Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Lest we forget
It has seemed to me for a long time now that criticizing World War I has become too easy. People, especially in Britain, like to point to this war as an illustration of the pointlessness and badness of war. Of course it is that, but it's such a comfortable example that it encourages not thinking rather than thinking. The tendency to act thoughtful and sad, to do the things you are expected to do during a minute's silence, without being thoughtful or sad also produces empty words. I had a student a few years ago end an email with the words, "Lest we forget!" He seemed to think that these words meant "Let us not forget" rather than "So that we don't forget." The words need to be attached to a memorial to make sense, and using them in ways that don't make sense shows thoughtlessness, the very opposite of the thoughtful remembrance supposedly intended. Of course students will always make mistakes, but now here's John Quiggin making what appears to be exactly the same mistake. Of course people who are not students will always make mistakes too, but I take this as a sign that the rot has really set in.