What do you remember on Remembrance Sunday? Glen Poole says he counts his blessing that he wasn't born a man at a time of conscription.......
It’s 100 years since the First World War began and millions of men gave their lives and laid the foundation for billions more to grow up in peaceful times. Life is full of polarities and one of the apparent contradictions of humanity is that sometimes we fight for peace.
And when nations fight for peace, men and boys die. At the last count, more than 3,000 people still die in war and conflict every week and 83% of them are men and boys. In the UK more than 99% of soldiers who die each year are men and in more than 80 countries, men and boys still face conscription into the armed forces. Men are still the first line of defence in our search for peace.
Of course there are many different motivations that drive nations (and individuals) to war—security, power, control, greed, revenge, fear—and if you look hard enough you’ll generally find a collective desire for peace (and prosperity) is mixed in there somewhere.
Fighting for peace
The desire to be at peace is a noble human intention that we all share and that doesn’t mean the actions we take to find peace are always noble or great—all humans have the capacity to take actions that damage and hurt others (and still be convinced that we only had good intentions).
For more than a decade I have observed men and women go to war in the family law courts and seen the weapons they use as they fight—driven by a heady mix of anger, revenge, fear and love. In the process they often kill each other off—not literally, though if we gave separated parents a big red button labelled “press this to kill your ex”, I’m sure many of them would be tempted.
But they kill each other in their words or actions as the man or woman who was their “one true love” becomes “that bitch” or “that bastard”. When mums demonize dads as the most evil man alive, they can kill not just a man’s reputation but his relationship with his children—the real man ceases to exist in the eyes of his children and he becomes alien to them.
And when dads relate to their ex as “pure evil” they kill off the parts of her they loved and in the process often destroy their chances of remaining a significant part of their children’s lives—why would any parent want to encourage their children to go and spend time with someone who believes you are “pure evil”?
We all have the capacity for war
What I’ve learnt in all my dealings with hurt human beings at battle in the family courts is that all men and women have the capacity for war within us. So when I hear war or violence described as “men’s wars” or “men’s violence” I reject those labels as a man both for myself and on behalf of all men and boys.
As the anti-war MP, George Galloway, righteously observed on BBC Question Time this year:
“[We were told]…for years in the Labour Party, if only we could get more women into parliament there’d be fewer wars, less aggression and all of that. There was 101 ‘Blair babes’ elected in 1997 and all but three of them voted for every war that Tony Blair took us into.”
I didn’t take Britain to war with the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher did; I didn’t take India to war with Pakistan, Indira Ghandi did; I wasn’t Secretary of State when U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, Hilary Clinton was.
And it was Hilary Clinton who famously said in 1998 that “women have always been the primary victims of war”; the same Hilary Clinton who complained just last month that the media failed to highlight the fact that when bin Laden was killed, they moved wives and children “to a safe location so they wouldn’t be hurt”—notice how women were the only adults deemed worthy of safety.
To war is human
Men don’t have a monopoly on war and violence—we all use the weapons available to us in our personal wars whether that’s using our children as weapons in custody battles or using the might of our armed forces when we have political power —it’s not just men that use weapons when they have them.
And the biggest weapon of war remains to this day men and boys—remember this statistic and repeat it often—83% of people who die in war and conflict each year are men and boys. And what Thatcher, Ghandi and Clinton have shown us is that women have political power, they will still send men to die and take action to protect women and children.
We all—men and women—are collectively more tolerant of the harm that happens to men and boys. Today—on Remembrance Sunday—I will be thankful that I wasn’t born a man in a time or place where I was required to fight and die; I will contemplate what “weapons” or “tools” I need to develop to help create a peaceful world and I will consider how men and women can work together to go beyond the need for both personal wars and global wars in future.
But most of all I will remember the millions of men who have died in war with a deep sense of gratitude for the peaceful times that most of us benefit from and take for granted.
---Picture: Peace Quest
Article by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men
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