Monday, 4 August 2014

Letter to an unknown soldier

My "letter to an unknown soldier"
(for this project:

Dear Soldier

I am writing to you from one hundred years in the future.  I recently had my own revelation about life after my own existence.  It was interesting to believe for a moment in the world that exists without me in it.  The world has existed now without you in it for one hundred years and you may wonder what you have contributed to that world.

There are many people who fight or don't fight for their own particular reason.  It appears that many of your comrades are of the opinion that fighting to oppose a cruel and violent regime, that wishes to invade and destroy other countries, is a noble and worthwhile pursuit.  The resistance to violent oppression and subjugation is undoubtedly an honourable motive.  The willingness to sacrifice your life if necessary to defend your comrades, your family and, indeed, your country is without doubt laudable.  It seems to me that most aggression is motivated against perceived injustice and in that regard most people are benign and well motivated.

The paradoxical tragedy is that the result of such motives are often the manifestation of the very world one wants to prevent.  But the equally paradoxical question raises its ugly head "If I don't stop their violence, who will?"

It transpires, one hundred years later, that you are part of an industrialised war machine.  It's the "Ford Motor Company" production line of violence.  It seems to have gone from strength to strength since the Great War in which you are a participant.  It transpires that it was never a war to end wars but more of a war to organise and industrialise war for the profit of a few at the expense of the many.  A clever and complex machine of slavery and subjugation.  A war to perpetuate war.

If only it were as simple as either fighting or not fighting then we could all stop.  But the world of humans is more complex than that.  The world I live in appears locally to be a better world than that of the majority in Britain in your time.  Life has improved in many ways.  Some of those improvements are a direct consequence of the desperate attempt to improve military capabilities.  You would hardly believe the technology we live with today.  But there are many improvements that are the product of human ingenuity and creativity without the military motive as well.  It is hard to determine where we might be without the incessant violence in which humanity indulges.  And although the world may be better in some ways, and the quality of life be an improvement for many, it remains true that for the majority of humanity things are no better and possibly worse.

So I am left with the profound puzzle as to what is the best thing for a person in your position to be doing.  What would I wish I could do in your place?  Unravelling this problem is far more obvious than one might imagine.  Committing to the solution is another matter.

Opposing oppression seems central to the moral human motive and justification to get angry and fight.  It follows that we should all oppose oppression whenever we encounter it.  The trouble with oppression is that the oppressor threatens harm and so opposing it is harmful in some way to one's self.  By avoiding opposing oppression for immediate relief leads to a world which gives rise to the sort of insane violence in which you are currently indulged.  So the really courageous thing to do is to oppose your real oppressors; the commanders and generals who threaten to shoot you if you don't do their bidding and kill other people in the same unfortunate position as yourself.  The really noble thing to do is to oppose the government full of wealthy individuals willing to 'play' the people for their own benefit.  The truly honourable thing to do is to object to the people who are willing to moralise about the need for others to fight a war whilst being entirely unwilling to join you on the front line.  They will kill you either way.  The difference being that if you die for them you are leaving your children back home in a world governed by them, controlled by them and ultimately abused by them.  We all have to ask ourselves what we are really opposed to and then stand against it.

We are all human.  Humans are transient manifestations of a complex system.  We are in some very real way all the same.  So I am your future as you are my past.  Do I want to be a subservient soldier dominated by peer pressure to enact violence that I abhor for fear of being ostracised and possibly executed?  After my death, when no one can harm me, who would I wish I were?  I would wish I had stood against the real oppressor; the one currently at my back with a gun.  But I am only human and I don't know what I would have done in your position.  I would probably have gone along with the whole affair just like you.  So I do not judge or criticise you for what you are doing but I can assure you, one hundred years in the future, I admire conscientious objectors far more than I admire soldiers.  I am fortunate in that I have never been faced with such an impossible choice.

So I wish you well in your unfortunate circumstances and would hope that you come out of this war alive except that I am reliably informed you don't.  I will always honour your memory and I will always oppose those who promote and support war.  You have my deepest love and I will treasure and protect your future world to the best of my ability.

With respect
Sam Spruce

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