8 November 2011

Week of Remembrance: Memory.

The Great Wars of the twentieth century are passing from living memory.  Should I live a normal span, I shall see the last of the soldiers of the Second World War pass, even as I saw the last of the First.  For a long time, there was a sense of gratitude to those soldiers, for their courage, for their sacrifice.  George Orwell, writing before the Second World War, said that pacifism was only possible because the pacifists were protected by walls, on which stood rough men, ready to do violence on behalf of the pacifists.  Tom Brokaw famously wrote of the people who overthrew Hitler that they were the Greatest Generation.  But these are not universal positions.  New positions come, bolstered by no sense of history, unfettered by logic.  Books have been written about the Baby Boomers, naming them the greater generation.  There was also this piece (H/t John C Wright):

Toward the end of World War II, Robert Heinlein wrote a letter to well-known SF fan Forrest Ackerman, whose brother had recently been killed in battle. In the letter Heinlein, who had served in the U.S. Navy, explicitly condemned the many SF fans who considered themselves superior to ordinary people yet hadn’t lifted a finger to help win the war. In Heinlein’s words, these fans were “neurotic, selfish, (and) childish” individuals who needed to tackle “the problems of the real world.”

However, if these fans had written their own letter to Ackerman I have no doubt they would have defended their lives and choices in equally blunt terms (after all, there are very few SF fans who aren’t opinionated about life and politics).

While Heinlein wrote from a military point of view about his desire for self-sacrifice and a sense of duty, these fans would probably have replied that they supported their country by making their own individual choices.

The best way to defend freedom, in this opposing view, was to embrace freedom by living your life the way you choose. (Emphasis mine)

Consider well that last statement.  Read it again, then again, then again.   Consider well the context (the Second World War) and what is being said.

In Canada, during the Second World War we had what was called the Zombie crisis.  The zombies were men who volunteered  to serve in the army, but only for home defence, not for overseas duty, not, in short, to fight.  Some may have been motivated by principle.  Others signed up because it was a job with some pay.  Others because wearing a uniform gave them stature, made them more attractive to the ladies.  The men at the front loathed the zombies.  Many mail calls brought dear John letters from home, many wives or girlfriends who could wait no longer, and gave in, often to one of the zombies.  There were reports of men who, after receiving such letters, presented themselves to enemy fire, passively suicidal.  This writer would have us believe the true heroes were the zombies, and not the men they left spinning in the wind.

 The best way to defend freedom against a genocidal regime bent on world domination, was to stay home, sleep around, and enjoy freedom, and not to surrender that very freedom, even for  little time, to oppose them.  History is being rewritten as memory fades, and we are being told that cowardice is true courage, and the true heroes are those who betrayed and cheated those rough men who manned the walls behind which the cowards cringed.

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