A few days ago we Remembered those who fought so that we can be free. They paid an enormously heavy toll in a war that ought never to have occurred. But it did happen and more wars have happened and we and our descendants must forever remember the sacrifice and feel deep gratitude for the legacy of those who fought for freedom. We, the many owe so much to so many, I say changing a tad the words of that British chap who led us in battle, iconically chomping on a cigar under a bowler hat.
“We remember” them but that is not enough, we must not let go of the cause they fought for. We must take it from were they left off to complete the job, to make reality the dream they chased, the big dream of a Warless World.
I lived and suffered through WWII and I understand why many of us who did do not want to speak about it. But there was a hiatus – back in 1967, Canada’s Centennial, we were the proud “Canada, Peacekeeper to the World”, led by Lester “Mike” Pearson, a world renown anti-war warrior.
In 1967 the world was in the midst of a Cold War, the human race split halfway into the “Free World” and the “Communist World”. The humans on either side of the demarcation line were relentlessly manipulated to deem “enemies” those of our brethren across the demarcation line. Once the “leaders” “enemy-ize” their adversaries, war happens.
For a brief moment the world became united in Expo 67, done in Montreal. There people from all over the world came together with their respective “enemies” and this was a revelation to many. Getting to know each other on the Expo 67 grounds was a setback for all the enemizers and it would have toppled them if it had lasted longer and more people had come to the Island of Man, as it was called, in the Saint Lawrence River. But that was too much to ask. Those who “give the cannons to the children and the childen to the cannons” as poet Jacques Prévert has defined them, are still with us, messing up peoples’ lives.
What I saw at Expo 67 was inspiring and prodded me to write a sizable piece about War and Peace. Nothing remotely reminiscent of Tolstoy’s book, my piece was only some thoughts and feelings of one who who suffered war and was denied peace for half a decade of his childhood. My ideas have not changed much since and now I will pick from that my paper as I write this.
“Peace is the absence of War”, that is the best definition of it, so peace is “nothing”. Wasn’t for War, there would not have even been a word for it. Then, seeking Peace is seeking “nothing” and since usually one finds what one seeks, we have not found peace. But it is not for lack of trying. People have been seeking Peace since Aristophanes staged Lysistrata to persuade Greek women to withhold their favours to men, so as to knock some sense into their hot heads and end the Peloponnesian wars. I imagine much was lost but nothing was gained by it, yet the play is lovely. This perennial misdirection of our quest for peace has walled War against our disgust and this may explain how War survives and it thrives in defiance of our ire. It is imperative therefore for us to recognize that Peace is and remain untenable while War lurks in the wings. This defines the task ahead which is the elimination of War. If we put our minds to it, we can do it. For human creativity has no bounds.
I suggest we complement “Red Poppy Day” with “Green Poppy Day”. Let’s begin by attaching Pericles’ “The Epitaph” to our familiar Red Poppy. The Epitaph is a most appropriate tribute to whom we owe so much, and goes way further than that. Pericles goes on to tell us, in the best way ever said, what they died for. There is no better rendition of the objective of the noble pursuit of those who got us freedom – bar none, his is the very best.
To the “Green Poppy” let’s attach Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”. This is the most vivid and powerful description of War. It strips the fancy uniforms with the ribbons and the tin medals off the War and lets us see it for what it is. Twain exposes War entirely naked for us to see what “they” hide from us, to see the real “enemy” that which we must target and destroy, so we can be free of this formidable impediment to the course of civilization.
If you have missed The Epitaph or The War Prayer, please take the time to read or read again these masterpieces – they are concise and highly readable. And then, let’s join hands and move forward guided by these brilliant sources of light. Let us, make them essential reading in all the schools of the Nation. And let’s no stop there, let’s go all the way to the ultimate, let’s challenge the United Nations to embed this pair of magnificent works in the curricula of all the schools on the surface of the Earth.
This will recover, restore and greatly enhance the place of Canada in the human community, that of “Canada: Peace Maker to the World”. Let’s dream big, let’s do it. For this may be the dawn of a Warless World.
Please, spread the word.
And don’t forget that you read this first in the Marketplace.