Today (July 28) is the centenary of World War I (WWI). The War started as a family affair and then spread to the whole world because of more family affairs. Wars are, more often than not, family affairs even today. We, the human beings, are still as clannish as we were when our forefathers descended from the tree and started feeling ashamed of the groins that gave birth to families. Shame breeds wars. Shame is the other side of honour.
What triggered WWI was the murder of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand. The year was 1914. France was already a republic and England was a constitutional monarchy. The rest of Europe remained conservative monarchies. But the monarchies were already feeling the fire beneath their bottoms because of what had happened in France and England. The common man was beginning to assert himself.
It was a common man who shot the archduke Francis Ferdinand. A common man’s crime could not have triggered a world war.
Francis Ferdinand was the nephew of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph. Francis Ferdinand was a close friend of Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm. Connections. Relationships. Politics is all about connections and relationships, whatever illustrious historians may tell us.
But the historians are not all wrong, of course. How can they be? They are the scholars who determine for us, the ordinary mortals, what is right and wrong.
Historians are the people who will make a mahatma the villain and a villain the mahatma. Wait and see how it is going to happen in India in the coming few months. NCERT is going to rewrite history textbooks. Just as it did when BJP came to power the last time.
During the WWI, the Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke wrote: “Perpetual peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful dream. War is part of God’s order. Without war, the world would stagnate and lose itself in materialism. In it, Man’s most noble virtues are displayed – courage and self-denial, devotion to duty, willingness to sacrifice oneself, and to risk life itself.”
In August 1914, young men in Europe rushed to enlist themselves in the army of their countries. They wanted to relish the entertainment called war.
Today, we are told that young men of India are going to the Arab countries to fight against the enemies of Islam. War is a good entertainment, it seems, even today.
In the olden days, Kings led their soldiers to wars when they were bored of the women and wine in their respective palaces.
Can we give more entertainment to people and avoid war? I think it is possible. But the entertainment has to be more stupid than what we are providing already on the numerous TV channels. We should give a lot of God on the channels.
Freedom is something that people can’t understand. Enslave them with God and spirituality. Temples and Mosques have failed. Give them God on TV screens and computer screens. Make God digital. Make God a relevant drug.
WWI marked the final end of absolute monarchies in Europe. Yet there was another World War just a few decades later. Why? Because there were too many people in Germany, the country that was defeated in WWI, who were unemployed. Too much poverty. Too much exploitation. And Germany sought its saviour in Hitler.
Hitlers create wars. They don't know how to create relevant Gods.
These are some random thoughts of mine on the centenary of WWI. I’m no historian, no scholar, no strategist. I am not one of those Israelis who entertain themselves watching their missiles kill hundreds of people in the Gaza strip. I’m not one of those “experts” who are going to rewrite the history of India in the coming days.