The Home Front by Trevor Plumbly

soldiers marchingA New Order

The sound of marching soldiers signals the beginning of Karl Jenkins’ haunting work ‘The Armed Man’, or ‘The Mass for Peace’; in its way the sound is far more poignant than the music and choral work that follows. Just marching boots, but in their way seeming to ask age old questions. Marching for what? Duty? Or towards what? The dream of a better, safer world, or defeat? The practice of soldiers actually marching into battle is somewhat redundant these days, as is the idea of ‘going to war’. War, it seems, can come to us whenever a few people choose. It’s totally portable; courtesy of technology and terrorism the term ‘World War’ carries a more chilling reality than before. As if the brutality of WW1 and WW2 wasn’t enough, we went on to Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, bits of Europe, Africa and The Middle East. The memory of those early ‘world’ wars may have passed into history, but sadly, to mangle the quote, ‘the bitch that bore it is still in heat’.

All Round Losers

War is ever biddable and adaptable, all it needs to flourish are conflicting causes and most countries and religions have them. But despite its prevalence in history we seem to learn nothing from it; the senseless slaughter for a few acres of land in WW1, Hitler’s death camps and the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had barely faded from memory when we were collecting young bodies yet again. Then came the 9-11 tragedy at the World Trade Centre, showing us just how vulnerable we were to the new warfare. Since then, suicide bombings and targeted assassinations have driven the message home, that this is a moveable battlefield, which could arrive and depart almost at will in London, Paris, Sydney and more recently, Copenhagen. The new soldiers don’t wear uniforms; they aren’t restricted by gender or even age. They could be a pram-pushing father or the schoolgirl on the bus; the main qualifications are that they are not only unafraid of death but sufficiently indoctrinated to welcome it. The irony of the current situation is that it’s driven by a human perception of a Supreme Being’s wishes. More logical thinkers would suggest that such a Supreme Being would have the wisdom to deplore the waste and provide us with the means to control our own stupidity.

The Price of Prevarication

The Middle East has been allowed to fester into a powder keg and, on the face of it, it’s a war that looks unwinnable. Any force that engages in the barbaric acts that we’ve all seen recently, any parent that can persuade a young child that acting as a literal time bomb is honourable, and any group of people who believe that savagely killing homosexuals will endear them to a higher being is hardly likely to respond to reason or compromise, so it seems that unless more radical measures are put in place, things will simply escalate to an uncontrollable level. Bombing doesn’t seem to be working, it often causes civilian casualties and with it the possibility of making enemies of the very people you’re trying to defend. The UN Peacekeeping Force is a lofty ideal, but in the light of the current situation, it seems pretty ineffective. Why can’t we have a UN Emergency Strike Force, made up of elite units such as the British SAS and the American SEALs and their international counterparts, prepared to fight in one uniform under one flag?

Finally, the religious intolerance fuelling all this didn’t arrive on earth directly from anyone’s God, just by human interpretation. Maybe Pope Francis, surely one of the world’s more enlightened religious leaders, had the answer: when he was faced with a Mafia boss guilty of a brutal family murder, he simply said ‘I excommunicate you!’ In doing that, he removed the safety net that organised terror and violence needs; maybe some of the other servants of the Almighty could give that a bit of thought.

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