Wednesday, November 09, 2005

One way tickets...

Sometime in the late summer of 1916, in a field in northern France, my grandfathers luck ran out. I don't know how it happened... I suppose no one alive today knows... except that by the standards of the Great War, it was a quiet day on the Line. He was what they call 'trench wastage'... killed not in one of the famous battles but as part of the day-to-day attrition of that horrible war. There are a hundred ways to die on a battlefield - an incoming shell, a stray bullet, a landmine, carbon monoxide from the crude stoves, dysentary from the filthy water, trench fever from the ever-present lice, bottomless wallows of mud that will drown the unwary soldier...

Not much has changed from my grandfathers time.... rich men are quick to send their countries youth to war, and death comes all too easy. In the constant numbers and statistics - 20 dead here, 5 wounded there, only 95 this month, 200 killed or captured - its important to remember the individual stories. To quote Terry Pratchet:

"Sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."

"It's a lot more complicated than that—"

"No. It ain't. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they're getting worried that they won't like the truth. People as things, that's where it starts."