On the 11th hour, on the 11th day of November 1918, an armistice to stop a war which had taken the lives of almost 9 million soldiers and 7 million civilians was reached as peace talks began between the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance.
From the sparks given off on the 28th June 1914 by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a blazing fireball of war rolled across Europe. Catalysed by a surge in nationalism and patriotism and fuelled by greedy and warmongering governments, the war turned out to be the bloodiest at the time. Newer, deadlier weapons and chemicals were used and the casualty rate and numbers were higher than ever before.
But did it ever end?
Sure, treaties were signed, lands were divided, victory was celebrated, but the glowing embers of hate and war were never completely extinguished, and its effects can still be felt to this day.
The Tsar’s greed ended in revolution, the German Empire was dissolved, the Ottoman Empire, including its lands in the Middle East was split up between the Great Powers and whatever the winning Governments craved, they got.
One of the things which they wanted was humiliation. The losing side of the war was disgraced and the people felt ashamed and angry. This resulted in the rapid resurgence of nationalism which the people thought could cancel out their shame. Soon influential people, fundamentalism and dictatorial ideologies cropped up throughout the world. Hitler took a hold of Germany, Mussolini rose to power in Italy and Spain ended up in civil war between Fascism and Communism.
As these new governments gained a foothold in their countries through the use of brainwashing and state-controlled media, Europe seemed to be heading to another war – A bigger and far bloodier war.
“But,” one may say, “That is history. What does it have to do with today?” – The age of World Wars has ended; complex supranational treaties and trade agreements are constantly being formed and changed to suit countries’ needs; surely one can’t compare today to the warmongering times of the past!
As I mentioned earlier, artificial borders were created after the war. These borders did not take into consideration the religion, ethnicity or beliefs of the people residing on those lands and so created tensions between the citizens themselves. Moreover, foreign governors and rulers were disliked by the natives, who were usually mistreated and discriminated against.
Some of these puppet states became fertile ground for dictatorships which plunged their countries into chaos; some even last to this day.
Take Iraq as an example. In 1918, it was established as a Kingdom by the British, and given to Faisal Hussein to rule. The land within its borders was a home to many ethnicities (such as Kurds, Assyrians and Turkmens) who had all been promised nations of their own.
These culturally different people, frustrated by what had happened, resisted the new ruler, and took up arms. These groups found meaning upon becoming fundamentalists. Given time, these groups would become terrorists. Soon afterwards, militias took over and even after many coups, the region is still divided.
The European people’s frustrations were taken advantage of by some charismatic individuals who, at first, seemed like they would help their citizens but later ended up committing atrocities against their own people and plunged their countries into wars. This was facilitated by the use of fake media and state-controlled mass media.
Even today, discrete frustrations and greed are in being taken advantage of in some places. Hatred is back in common politics. Media and freedom of speech rights are slowly regressing, as seen for example last month when Saudi journalist Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Freedom is being oppressed and parties with extremist ideologies are back on the rise (check out what happened during the last Bavarian election with regards to AFD .. you will be surprised!)
We should remember the lives lost in the Great War. We should remember the great sacrifices our ancestors made for us. But we should also remember what led up to the events and what happened after. We should take a minute to take a look back at our history and ask ourselves “What went wrong?” “What did we do wrong?” “How can we stop this from happening again?”
To close off this thought, here’s a quote from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Recessional.”
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
… And we should not forget. History has a tendency to repeat itself … only we can stop it.
Written by: Gerard Zammit Young