On war

posted in: Life and things | 0
Bust of Rameses II in British Museum (from Wikipedia)

I’m in an introspective space today as I follow the on-going war in Ukraine.

Putin’s generals (the ones still alive) don’t seem to have any smarts. A 65km convoy of tanks stuck on a road? What a target for an ambush. Putin’s last century tanks clearly can’t compete with modern weapons coming to the heavily outnumbered Ukrainian forces from the West. Mister Putin must be bitterly disappointed that the easy, sweeping victory he envisaged six weeks ago has been thwarted.

So, now it has become annihilation and genocide. Kill everybody. Destroy everything. Witness the terrible murders of innocent people in Bucha and other towns. Bodies in the streets, mass graves, rape (of course), torture. They even shot all the dogs in a shelter. While the Russian military is deliberately targeting civilians, they are also rounding people up and taking them to (let’s call it what it is) concentration camps in Russia.

Are our collective memories so short? Have we learnt so little from history?

“The war to end all wars”, that inglorious scrabble through the mud of Flanders ruined fields, ended war for twenty years, at least in Europe. But we never seem to learn. World War II came and went and some people think we’ve had a hiatus of eighty years. But of course, we haven’t. There has been the awful Balkan wars when Yugoslavia disintegrated after Tito died. We’ve had Afghanistan, the Iraq-Iran war, Korea, Vietnam, Syria, Israel and the Arabs, genocide in Rawanda, Pol Pot in Cambodia… And others I can’t think of off hand.

I ask myself ‘what for’? My religion’s better than yours? I used to own that piece of land and I want it back? You lot are not from the same tribe as us? And then there’s “I want to be supreme ruler.”

Is this war in Ukraine really all about one man’s ego?

Ego goes a long way. Pharaoh Rameses II ruled over the vast Egyptian Empire more than three thousand years ago. He had something of a passion for building statues to himself. He was also known as Ozymandias and many centuries after his death Percy Byshe Shelley wrote a poem.

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.” — Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias”[source]

All these egotistical megalomaniacs should be forced to watch this piece of film, over and over and over again until it sinks in.

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