While remembering WWI it strikes me that in the important modern day conversation around sexism the historical expendability of men goes almost entirely unmentioned.
The First World War was unlike anything that had come before it. Indeed, decades before this war a modern army could have been fairly pitted against any from centuries beforehand and faced a real chance of loss. This had changed as the troops rolled into battle in the summer of 1914, but they were completely unprepared for succeeding devastation.
Had I been born just 100 years earlier I may have not lived to see 25. I mean this in as real a sense as I can express. I have an awful lot for which I am grateful (my country of birth, the family to whom I was born, the healthy brain with which I was born) but today I meditate on the fact that to be born at any point in the past would have near enough guaranteed a worse and shorter life.
One of the factors that made this war especially awful was the technological advancement in weaponry which came as a surprise to everybody, including those who wielded said weapons. The ensuing massacre was unprecedented and the existence of those young men during those 4 years, if they were lucky enough to survive, were comparable to the atrocities we now see in the factory farming of chickens.
The mass suffering is truly unimaginable, and so I look back and ask the simple question; is it true that men have always been “privileged”, or enjoyed the supposed vast benefits of their apparent power? Or, perhaps, have men throughout human history frequently been seen laying down their lives, not even to mention their wellbeing, to protect those of the women and children for whom they care?
We’re here together 100 years after the signing of the armistice on 11th November 1918, and we seek to remember those who fought to ensure that we can do so while the vast majority of us enjoy the highest levels of wellbeing seen across the globe.
While we remember those fallen let that include those German men who, despite fighting on the side of the aggressors, endured an equal hell. Taken on an individual level the young German boy who was shot and killed, one of roughly 2.5 million German deaths, was just as innocent as any who fought for the Allies. This holds true throughout the almost 30 nations that suffered substantial losses during this awful time.
100 years later, poignantly a Sunday, the German President laid the first wreath during the remembrance ceremony. He does so not as an apology, but as a recognition of the humans that were sent to their deaths in an effort to in some way achieve the unity that we largely enjoy now.