Thursday, 25 December 2014

Moment of Truce

Several Christmas messages and articles this year have chosen to focus on the unofficial truce between British and German troops, where soldiers put down their weapons and played football instead,  sharing food, cigarettes and general festive cheer.
Despite being commonly over romanticised it's a heart warming story of people on the ground seeing a folly that those in positions of power do not.
It's fashionable now to criticise the generals for their incompetence and arrogance, but they were only truly dangerous because people were prepared to heed them.
When I reflect on this though, it becomes sad more than it is heart warming. It is an inherently sad proposition that we celebrate some of the world's most advanced countries temporarily suspending the mass slaughter of each other's youth during the season of goodwill in their shared religion. And it is sad that even with nobody to shoot at these young men were kept hundreds of miles from their homes and loved ones.
Saddest of all however that after they had defied the authorities to meet and fraternise with each other, they returned to their respective sides, picked up their arms and resumed what was to become one of the most brutal and destructive conflicts in history which achieved nothing positive for any of the original protagonists.
They could so easily have returned to their homes and averted so much of this damage - the ruination of Germany that would eventually lead to the second world war, the hasty overthrow of the Russian monarchy which led directly to the horrors of the Soviet Union and the decline of France and Britain to the point that neither will able to effectively thwart the rise of fascism or contain Germany, even bound by sanctions and struggling economically as it was.
It's of course impossible to measure the impact any of these things or say with certainty that modern Europe would be a better place had World War 1 not happened, but it seems highly likely that it would be a much better place,  and that just a small step further through an already open door would have spared us this gruesome episode.