Posted 10/13/2012 An Essay;
The history of war is long and bloody.
It is often short reason that launches war. Evil defines it, whether or not God’s name was invoked as cause for it. The malfeasance manifests itself as the deliberate swallowing of doubt, when presented with loud assertions that the cause is just. Such messages are often unthinking rationalizations – having the convenient purpose of salving the guilt normally associated with bloodlust – even in the most terrible of human beings.
There was a time when war was sport for kings.
In those days, the people did not want war. Conscripts were forced from the farms of poor peasants to fight wars, never willingly, and on the battlefront they took quickly to desertion. A highly improbable cursory reading of War and Peace would reveal the mindset of the conscripts of Napoleon’s war. By unwritten agreements that betrayed a morbid callousness, battles were arranged between hills, so that high ranking officers could look on while peasants slaughtered each other in the manner of savages.
In War and Peace is described one such battle, where the stink of the slaughter drove the more sane conscripts to the rear of the bloody maylay, vainly trying to escape the fight.
Older and sometimes wiser conscripts – those whose physical strengths were no longer well suited to the brutality of battle, always formed a half circle at the back side of the killing pit – with orders to shoot the retreaters.
The old soldiers could intentionally miss only so often – lest they be
Napoleon’s charges were ordered to keep close the rows – so as to blind the third and fourth tiers – not yet shot to death – lest they know that their march was into a sausage grinder. Much of War and Peace revolves around the disconnect of the ruling class, and the way it made aggrandizement of the dissection of the innards of human beings … the glorious acts of “valorous” sacrifice made to their “just cause,” usually in God’s name. In a few passages, war widows converse about the French Revolution and the blood that was let to lift wretched peasants from the whim of noblemen – only to have it clasp them again – for Napoleon was indeed a king.
So much for War and Peace. Never have read it – at least not all of it. No one has that kind of time. But, I took my points.
It’s not that the peasants were stupid, you understand. The facts of their genesis may have made them smarter. The peasants hated war. It served only as a nobleman’s game that killed equally the true and the traitorous.
Twist the time dial, and fast-forward to the industrial revolution. It’s hard to say exactly what date marks its beginning – but let’s say that the strength of it came after Napoleon’s time. Businessmen grew out of the peasant class, slowly, and by various means. Yet the sons of businessmen were not exempted from conscription. The businessmen shared some of the power, and had influence.
War could no longer be purely for sport. At least – not officially.
To be continued …