Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happy Anniversary WWI. You Sucked! (With Film Recommendations)

Pan Ice 49
When I took that bleak pic above, it reminded of a WWI battlefield

I'm no WWI expert or buff. My knowledge of it is cursory. I never really understood its origins and my interest is minimal. But if I had to vote for the shittiest war of all time, this would get my vote.

Time is accelerating as we rush to the end of this generation (of Jesus). I'm thinking not much changed in the world between 1000 and 1050 but 50 years after the start of WWI the world was engulfed by Beatlemania. That's such a vast divide it's hard to even comprehend. From a world obsessed with war to a world obsessed with song. 20th century warfare meant a new consciousness of war, its futility and insanity could no longer be repressed in our minds. We'd decided there's no place in the world for humanity.

When I heard of man killed recently for texting during a movie, I thought to myself, "That's not why he was killed. The shooter was a ticking time bomb and sooner or later something was going to set him off." That's how I look at the roots of WWI. We were a tinderbox ready to explode needing any fig leaf of an excuse to rage fire across the globe. It wasn't because a certain incident started the conflict, it's because we wanted a conflict we found an incident.

Future SS officer

In the film, "The White Ribbon" we see the true causes of that global conflict. There are many historians who know the facts of WWI but facts alone do not provide the truth (though that is a common pretense of historians). Based on actual incidents, the children of a German village are victimized by the highly suppressed/repressed times where technology was making the world a smaller place and the shame of our ways gets harder to hide.

The aberrant behavior of the adults with their rank hypocrisy and sadistic impulses to "punish" played out a world of inescapable horror for the children. They in turn acted on what they are being taught, mimicking the observed behavior in unspeakable cruelty. We see this generation as ruined, lost souls buried too deep to overcome, who will one day rise as a generation of dark Nazi warriors. While watching the film, one has the urge to scream, to explode, to rebel against the silence and hopelessness. As the story ends with the beginning of WWI one has the feeling of this entire inner turmoil finally coming to light.

When one is hopeless, nothing is off the table. War gave the excuse to engage in our worst impulses, devising poison gas and other unthinkable nightmares to inflict on our fellow man. The designer of the machine gun said his weapon would prevent wars because its use would be too horrific to contemplate. But these were hopeless beings who felt they already faced only doom; loss of reason as self expression. Even the tactics emanated from twisted minds with mandated suicide rushes on bunkered machine gun nests. And the men obliged because they were that worried they weren't men.

Patton really overrated war

WWI does not have the cult status of WWII. There is no Time-Life series detailing its every aspect. It was just shit pure and simple. Who wants to relive that? Where's the glory? Where's the simple good vs. evil storyline? Instead, our vision is blurred and marred. The new organized tyranny of "systems" that enslaved us in factories and rural farms with never a cent to be saved led to this frustration of epic proportions, a force we'd not fully felt before. Remember, the people left in Europe were the ones without the gumption to flee to the promise of the New World.

There are events planned to commemorate WWI as 2014 unfolds. I don't see how anyone can examine this war and get a good feeling about it. It's painful to realize its monumental waste of time and the shattering destruction enacted, like mindless beasts set loose from their cages. What exactly did this war accomplish? The War of 1812 stopped the British from impressing American sailors, the Civil War ended slavery, WWII ended an attempt at global domination by one nation. But WWI? No ready answer comes to mind.


Some further images:



There are some enlightening films of the "Big One". Kubrick's "Paths Of Glory" is outstanding in its parsing of the French commanders' outrageous egos and ruthlessness when conducting the war, unable to hold themselves accountable while doubting the bravery of men ordered to pointlessly die.

The preeminent film in my opinion is 1930's "All Quiet On The Western Front", based on a German novel of the "soul destroying" hell of WWI. We follow a gung-ho German soldier boy as he's gradually hollowed out by an experience too terrible to convey. No one wants to hear his story. While on leave, his hometown only wants tales of how great it is fighting for glory in the anonymous killing by mustard gas and endless shelling.

But we also see the flipside, of a small sliver of hopeful humanity leaking through despite the inhumane conditions. "Joyeux Noel" tells the tale of a Christmas truce between soldiers engaged in a bitter battle. What's unusual is this truce is declared by the soldiers themselves. As the two sides joyously eat and drink together it's obvious they have no idea why they are fighting. Afterwards, when the superiors find out they are livid with the soldiers' betrayal of stupid warring. Their reaction is to crush any humanity gained.

Jean Renoir (son of the famous painter), perhaps sensing the coming doom of world war released in 1937 his immortal "La Grande Illusion" - a film banned in both Germany and Italy. It's the story of two men on opposite sides of WWI who clearly in other circumstances would be friends for life with great affection. They joke together when they can but also are duty bound to resist the other leaving the viewer helpless but to think of the stupidity of blind duty and the inevitable tragic end it brings.


In a scant 50 years, that dawning sense of humanity that did leak through despite all efforts of two world wars blossomed in a decade of colors and dance. Those who clung to war were left behind, bitter in their conservative outlook. What does it say of us now we have let those unbalanced voices dominate our culture? Regardless, I present to you those legendary boys from Liverpool and the seeds of dreams they sprinkled on a hard world:

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