On the 1. September 1939, seventy-eight years ago, WW II began. I remember the day like yesterday. There was nobody in my family then as old as I am now. Had there been such a person, this person would have been born in 1857; a number that was as ancient to me then as must now be the year 1939 to the present generation of children and teenagers.
The Nazi Government of Germany started the whole thing and it turned out to be a disaster for the world, and the Germans were on the wrong side of history.
Even a neutral observer today can see that it was wrong to start that war. It was a war of aggression and as such reprehensible. The people are never asked whether they want such a war.
When my wife and I demonstrated against the Iraqi War at a peaceful rally in Sydney the participants were called ‘the mob’ by our warmongering Prime Minister. Nobody behaved like ‘The Mob’ there. As far as I could see they were all respectable human beings. They were just sick of the rhetoric of the Western leaders.
Today’s generation knows nothing about WW II and not much about the Iraqi War. It was started by US President George W Bush and it became the cause of the terrorism we are battling today. There was never a Nuremberg War Tribunal for Bush, Blair and Howard. Come to think of it, Nuremberg would be the right place for a permanent War Criminal Tribunal.
Now I am an old man. Recollections of my life are floating in and out of my memory. So many people are now dead who I once knew. There must have been hundreds. Those people were once real to me like the people that are part of my life now. My maternal grandparents were the first to pass away. Where did they go? Children would go straight to heaven if they died, I was told. But where did the older people go when they died? Apparently, they went to the cemetery which we visited regularly. Later, on such a visit to the cemetery, we children discovered a children’s grave adorned by an angel figurine. Another illusion was destroyed.
The day my Opa died I looked up to the sky for a sign that he had arrived in heaven. But it all looked too ordinary; puffs of white clouds moved across the blue sky. Perhaps the air was clearer than usual. Was that the sign I was looking for? Granddad was actually my first body I was allowed to see. All was so quiet as his body lay on a bed. The adults were whispering as if they were afraid he could hear them.
During the war, I saw enough bodies to fill half a cemetery. They did not look as peaceful as I remember my Granddad. Some bodies looked grotesque and would not have wished their mothers to have seen them in their final agony.
One of the most memorable experiences in this regard was the death of a seven-year-old girl who was run over by a tram. I knew her from my way to school and I wrote a partly fictional account of the day of that tragic event. I only saw her tiny legs sticking out from underneath a blanket a kindly person had thrown over her.
I think, I wanted to write something differently when I started this post but it seems my memories took me on an unexpected path. That is one of the characteristics of remembering, one can drift, dreamlike, from one memory to another.
Despite everything, I sort of like my memories. I always tell myself there was nothing traumatic because nobody made a fuss about it. We always got on with it. Memories have shaped and formed us into the persons we are today. But we will take them to our graves and this seems to be a pity. Why can’t we end up sitting on a cloud and remembering things? We would have a lot of time doing it.
Three years ago we went to the theatre in Sydney and saw Maxim Gorki’s “Children of the Sun“. I had completely forgotten about it and can’t even remember it after FaceBook reminded me of it. Apparently, we had a nice day in Sydney and my wife even published a post on her blog about it. Regrettably, she did not write anything about the play.
I know what the play is all about and realise we are all “Children of the Sun” in Western societies. We are all blind to the realities that surround us. When Gorki wrote his play in prison, he had enough foreboding of the time ahead; just waiting around the corner was the WW I. I have now the same foreboding of the future that awaits my grand- and great-grandchildren.
Similarly, written a few years earlier, was H.G. Wells “The Time Machine”. He even looked further ahead. Today, we live “Eloi” like and could not care much for the wage-slaves in China, Bangladesh or Indonesia. Our beliefs in a technologically advanced future, in which “AI” will help us to survive, will only create our own “Morlocks” in our own image.
Today arrived the news as to how the political and financial elite is cheating on their tax liabilities. It is so disgusting as they are treating us all like mugs. They are mocking the multitude and their laughter of derision can be heard as they count their ill-gotten billions. The late Australian billionaire Frank Packer was ridiculing and challenging the questioners at a parliamentary inquiry by stating he would be a mug paying any more tax than he needs to. Indeed, the logic cannot be challenged but the tax laws could be changed. This proves tax laws are made to favour the rich and to disfavour the rest of us.
But is has been like this all through the centuries. The contemporary, political elite has learnt the lesson and they know now how to delay, but unable to avert, the day of the reckoning for a while yet. But the revolution will come and it will be as horrible as any revolution before. We are literally dancing on a volcano and the climate change is making sure it is getting even hotter.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said in a conflict between reason and will, “will” will always win. So, the prospect that mankind can solve its conflicts and problems in a “reasonable” manner, is pretty slim. We are stumbling from crisis to crisis and keep dancing until we fall flat on our faces.
I wish I could be more optimistic but the experience of my life does not allow this. There are good and reasonable people among us but they are not running the show. Barack Obama is such a person but when he entered the Oval Office to start his presidency and said, “Yes, I can!”, all his advisors shouted in unison, “No, you can’t!” He had high hopes and expressed it in this way,
“Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”
I wish I could share his optimism.