Posted by: Dark Defender | November 25, 2008

Belgium celebrates deserters

Your country needs you! But its cool if you have other plans.

The New EU recruitment slogan: Your country needs you! But its cool if you have other plans.

President de Gaulle of France once said “Treaties are like flowers and young girls, they last as long as they last.”

After reading this article about the new fad in European remembrance of the Great War.

As the war approaches its 100th anniversary, Poperinge’s monument marks a vast shift in recent attitudes in the European countries that suffered the greatest human losses, recalling not only those who died in combat but those who faced a firing squad for protesting, refusing to fight or fleeing the front.

In Ypres, this change in attitude has led curators to change entirely the way the local war museum presents the conflict, stressing the war’s inhumanity rather than the victors and the vanquished.

In Britain the shift led in 2006 to a posthumous pardon by Parliament for deserters, after the erection in 2001 of a monument to those shot. In France, long the holdout, this year President Nicolas Sarkozy offered a public acknowledgment that the executed, too, deserved pity – the first time a French president had done so.

Speaking on Armistice Day at Fort Douaumont, in eastern France, where hundreds of thousands of German and French soldiers died, Sarkozy said that those executed, “were not dishonored, nor were they cowards” – they had gone “to the extreme limits of their strength.” But there was no pardon forthcoming, a spokesman for the president later said.

There are few things I’ve read which have so completely crystallized my belief that Europe’s culture is dying and the EU for all its signs of economic strength is just a treaty which will only last as long as it does.

How can you simultaneously celebrate people who refused to defend your society and then ask the living to defend that society? I don’t think you can.  If a culture not only fails to instill a sense of duty and loyalty to the culture, but actually celebrates those who failed in their duty and placed personal fear over love of community, I just don’t see how it can survive a real test of its mettle.

Think about this, if Europe were to find itself in a position where it had to defend itself could it? How could a generation which has been raised not to celebrate but to mock duty and loyalty be counted on to have those virtues? When a Belgian kid is in a foxhole trying to convince himself to stay put and not run, what does he have to draw upon from his past? A culture which mocks and denigrated duty and personal sacrifice, what will motivate him to stay put and fight for his community? I fear nothing will.

This isnt to say I think WW1 was a good thing, I dont.  In fact I think Europe died in WW1 and WW2, the Cold War and the “rise” of the EU are just reactions to that death and attempts to fill the vacuum left in the world system.  This lack of civilizational confidence and frankly national death wish, which causes a nation to celebrate those who refused to defend it, is I think an ongoing reaction to the horrors of WW1. 

However even conceding that WW1 was an awful destructive war, does not relieve people of their duties to their countries and it doesn’t change that a country which celebrates deserters denigrates those who did serve.  I do not see how a nation which disses those who served, defended and died for it can ever ask for sacrifice again, the EU and its “post-national” character will last as long as it does, it is sustainable only so long as it has no need to defend itself.

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Responses

  1. I agree. Abandoning your country during a war of that magnitude is inexcusable. Pardoning those who deserted makes no sense. However, I do respect Sarkozy’s approach. Feeling pity that their lives were lost in all of the chaos of the time is acceptable I believe, but it is good he did not grant an actual pardon.


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