Although some were eventually hospitalised, in the First World War, most shell shockees were just blindfolded and shot, after due process, of course. Today's tabloid climate of grievance and compensation and human rights legislation, however, insists that we pay lip-service at least to ameliorating Tommy's horrors but lip-service is all it is, as empty as any other fevered, bombastic, Stalinist rant from the lunatic, Brown and we now, resultantly, in the vox pop, approach a situation of Tommy as protected species. The self-appointed leader of the nation is an embarrassing, serial coward, hiding, biting his nails, doped-up, fortified against his own weakness, why should not the widows weep and wail?
Press-conferencing bereaved mothers - why are they always dressed for a disco - complain that not enough is done for them after their offspring have died for Obama, although less than a century ago millions of the widowed kept a stiff upper lip; those affianced, pre-trenches and thence bereft, maintained a life-long spinsterhood, 'migrant guest from relative to in-law, skin like a lizard, aura like a daffodil, she stares into the embers and remembers' and those robbed of their child dusted his uniformed portrait, until their own death saw these, too, faded and foxed, abandoned by impatient relatives, junked by the house clearance vultures; I have some.....
was numbered among those who
at the call of King and Country left all
that was dear to them, endured hardness,
faced danger and finally passed out of
the sight of men by the path of duty
and self sacrifice, giving up their own
lives that others might live in freedom
Let others who come after see to it
That his name be not forgotten.
PRIVATE ALFRED HARRISON
ROYAL MUNSTER FUSILIERS."
.....................which I retrieved from a skip.
I tried to investigate the life and death of this young man but his War Office records, from the First War, were blitzed and destroyed in the Second. Who will care for this morbid, martial image after me is unknown, obviously none of his kin gave a flying fuck, no peroxide diva to hold his picture up to skymadeupnewsandfilth's all-seeing, all-pitying lens. The time of unquestioning sacrifice, of blind duty and obedience is gone and with it the sense of perpetual, dutiful mourning. Now, mums and widows want Tommy, basically, not to be put in harm's way; in a time of Ruin it is Everyman for himself, and why not, who should die that Alan Duncan may have free gardening ?
skymadeupnewsandfilth's sentimentalisation of everything and everybody so undermines the national sang froid that maybe we approach a point of Zero, as they say, Tolerance to Boxed Tommies at RAF Lyneham; maybe we have developed a revulsion welcome during these privateering Blair misadventures, one which will prove catastrophic in times of proper threat. And alongside the public infantilisation of so many slain troopers and guardsmen and bombardiers and Kingsmen comes a new parade - of those mentally butchered abroad and in McGuinessville.
Seems to me, never in the forces, that the first five minutes after enlistment would induce a lasting stress-related disorder and that anyone actually at the sharp end would be indelibly marked, maybe in part for the better but often for the worse.
This US posting, below, even so, may well be long on hyperbole, can all the Vets be pissed off homicidal or suicidal junkies ?
First Blood, David Morrel's first novel saw it's damaged hero, John Rambo, mercifully despatched by his CO, Troutmann, as his 'Nam-acquired demons raged uncontrollaby through his battered mind, Sylvester Stallone entirely missing and subverting the point of Morrel's story and thus generations of movie-goers now see judicious mayhem as the Vets' only redemption, confusing, as ever, Hollywood special effects with real life.
Uncle Sam, in the land of the free, has five per cent of the world's population, yet twenty-five percent of all those imprisoned on the planet and what is sure is that, as in the United Kingdom, a disproportionate number of the incarcerated will be black, a disporportionate number will be ex-servicemen, passed out of the sight of men and into the jail's dark stench. Here, in the UK, addiction and housing charities, the probation service and voluntary sector agencies deal with many, once the recipients of Gordon Brown's hollow, vampire gratitude, once casualties of Bob Ainsworth's fuckwit parsimonious incompetence, now drifting too far from shore, programmed to kill, abandoned, loveless and angry. Mediaminster conspires to make us indifferent to enemy casualties, to our lasting shame we have never even counted the dead in Iraq; puffed-up Ruperts, by this neglect, this contempt, fostering an inhumanity which must eventually play-out in the bedrooms and in the town centres of bankrupt, unemployed, post-discharge, ruined civvy street.
We used to set them to selling matches or making poppies, the limbless, the gassed, the blind, things are immeasurably better, if not ideal; it is foolish in the extreme, however, to train split-second killers, to psych them up, threatened from all sides, in a war with no front line and then to discharge them into a society regulated, corralled, categorised, cv-ed to fucking death, surveyed and policed as never before. Wiser men than Brown and his misfits would see the urgency and put stepping stones in place but he is a life-long Atlanticist and dooms us to repeating Uncle Sam's disastrous treatment of his own veterans; shattered in body or mind or both, Tommy returns to a civilian society as alien to him as is he to it. It has ever been so but now that we are so clever we should demand better, for Tommy and for us. The soldier, though, deals in the harshest of truths, this unblooded crop of politicians in the meanest of soundbites; the mad bastard, Brown, attuned only to his own pathetic ranting, unwilling and unfit to think of - much less speak to - the weighty matter of arms and the man.
Violence, of course, is the undercurrent of all our histories.
Violence Is the Dark Undercurrent of American History
Violence is a dark undercurrent of American history. It is exacerbated by war and economic decline.
Violence is spreading outward from the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan to slowly tear apart individuals, families and communities.
There is no immunity. The longer the wars continue, the longer the members of our working class are transformed by corporate overlords into serfs, the more violence will dominate the landscape. The slide into chaos and a police state will become inevitable.
