories of bedraggled men who went over the top more dead than alive will be polished into a safe, glamorous image of undaunted valor. I hope the truth about the war- derogatorily called the “Blackadder version of history” by its detractors- doesn’t drown in a sea of red poppies and blockbuster movies. It was filthy, it was nasty, and there was nothing noble about it. They’re still picking tiny pieces of men John served with out of the soil near Ypres to this day, quite often no more than a shard of bone or a strip of cloth left of what was once a human being who had no clue what he was getting himself into when he enlisted.

In all, the centenary carries with it a flood of mixed emotions for me. There’s pride in the prospect of being the vessel of memories for a soldier who would otherwise be forgotten. There’s joy at finding others who have had the same harrowing experience of remembering what it was like. There’s sorrow, shame, and fear knowing that the human race, for all our pride, has not evolved beyond the savagery we expressed at Ypres and Verdun. There’s longing to go back to the battlefield and the home John left behind and finally get some closure. There’s astonishment that a century has come and gone. There are emotions that I can’t even begin to name or describe, strong and uncomfortable, and a nagging feeling that there are more memories just below the surface that will be wrenched loose over the next four years.

As to how I’m dealing with it lately, I’ve actually been kind of dealing with it in a detached way.  I simultaneously tell myself “it probably wasn’t real” while my emotions and the memories I’ve confirmed nag at me to the contrary.  The flood of emotions is kind of a dull roar, and I find I’m losing myself in day-to-day distractions more to try not to think about it;  I don’t want to seem like a downer or get any more anxious or depressed than I have to be.

There is no question that it is there, though, and nagging at me to find some outlet.


14 thoughts on “WWI Centenary

  1. Why do memories have to be “wrenched loose”? Can they not be allowed to surface
    gently like how the rotation of the earth allows rocks to be birthed in newly ploughed

    Rudyard Kipling called the vast war cemeteries of white standing stones, a “Dead Sea of arrested lives”. That body of salty water that it so important in biblical history and prophecy.
    Onward Christian Soldiers…

    • There’s an urge to wrench them loose in the same way there’s an urge to pull out a piece of broken glass or a thorn from your foot. It’s something painful stuck inside that feels so much better when it’s out and you can see it for what it is.

      Realistically though, wrenching it loose never works. They do have to come to the surface on their own.

      • It is going to be turbulent for a few years. At this link, you can read an overview of what the soul-searching and search for souls is about: bigger picture.

        If you have been following the news, there’s been another “assassination” to bait the Axis powers again. Flight MH17.

        Don’t let it get you down. Keep your powder dry.

  2. Luckily, I think MH 17 is less than enough to stir the people to war. But yes, I had uncomfortable thoughts about the Lusitania the day I heard about that incident!

    I think they WANT a world war. The question is, will the people give it to them this time or are we savvy enough for once that we can say no in a way that they’ll have to listen to?

    I want to be a voice for peace in this world. Another war will destroy the West and when that happens, who knows what kind of maniacs will divide up what’s left?

    • How can any of us be a “voice for peace” in this world, when we do not know what it looks like. Nor did any of the generations that preceded us. It is an alien concept. An ideal that, ironically, many feel is worth fighting for.


      • You underestimate one crucial human ability: the power to conceive of things not yet brought to bear. We can be voices for peace because we can conceive of such a thing, the same way we can be a voice for any idea worth striving for.

    • I think conceiving, voicing, and striving are underrated. It isn’t one individual’s effort but the aggregate of many voices that changes the culture. The surest way to change the world is to steer the culture and the surest way to steer the culture is to be the one to say what others may be thinking but afraid to voice. First you get one, then two, then four, then eight, etc.

      And if you need more proof, remember that the first thing a repressive regime tries to do is to either suppress or discredit the people with ideas. Conceiving, voicing, and striving are not only a political act, but a very powerful one and every despot knows this.

      Ideas rule the world. Never underestimate them.

      • You didn’t answer the question: what are you actually DOING in
        the real-world?

  3. Well, what do you suggest doing? Leading another disruptive protest of the sort that the powers that be learned to counter back in Nixon’s time? Fighting war with violence like some reactionary, which is entirely counter-productive? Raising money for political campaigns that will end up in the hands of warmongers once it’s in the hands of a politician anyway?

    I got into activism a few years ago. I was involved in the Cascadia Independence Project, even wrote a book for them. I was enthused with the idea of having an independent Northwest because I had just moved from Arkansas and thought the whole country was that fucked. The thing I discovered quickly working with these movements is how some well-meaning open forum like Occupy or Cascadia is easily infiltrated by Bitcoin evangelists, Ron Paul campaigners, militia groups, and other assorted anarcho-capitalist types who want to roll out the red carpet for the Military-Industrial Complex that we were marching against. No matter where you turned, there was betrayal and hypocrisy. But when I asked myself what the alternatives were, I realized that a purge of anyone espousing laissez-faire ideologies would turn into a witch hunt that would leave a lot of hands dirty; however, the option probably wouldn’t have gained any traction and I’d have more likely ended up with my hands dirty with money from anarcho-capitalist types trying to get a tax haven in the Northwest. It was a no-win situation so I left while I still had my hands clean. In short, “Doing” as I know it is overrated.

    As far as I know, living a true commitment to peace is more about what you don’t do. You don’t resort to violence to get your way, you don’t encourage violence, you don’t support those who stand for war financially or verbally, and you don’t make decisions without compassion and full understanding of the situation. The only action required of that commitment is whatever action will allow you to keep that commitment.

    Remember that many great pacifist movements- including most ascetic movements- started out as one voice crying in the wilderness for peace and a better way to live. This is why I live in a way that is morally consistent with what I believe, and I put my beliefs into everything I write. What more can I do, given the unproductive alternatives? That isn’t a rhetorical question but one I would genuinely like to see an answer to.

    • How about slinging hash at a soup-kitchen for the disenfranchised and marginalized in your community….something small that keeps it real. I am not
      proselytiziing for any organisation, but in my country I volunteer with the
      Vincentian Society. They get big bucks from people with deep pockets and there is no limit to how that money is distributed one-on-one to the people who really need it.

      Because I do live in another country, I haven’t heard of the Cascadia
      Independence Project. Looks like a cult.

      • Most of the food relief organizations where I live are overstaffed and underfunded. There are other options I know, but I have sensory integration problems that make interacting with people in busy, noisy environments extremely difficult.

      • I found a local charity today that does work with addicts, the homeless, the mentally ill, the LGBT community, and the various people that the city tends to grind down the most. They’re helping me with some things and they seem like a worthy cause to support because they don’t turn away anyone they’re able to help.

        Also, on Cascadia being a cult… that might be giving them too much credit since a cult implies a level of organization, common values, and a defined structure. If anything, they have a profound lack of all these things.

  4. Hah! I take your point about the cult reference. Trust your contact with
    that local charity is fruitful. Catch you later.

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