War is the health of the State…in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Loyalty – or mystic devotion to the State – becomes the major imagined human value. Other values, such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.
– Randolph Bourne, 1915
The First World War is a distant historical memory now. I don’t believe there are any veterans of the war still alive. All that survives for most of us are flickering images in our heads of tanks rolling over trenches and shells exploding on battlefields which look like the surface of the moon. The Great War is an old war now, though it was the first truly modern one.
In commemoration of the centennial of the beginning of the conflict the Wall Street Journal has put together this very interesting website outlining how our lives have been affected by the technologies, ideas, and people of the First World War. It’s well worth a visit.
And on a personal note I include the following song and dedicate it to the young men who died (to a large degree needlessly) during the world wide calamity which began 100 years ago.
Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
For no more I’ll go waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me
– From the song, And the Band Played Watzing Matilda