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"What passing bells for these who die as cattle?"

Wilfred_Owen_plate_from_Poems_(1920)Exactly 100 years have passed since the start of the First World War. And, in that time, war has barely ceased on our planet. There have been brief respites - here and there a moment of peace - but, in the main, the decades since 1914 have been punctuated by conflict after bloody conflict.

Gaza reels from daily onslaught, Syrian streets are bathed in blood. In Africa, turmoil and uncertaintly sees children kidnapped, families slaughtered. This list of conflicts is endless and ongoing.

Today, war is not confined to trenches in far off fields. Today, war arrives unannounced at the front door of our neighbours' homes. It screams and flies into kitchens, it is propelled into schools, it rips through hospitals marked with a sign of peace. The orders are given, the bombs are unleashed and the children are slaughtered like cattle, beaten beneath the 'shrill demented choirs of wailing shells' that Wilfred Owen described in his war poems from the trenches - never imagining that such woeful keening would still be audible a century later. 

100 years ago, politicians intent on preserving power, claiming land and establishing entitlement set the world on a course that killed an estimate 16 million people and wounded a further 20 million. It was one of the bloodiest conflicts the world has ever seen and, at its end, this war - that was supposed to end all wars - did the only thing that wars can do: destroy, kill, maim and scar. 

All over the world today there will be commemorations and tributes to the fallen of that war. Wreath layings and memorials will be held for those who gave their lives. Yet, as thousands rightly remember the men, women and children killed at a another time for another reason, thousands more have their day marked by Death, that unwelcome and uninvited guest, while a different generation of politicians and power-brokers, dictators and despots wrest elsewhere in safety, justifying their orders with propaganda, hyperbole and hubris, composing new anthems for doomed youth.

In 1914, the general populace did not have the means to speak out against war. Those that did were locked up, taken away, shamed or disgraced. There is no excuse today for not speaking out. We have the means at our disposal to come together and bring about change - peacefully - for our neighbours and friends in other countries. We need to remember that the politicians who direct the generals who carry out the orders for war are there, for the most part, at our instruction, not for our control. Those of us fortunate enough to live somewhere where war is not currently underway must speak out and do whatever we can to encourage an end to the eternal conflicts that plague our planet. We cannot sit idly by and watch, unremarking, while people die. As the human race we can achieve so much together, yet we seem bent on simply tearing each other apart.

Lest we forget, we are all human. We share the same heart. Surely, 100 years on, the time has come to stop tearing those hearts asunder?

 

 

Ongoing conflicts around the world.svg
"Ongoing conflicts around the world" by Futuretrillionaire - This work contains materials from Canuckguy's File:BlankMap-World6.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

 

"Wilfred Owen plate from Poems (1920)" by Unknown - http://www.archive.org/details/poemsowenwil00owenrich. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Headline from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen

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