The soldiers and Marines who return from Iraq and Afghanistan are often traumatized and then shipped back a few months later to be traumatized again. This was less frequent in Vietnam.
Veterans, when they get out, search for the usual escape routes of alienation, addictions and medication. But there is also the escape route of violence.
We risk creating a homegrown Freikorps, the demobilized German soldiers from World War I who violently tore down the edifice of the Weimar Republic and helped open the way to Nazism.
The Afghanistan and Iraq wars have unloaded hundreds of thousands of combat troops, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, back into society.
According to a joint Veterans Affairs Department-University of San Francisco study published in July, 418,000 of the roughly 1.9 million service members who have fought in or supported the wars suffer from PTSD.
As of August 2008, the latest data available, about a quarter-million military veterans were imprisoned on any given day—about 9.4 percent of the total daily imprisoned population, according to the National GAINS Center Forum on Combat Veterans, Trauma and the Justice System.
There are 223,000 veterans in jail or prison cells on an average day, and an unknown number among the 4 million Americans on probation. They don’t have much to look forward to upon release.
And if any of these incarcerated vets do not have PTSD when they are arrested, our corrections system will probably rectify the deficiency.
Throw in the cocktail of unemployment, powerlessness, depression, alienation, anger, alcohol and drugs and you create thousands, if not tens of thousands, who will seek out violence the way an addict seeks out a bag of heroin.
War and conflict have marked most of my adult life. I know what prolonged exposure to industrial slaughter does to you.
I know what it is to confront memories, buried deep within the subconscious, which jerk you awake at night, your heart racing and your body covered in sweat.
I know what it is like to lie, unable to sleep, your heart pounding, trying to remember what it was that caused such terror.
I know how it feels to be overcome by the vivid images of violence that make you wonder if the dream or the darkness around you is real.
I know what it feels like to stumble through the day carrying a shock and horror, an awful cement-like despair, which you cannot shed.
And I know how after a few nights like this you are left numb and exhausted, unable to connect with anyone around you, even those you love the most.
I know how you drink or medicate yourself into a coma so you do not have to remember your dreams. And I know that great divide that opens between you and the rest of the world, especially the civilian world, which cannot imagine your pain and your hatred. I know how easily this hatred is directed toward those in that world.
There are minefields of stimulants for those who return from war. Smells, sounds, bridges, the whoosh of a helicopter, thrust you back to Iraq or another zone of slaughter, back to a time of terror and blood, back to the darkest regions of your heart, regions you wish did not exist.
Life, on some days, is a simple battle to stay upright, to cope with memories and trauma that are unexplainable, probably unimaginable, to those seated across from you at the breakfast table.
Families will watch these veterans fall silent, see the thousand-yard stare, and know they have again lost these men and women. They hope somehow they will come back.
Some won’t. Those who cannot cope, even by using Zoloft or Paxil, blow their brains out with drugs, alcohol or a gun.
More Vietnam veterans died from suicide in the years after the war than during the conflict itself. But it would be a mistake to blame this on Vietnam. War does this to you. It destroys part of you. You live maimed. If you are not able to live maimed, you check out.
But what happens in a society where everything conspires to check you out even when you make the herculean effort to integrate into the world of malls, celebrity gossip and too many brands of cereal on a supermarket shelf?
What happens when the corporate state says that you can die in its wars but at home you are human refuse, that there is no job, no way to pay your medical bills or your mortgage, no hope? Then you retreat into your private hell of rage, terror and alienation.
You do not return from the world of war. You yearn for its sleek and powerful weapons, its speed and noise, its ability to abolish the lines between sanity and madness. You long for the alluring, hallucinogenic landscapes of combat.
You miss the psychedelic visions of carnage and suffering, the smells, sounds, shrieks, explosions and destruction that jolt you back to the present, which make you aware in ways you never were before.
The thrill of violence, the God-like power that comes when you can take a human life with impunity, is matched against the pathetic existence of waiting for an unemployment check. You look to rejoin the fraternity of killers. Here. There. It no longer matters.
There is a yawning indifference at home about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The hollow language of heroism and glory, used by the war makers and often aped by those in the media, allows the nation to feel good about war, about “service.” But it is also a way of muzzling the voices that attempt to tell us the truth about war.
And when these men and women do find the moral courage to speak, they often find that many fellow Americans turn away in disgust or attack them for shattering the myth.
The myth of war is too enjoyable, and too profitable, to be punctured by reality. And so these veterans nurse their fantasies of power. They begin to hate those who sent them as much as they hate those they fought. Some cannot distinguish one from the other.
As I stared into the faces of the men from A Gathering of Eagles on Saturday at a protest calling for the closure of the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia, I recognized these emotions.
These men had arrived on black motorcycles. They were wearing leather jackets. They had lined up, most holding large American flags, to greet the protesters, some of whom were also veterans.
They chanted “Traitors!” at the seven people who were arrested for refusing the police order to leave the premises.
They sought vindication from a system that had, although they could not admit it, betrayed them.
They yearned to be powerful, if only for a moment, if only by breaking through the police line and knocking some God-hating communist faggot to the ground. They wanted the war to come home.
It is we who are guilty, guilty for sending these young men and women to wars that did not have to be fought.
It is we who are guilty for turning away from the truth of war to wallow in a self-aggrandizing myth, guilty because we create and decorate killers and when they come home maimed and broken we discard them.
It's the ideology of patriotism that drives America into new, bloodier killing fields. And it's done with our tacit support. Are we so inculcated with 'war is peace', 'violence is liberation' that we are willing to condone this country's brutality?