Thursday, 11 June 2015

Soldiers of Freedom

I'm actually sitting here chuckling to myself. This is a very serious topic, and I'll get past that, but that word Freedom, that poor word. I think it probably gets abused more than any other word in our language. Used by every extreme of politics, ever. Used by every level of income, every role, every situation. I mean, what does it MEAN?

Here's what the dictionary says:


the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or underphysical restraint:
He won his freedom after a retrial.
exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
the power to determine action without restraint.
political or national independence.
personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery:
a slave who bought his freedom.
exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually followed byfrom):
freedom from fear.
the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.

As soon as you see that a word has 7 different definitions you have a clue that discussing it isn't going to be straightforward. Any discussion could involve two or more parties with different selections from those definitions, or maybe blends of them, and not even being aware of that. Not only that, the concept of freedom is relative, depending on physical ability, money, responsibilities, and geography, among other causes.

For example, when I got up this morning, I was free to do whatever I wanted. But my choices are actually quite limited. I cannot fly, I cannot speak Dutch, and I'm 5' 4". So my freedom does not extend to becoming a raven in Amsterdam. Before you ask, "why would you want to do that?" (Or possibly "are you mad?") That's not the point. If I did want to, I couldn't. Nobody is that free.

We talk about the free world, free trade, free elections, and so on, none of which are free at all, they are just less restricted than other examples.

When somebody tells me that a soldier died for my freedom, I groan. 

Yes, I know what they mean, or at least what they think they mean. I am extremely respectful of soldiers who have given their lives with that intent. But let's be honest here, the last soldiers whose lives actually made a difference to how free I my life is, were in World War II. I think.

I was born in 1962, in England, and they still hadn't finished rebuilding after the war. Yeah, 17 years later. We still had an air raid shelter in the garden, and visibly wounded men were still easy to spot on the street. It was a massive event and was still uppermost in everyone's minds. People still talked about it regularly. Everything in their memories was divided into before, during, and after The War. Everyone had lost friends and/or relatives. My mother lost half her classmates. The road that ran parallel to hers was flattened one night.

The British war effort was all about preventing invasion. Make no bones about it. When they entered the war it was ostensibly because of the invasion of Poland, but they knew it was just a matter of time before Hitler set his sights on the islands, so it was absolutely a matter of self-defence. That is a justified war. Yes.

Obviously the best form of defence is attack, so that's what happened, and you know the rest. When it was all over 70 million people had died.

We can't relate to a figure like that. But many of you have seen this recently:

Was it worth it? Did 70 million people die for a good cause? Has the Long Peace been as a result of all that loss?

We are now faced with something quite different. Extremists - not a government - who seem to be capable of anything.

When we talk of war atrocities, what we really mean is "extra/for no obvious purpose" because war is obviously an atrocity in itself. How did we get here?

Here's one educated view:

But like all of these situations, it's very complicated, and in the arrow of time, any deviation off course would have resulted in a very different scenario.

What if there had been no resistance to Hitler? What if he'd taken over the world? What would it be like today? Impossible to say. I'll come back to that.

Resistance. Well. We don't just sit back and let crazy people do anything they please. On wait...the Germans did. Oh wait...the Russians did. It was their own governments! So that's different right?

Look......dead is dead. If it makes a huge difference to YOU whether you are killed by your own government, somebody else's government, or a terrorist, then I can't help you, but to ME it only matters that I don't get killed.

If you sit back and let crazy people in your own government cause problems that lead to the deaths of innocent people, then you are part of the problem. But of course, the average person feels powerless. All we can do is vote.

Did I just say all? But we're FREE! We have democracy! We have the power to get a new leader.

Yeah, meet the new boss, just like the old boss.

We can't simply hold the Bush administration responsible though, can we? Bush left office 6 years ago, and while there's no argument that he left a mess for Obama to clean up, in every way possible, many people are not happy with the clean-up. I don't want this to be a pointy fingers post, it's too important, so while I hold Bush responsible for getting the world into this mess, and I'm disappointed in what has happened since, the fact is this is a US Government mess, rather than any party or individual. On the whole we cannot hold the American people responsible, as they didn't know their leaders would be doing this, and they believed they only had a choice of two when they voted in any case. Nor can we hold any other government responsible, who supported the Americans, because they didn't really have much of a choice, all things considered. 

They did what they did, and we can't turn the clock back. 

The question now is, are we free?

Are we at least freer than we were?

A bit?

OK, we're less free, but are we at least freer than we would have been if they had never begun the Iraq war? 

If you can't answer the question, maybe you don't understand the question, perhaps I've finally got your full attention.

