He Died for His Country
When the British 'Raj' reigned supreme. Divide and conquer worked well
As young men, we're naive enough to believe governments know best
How often do we hear that expression, “He died for his country,” as one more of countless millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen is laid to rest. The question I ask is “What is/was his country?” The question might seem preposterous; we all know what a country is. A country or nation is made up of people, so you could say that “He died for his people.” Yet we know that in a democracy at least, people are represented by those whom they elect to parliament or congress or whatever the house-of-assembly is called. We know, too - and unless we’re very naïve - that the real power lies with the inner cabinet, the decision makers in that cabinet. This is one other thing we adults know, but which is not given a lot of thought by those youngsters who ‘hear the call’ and enlist to “fight for their country.” It is that those decision-makers are often lobbied to accept and back particular policies which will benefit those people and organizations the lobbyists are arguing their cases for. And these last people are, in all probability, more concerned about ‘business matters’ than they are with those individuals who go away to fight. They might even have a direct vested interest in armed conflict, particularly if they manufacture and sell to the armed forces.
Yesterday's enemy - the Dutch in South Africa
The smart businesses backed both sides
Way back around 1900 there was a well known writer by the name of O’Henry. O’Henry had a tremendous insight into the way his country, the United States of America, was being run back then. Whether things have changed I cannot say. But O’Henry wrote a short story about an Central American republic which, at that time, was nearly always in a state of political upheaval. There were always ‘rebels in the hills’ working on overthrowing the incumbent government. O’Henry came up with a company which, from memory, I think was called the Banana Box Company, or some such. It was American. Always writing ‘tongue in cheek’ (I’m sure his writing caused a lot of angst among various business communities) O’Henry stated that no matter where the Banana Box Company operated, any Latin American country, they always supported both the incumbent government and the rebels. They put their money into both sides. The reason for this was that it was highly likely that eventually the rebels would take control and become the government. If they always backed both sides there would be continuity of ‘business as usual.’
Some few are alive when these are handed out. Most go to the 'next of kin.'
As long as the public sees us in a favourable light we're okay
In other words, this fictitious company which had a virtual monopoly on the growing and export of bananas, made sure that it was always seen in a favourable light. It no doubt had its lobbyists. And just as likely it ensured that only those acceptable to its business aims made it into the government. For example, the Communists were out. They’d likely want to ‘nationalize’ the Banana Box Company.
"Business is Business" - an expression which can hide a multitude of sins
The point I’m making with all this is that the people who decide whether or not to send our young men off to risk their lives in a fire-fight with an enemy are subject to a great deal of pressure, almost coercion – if it comes to providing funds to bolster an unpopular government - from Big Business to ensure that they stay big.
One of the very many war cemetaries that dot the world's landscapes
Government can allow us to commit mass murder with impunity providing 'they are the enemy.'
It is a truism that young men fight old men’s wars. Only the young are naïve enough to believe that going to war is an adventure. In a land where a civilian would be executed or cast into prison for many years for killing another human being, that same man is ‘licensed to kill’ total strangers in another land because they’ve been labeled ‘the enemy.’ Yet we know, yesterday’s enemy is today’s ally – even friend. One wonders at the sense in any of it. And I’m still a little perplexed when a soldier goes off to war with a country far away – in which we haven’t even declared war – and ‘dies for his country.’ Oh, when will we human beings wake up!
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