Sunday, June 16, 2024

Will We Humans Ever Evolve Beyond War?

Six years ago in my Remembrance Day editorial, I noted that while we here in Canada remember our veterans, largely from the two World Wars, many parts of the world are mired in war, and little has changed since that 2017 editorial.

Though we live a privileged life within the safe boundaries of Canadian borders, as we are set to observe Remembrance Day armed conflicts are taking place in some 32 countries around the world.

Currently, the most high profile conflicts are of course between Russia and Ukraine, along with Israel and Hamas, but those are just two of the many armed conflicts taking place around the globe. From Afghanistan to Cameroon, or Tunisia to Sudan, armed conflicts are taking place in many places around the globe. Some are conflicts between nations, some are battles with terrorist organizations, while others are civil wars being fought within a country’s own borders. And let’s not forget the Koreas, which have never officially ended their war from the 1950s, and that conflict could be reignited in the blink of an eye.

It is often said that we must learn from history in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, and there’s a lot of truth to that logic, but do we humans ever really learn when it comes to war?

We Canadians seem to have learned the lessons of the realities of war and as a result we’ve largely stayed out of international conflicts throughout my lifetime, and I’m certainly thankful for that. Sure we’ve sent our troops to keep the peace in various hot-spots around the globe, and we’ve been dragged into a conflict or two in support of our allies, but we Canadians don’t go looking for war, and we certainly don’t glorify it.

Each year, tens of thousands of human souls are lost to the horrors of war. As we march through our daily lives here in Canada, where we have no fears of waking up to bombs being dropped on our neighbourhoods, it can be easy to forget just how good we have it here, and how horrific life can be for some of our fellow humans living in war-torn nations. With dozens of armed conflicts taking place around the globe at any one time – war might be largely a thing of the past for us Canadians, but it is a harsh daily reality for millions of people around the world.

In my opinion, there are no winners in war. I think of the old saying, that war doesn’t determine who is right, only who is left.

At this point in our evolution, one would think that we would have moved past war, and found more humane ways to solve differences, but sadly, our tribal warring nature continues to lead us from one armed conflict to the next.

Fortunately I’ve never been personally touched by war. Like many in this young nation, I am the first generation of my family born in Canada, I have no friends or relatives who have served in the Canadian military, let alone seen battle, and there has never been a time in my life where I (or now my children) would have been expected to step up and go off to war, to ‘fight the good fight’.

So for me Remembrance Day is always a time to reflect upon both our past and the veterans who fought in the World Wars, two wars that took place long before I was born, as well as to remind myself that war is a horrible reality being experienced by millions around the globe to this day.

I’m thankful that as a nation we decided decades ago that while we can and should honour our own fallen heroes in battles of the past, we don’t glorify war, and we certainly don’t see it as an effective tool for conflict resolution – it’s a last resort, and one that we haven’t had to resort to with any notable frequency since the world wars of the 20th century.

At the same time, I look around the rest of the world, and my heart sinks when I imagine children woken in the middle of the night to the sound of bombs dropping or of automatic weapons firing. I think about the thousands of lives taken each year by warring nations – fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, future scientists or teachers, potential bakers or farmers stripped from the planet, torn from their families, all in the name of war.

There is no glory in war, I don’t care what anyone says. The best wars are wars averted in my opinion, and I suspect that this is one of the lessons that war has taught us, but as a world-wide civilization, we haven’t exactly embraced the advice.

On this Remembrance Day, like many Canadians, I’ll be reflecting on Canada’s war heroes of the past, I’ll be appreciating how fortunate I am to have been born in a country where we understand the horror of war, and where we avoid it at all costs. But I will also be thinking about the millions of my fellow humans around the world who don’t have the luxury of taking the time to remember war as if it were a thing of the past.

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