Today’s tweets from Richard Armitage

I’ll just leave this here. The person who blogs as Servetus has zero nostalgia for war of any kind. IMO nothing about war is poignant.

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~ by Servetus on July 1, 2016.

17 Responses to “Today’s tweets from Richard Armitage”

  1. Saluting and remembering the 1.3 million people of all nationalities, who died at The Somme is hardly having nostalgia for war.


    • I think this is totally nostalgic and actually perpetuates war. All those noble poems of people who died for king and country being read. People crying crocodile tears. Children aren’t the ones who need to be commemorating the war — it makes us cry and makes us feel good. Total bullshit if you ask me.


      • I totally agree. I have problems with Anzac Day here in Australia every year. There’s too much rhetoric over the “sacrifices” people made in WW1 and 2 and not enough discussion over the wars Australia currently involves itself in.


    • There have been war memorials since time immemorial (excusing the pun). WWI is a particularly good example. People have been mourning that war for a century now. And what do we have? MORE WAR. Ineffective strategy if you ask me. Makes people feel good about their convictions but when push comes to shove the soldiers deploy nonetheless.


  2. Not sure if I agree entirely with you. I concede that mankind never learns from history. But there is emotion attached to the commemoration, a sense of paying respects, maybe? From my own experience, I can say that the most effective WWI “memorial” are the war cemetaries in France. I spent a summer cleaning a fee of those cemetaries when I was 17. When you spend a whole day brushing off the moss off a tombstone, re-sealing the stone, and finally repainting the engraved name and the soldier’s year of birth and year of death, and you count the years and realise he was hardly any older than yourself, you don’t learn to fear war but to hate the people who are responsible for it…


    • *cleaning a FEW


    • Warning: sarcasm

      There are thousands of WWI memorials in Europe. Every tiny church has one. In addition to the huge battlefields — where leaders went every year for I don’t even know how long and still go, and give speeches. The former Allies used to celebrate the WWII invasion at Normandy and it was this huge thing when Gerd Schröder got to attend for the first time. Hasn’t stopped any of those countries from going to war as far as I can see. Hasn’t even caused them to pause and think about it. In that sense, the EU was a worthy project — because people agreed to forget all that nonsense.

      I can’t tell you how many WWI memorials I’ve seen, but certainly in excess of a hundred. Without even thinking I could tell you the titles of five scholarly books written about them and there are certainly fifty more just in English. We mark at least three holidays per year here in thanks for the sacrifices made by veterans and dead veterans and so on. From seventh to twelfth grades I put my band uniform on for them and played at services and marched in parades about them. In my lifetime the US has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and I don’t even know how many other places that aren’t occurring to me right now — Grenada.

      Actual war and commemorative war are quite obviously in separate categories in the minds of the democratic public. So I stand by my position: none of this commemorative activity has had any measurable affect on our likelihood to go to war, a decision which is made elsewhere, on different grounds and out of different considerations, and then sold to the public with exactly the rhetoric that characterizes these memorials and celebrations, which they cultivate on purpose: honor, self-sacrifice, nation. How many of these events do you think Tony Blair has officiated at over the years? Did it make any difference to the UK’s foreign policy?

      It’s a piety that serves to make us feel good, but has no effect on our behavior. How wonderful we are for recognizing a century later that the Somme was a disaster! I think the real story is that we can’t accept that all these pointless sacrifices were made for nothing — that would crush us. So we commemorate to make ourselves feel better with a sort of controlled catharsis. And who always recites the poems at these ceremonies? Kids — whom we thus inculcate with our disease before they are old enough to think about what they are doing or saying.