As the video correctly states, the death toll in these recent wars are minor in comparison to WWII. 
Still, around 4500 troops and half a million civilians have died, which is not a small number. Every one of those dead is dead. And there are of course plenty more injured, and then there's this:

Shame on the US government for throwing away people like that. It's become a popular "meme".

It seems to me that if you die you are are honoured, but if you come back in one piece, well......

So there's that. There's also the fact that we seem to forget the civilians.

There is nothing wrong with honouring a soldier, and let's be quite clear about that. These are the bravest of the brave. Every time I say the SLIGHTEST thing on this topic I am accused of not respecting the fallen, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Bollocks to that accusation. And that's the polite version.

I say this, when you say Solder X died for my freedom, you are lying. He may have died for his comrades. He may have died for his superiors. He may have died for his government, but he didn't die for me. I was in no danger. My country was not invaded. His life, and the lives he took, have nothing whatsoever to do with me.

So, you say, it's figurative. He represents all those who have died, ever, believing they were doing the right thing as soldiers. That I get, to honour one is to honour them all. I wasn't even born when WWII happened, and if the outcome had been different, I would never have been born. That young RAF conscript would have joined the Luftwaffe instead, and not by choice. Or he may have simply been killed, seen as a threat. One way or another he'd never have met my mother, and I would never have been. So in a weird way 70 million people died so that I should later come into existence. But did they die for my freedom as well? What are we talking about?

Are we saying that in the unlikely event that after Hitler had invaded Britain, my father had still somehow survived, and met my mother and I had been born right on schedule, that I'd have been less free than I actually was? When you play what ifs with history, it's just a game because you have no way of knowing.

Some years back a movie was made that explored a "Hitler winning" what if scenario, it was very good actually, but hard to find, so I'm recommending the book instead.

"The story begins in Nazi Germany in April 1964, in the week leading up to Adolf Hitler's 75th birthday."

There are many other books like this, including one by our beloved Stephen Fry, "Making History", in which Hitler was never born, and we are in fact NOT freer.......I recommend that one too.

If you Google it, there are hundreds of ideas, and when is all said and done, it's fun but meaningless, because what happened happened, and here we are. Again I ask, are we free, could we be freer, what would have made us less free.

Freedom is assumed to be very closely related to peace. But you could have a rock solid peace with very little freedom. And in many ways war gives you freedoms you never usually have, like killing people with no murder charges. Some soldiers sign up for the destruction, sadly. So that link is...iffy.

Freedom is also supposedly linked to security. I really don't need to explain how that can be in inverse proportions. Walls and gates make fortresses and prisons and often there's not much difference.

Moving forward then, what do we do? "We" being the western world. Do we ignore ISIS and let them gain a huge foothold in a volatile part of the world? Do we send in more troops, spend more money, and crush them like insects? If we wipe out every member of the organization, and affiliated organizations, and apologize for the civilian "collateral damage" will we be free? For how long? If we don't do that, will we be free? Or less free? Or freer? 

"We" started this whole fucking mess when we freed the Iraqis from that terrible Saddam Hussein. Ask an Iraqi how free they feel between then and now, I dare you. (Yes, I have.)

But you can't sit back and let crazy people do as they please. Can you.

"We" usually end up doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons, and as a huge part of that soldiers get killed. Every damn time. But not for freedom. There is no freedom. There's just a never ending damage control, currently like damping down smoldering embers that never quite go out. If I had a solution I'd be running for office. I don't. If I had a way of preventing so many lives lost, I'd be doing it. It hurts me to the core of my being that young men the same age as my boys never come home. I don't know what those boys are dying for, but it isn't freedom. 


  1. Excellent; very well presented. I can only suppose that 'freedom' is used, because of its multiple definitions, to appeal to a broad audience. If government specifically went about their killing business being very detailed, that specificity itself would probably keep the scores of troops from signing on, bloodlust or not.

    I correlate much of the war machine/combat to the same realm as sports; the competition between sides, the 'fight' for supremacy. What one person may try to do as a 'maniacal tyrant,' (which we consider crazy), entire groups seem to do for various 'good reasons' (i.e., freedom) that we welcome with open arms. It's all in how we view it, and the level to which we subscribe to the activity, or ignore it, whichever.

    Many do realize these days that the voting is a somewhat useless endeavor, meant to give the 'common person' a say, but as you point out, it is the same activity and result no matter who is running the show. And it is a sports...and the government contractors (Haliburton) are get bigger money. ;) ~ Blessings! :)

  2. Actually, Hitler had at no time any intention of invading England. He greatly admired the British and the British Empire, he at no point made any attempt to build an amphibious capability to cross the English Channel, and from the first his aim was to destroy the Slavic peoples and occupy their countries. The idea that Britain wanted to prevent an invasion is absurd - the Germans could never have launched one even if they'd wanted to.