So we in Britain are at war again. Not that we weren’t at war already, of course. We always seem to be at war. And if we’re not officially at war, we’re threatening war, warning each other about the likelihood of war, debating the advantages of war, cringing in fear of war or looking forward to the prizes of war. The greatest of these prizes is invariably claimed to be peace. What a joke.
And why are we always at war? Well, needless to say, it’s always someone else’s fault. It’s for their own good, after all. Hmmm.
A few years ago the historian Stuart Laycock did some interesting research. He found that of the 193 UN member states in the world today, the British have made war in 171. To put it even more simply, Britain has at some point invaded 90% of the countries of the world. And in modern times? Every year since 1914, the British have been at war somewhere in the world. These statistics far exceed those of any other country. And before you think this must be an exaggeration, please note that Laycock is not some radical propagandist – he even admits to being sheepishly proud of our record in this respect.
One wonders what the rest of the world would have done, without Britain to constantly uphold the values of peace and freedom. All those indigenous peoples whose lands were stolen would have had nothing to do but go on living in the old sacred ways, respecting all life. Think of all those women who wouldn’t have been raped and mutilated, children who wouldn’t have seen their families massacred, men who wouldn’t have been hunted down and tortured as insurgents for trying to protect their people and homeland. All those places where Earth and her creatures would not have been poisoned, killed or consumed. And all those humans who would never have been enslaved and used as the property of some Englishman.
Britain isn’t really a country, of course. It’s more and more obviously a collection of disparate countries, three of which were invaded by England along with most of the rest of the world. I’m English, and my family has been English for a very long time. There are things I love about this country, but I can’t avoid seeing how sick England is, and how profoundly mired in the pollution of war. The bombing of Syria is just one more brush stroke on a thickly-laden canvas. I see, too, how deeply this pollution affects all who live here. We have a great need for true peace, not the doublespeak of our rulers. We need true freedom, and that includes being free of the addiction to war.
Harsh though this seems, what is done in our name is done by us, unless we work actively to undo it. We’ve learned that going on demos and signing petitions against war make no difference. In any case, the need is deeper than those measures can reach. Collectively, we have a great need for ceremonies of cleansing, purification and atonement. We also need ceremonies of asking for forgiveness, and making offerings of reparation to the peoples and lands against whom we have committed, and continue to commit, our crimes of war.
I’ll say more about how we might hold such ceremonies, and bring healing to the world of war, in Part 2. In the meantime, please let me know your own feelings and thoughts.