      • This is so true,Servetus!
        sigh poems and songs…”patriots” and flags ..all those things makes me sick, especially lately 😦


        • i could be a jerk about which pieces of WWI get commemorated by I’ll skip it. Two more years of this to look forward to, sigh …


    • So guess my question is: I wonder how many Leave voters are piously commemorating the Somme today? Because I don’t think we (using that pronoun loosely) have learned that lesson very well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m wondering whether you are oversaturated with all the glorification via commemorations whereas I come from a place where that never had much of a place – (sarcasm alert, too) well, not much to celebrate when you are responsible for and lot two world wars.
    I am not into the commemoration gimmicks, Sassoon poems and cute kids reciting. I just think the endless rows of graves work pretty well as reminders…


    • re: problems w/ remembrance in Germany — I wrote a post about this a long time ago on a Volkstrauertag. I do think the issues are different for a Germany.

      re: me — I think I’m annoyed because I just ran through this material again in March and April. Also because I spilled a lot of scholarly ink on commemoration / remembrance over the years and it’s my impression that people remember what they want to remember, not what they probably should. I’m thinking of the very concrete way in which memories of European violence and the motto “never again” justify Israel violence against Palestinians right now in the minds of many people.

      re: battlefields, they were good reminders for me, too, but I was already convinced by the time I saw them. I bet Blair, Obama, Reagan, you name your favorite French premiere, you name your favorite German politician, have all been there. How many European leaders visited those battlefields and NATO still bombed Kosovo in 1998?


      • Too fresh! I am thinking of the Balkan wars right now that I am here in Croatia, wondering how a country can find back to normal after the trauma of war, no matter whether they’re on the losing side or winning side… It actually makes me feel sick to think about war.
        So yeah, politicians on war cemetaries = lip service.
        Re. Israel issue – strangest case of contradiction in terms on the world stage…


        • two theories I’ve been burning over in my head the last day or so about this:

          1. War commemoration is a demonstration of a sort of social sunk cost fallacy: if we forget these events “they” will have died for nothing. Maybe instead we should just erase everything about war from our brains.
          2. Discussion of war in the media (and in war commemoration) is still inherently nationalistic, just like those cemeteries in Flanders. Most people today get their war “knowledge” from TV and these programs are almost invariably sympathetic to a particular national perspective, even unconsciously. I’m think of that Jutland thing that Armitage just narrated. It’s all about recovering the honor of the person made responsible for it at the time. England no longer hates Germany, so it’s not about that, but it’s still about the same traditional categories, it’s one of those “our England” moments. It’s a controversial position for a historian to take but perhaps there really are things that should be forgotten / erased.

          re: fmr Yugoslavia, I am cynical. Sometimes I tell my students, “it’s a major success of the diplomacy that came out of the second half of the 20th c. that the Balkans went to hell after 1989 and all of Europe didn’t get into a slugfest over it” but sometimes I say, “the reason Europe didn’t go to war over that after 1989 was that there was nothing at stake there any more.”


  4. I have to add that although I do not find glorification of war helpful, I never see the cemeteries or the commemorative ceremonies as glorification. They serve a different purpose for me. I am always thankful at these gatherings that those who gave such great sacrifices are not forgotten. It says to their families that we remember their loved one and the battle(s) in which they died. I have many friends and neighbors who have served /are serving and they don’t want the lip service. They truly hope that the war isn’t the focus, but the people who were there (for whatever reason they chose to serve ) are honored. Such sacrifice is rare in this day of “me and I “. I think that Richard said it well…”My comfort was their toil.” That generation understood dying to self and serving a greater good. Unfortunately, there are always uglier truths and actions that put those genuine hearts at greater risk and peril. I don’t celebrate the political stirrings that brought about the war, but honor those who looked beyond that toward action – any action – they thought would make a difference. I do understand your view as well, however. It just isn’t the same lens I’m looking through.


    • I think the issue is that most of those people didn’t want to go or die. They thought they had to. They and we justify that with pious language about why it was important to do so. I don’t think “dying to self” is that great of an idea, frankly, and I don’t think “making a difference” is necessarily something to celebrate (e.g., if you’re a German looking at those cemeteries). Yes, ours are very different worldviews!


      • Yes. I think we will both agree that war is ugly and sad. I can definitely see what you mean, but I appreciate the opportunity to express my view as well. Thanks for a thoughtful conversation.


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