It has been my honour to have played the Last Post dozens of times for fallen soldiers and veterans: at cenotaphs on Remembrance Day, at graveyards and in churches for funerals and on parade for other honouring ceremonies. Lest we forget. I think we don’t forget; we do Remembrance Day ceremonies each year.
What about the other 364 days? I wonder if we are not fully honouring them the rest of the year. Are we not severely altering the world they fought for? Soldiers, sailors and airmen and women fought and continue to fight for a way of life: freedom and democracy. But was it freedom to trash the planet that they fought for?
Our strongly defended capitalism has translated to a sense of entitlement that fosters a greed which is exceeding the planet’s ability to fulfill. It is also rendering it increasingly inhospitable to human and animal life. It is not something that is happening overnight but has picked up considerable speed since World War II. We are slowly stripping our home of its lifeforce. The evidence is increasingly hard to miss.
War, besides being awful for people, is also terrible for the planet. Battlegrounds were once forests, meadows, rivers and lakes. Birds lived there and so many other animals, too. People used to grow food on lands destroyed by bombs. There has been so much destruction to the natural environment — both inadvertent when bombs were dropped on people, and intended, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam. Nature didn’t matter. Destroy it, if necessary.
Military spending is excessive all around the world. If that money were spent on people through education, health care, arts and other quality of life ways, perhaps we would actually get along. As it works out, fighting is good for the economy because money changes hands. But is it good for us?
If we stopped fighting it would be far less profitable to the people who make and sell armaments, as well as the people who rebuild that which was destroyed. If we stopped living in a culture of fear, perhaps ‘re-building’ wouldn’t be an ongoing necessity.
Imagine a world where resources were spent on helping and supporting people rather than devising ways to hurt them. Imagine a world where we started not fighting; that is, we started to accept our differences, stopped forcing our way on others and cooperated rather than always competing. There is enough for everyone if we would stop destroying it all the time.
Soldiers sacrifice a lot in war; sometimes everything. We remember them offically every year on November 11th. But will we respect what they fought for? Sure they fought against tyranny but I can’t help but wonder if they’d be a little upset to see the state of their defended home. Fighting and dying for a dirty, half extinct planet may not be what they had in mind. Who would die for that?
I believe we dishonour them every time we choose combat over cooperation and every time another piece of nature dies a little more because of greed and lack of respect. When we remember them, we should also consider the home they fought for. Freedom on a healthy and vibrant planet where people live respectfully is true freedom. And that is worth defending!