Silent Night

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I
don’t think I need to go into a discourse of any great length on
what a tragedy the twentieth century was for war. Indeed, war continued
to be Hell as we witnessed a great slaughter unparalleled in human
history. A Dante-like descent into the lower circles unfolded in
unison with Superpower Statism desirous to export and preserve its
way of life.

Wannabe
tin pot dictators queued up eagerly to create their own little infernos
worldwide, as they became geographical extensions of imperialist
super-egos nourished by taxpayers' dollars and satiated by innocent
blood.

Add
the two ingredients of more destructive weaponry and an amoralism
that redefined human life as merely advanced animal life and the
poisonous potion was complete.

The
century that began with the slash of the sword finished with the
fireball of the atomic bomb and the bloody principle behind them
remains with us to this day – the pursuit and retention of power.

But,
quite often, it is the little events, which either chill or warm
the human heart. Go back to the early stages of that doleful century
and witness an age that was still looking back and up to nobler
principles of spirituality and the ethic of the self-reliant man
under his God.

Now
witness the scene of the assassination of the Hapsburg heir, Archduke
Frank Ferdinand, on 28th June 1914. Neither king, nor president,
his death should have been a footnote in history. However, the complex
web of European treaties at that time combined with oafish rulers
not wishing to lose face ensured World War One.

The
carnage ensued and became a monster that did not run the expected
number of months but rather years and beyond as it spawned children
such as the Bolshevik Revolution and the Treaty of Versailles that
ensured a century of woe.

But
it is to a simple game of soccer which promotes a different view
of man and which transcends the canon fodder view of man held by
the rulers of the day. I am talking about the Christmas truces of
the selfsame war triggered by Sarajevo and which are so stirringly
brought to life in Stanley Weintraub's book Silent
Night
. Expertly, he assembles and examines first
hand sources such as letters and diaries to form a true picture
of what really happened in those death-filled battlegrounds long
ago.

As
Christmas approached, we read of a diminishing of violence and an
increase of the spirit, which says "Peace on Earth and goodwill
towards men!" We read of idle and playful jibes being hurled
between trenches straddling no-mans land growing into lulls between
battles to allow the wounded to be rescued and onto the raised gestures
of peace.

Eye
contact is made and as one of old may say "I too am a man like
yourself!" Greetings are exchanged in almost surreal circumstances
as what gifts can be offered are offered and a common culture and
history stands astride the plans of generals as candles are lit
and carols are sung to each other.

The
State bellows the orders "Kill! Maim! Conquer!" but a
deeper instinct within the individual does not readily put a bullet
through another who has done no great offence but rather says with
them "What am I doing here?"

A
good question. What had improbably started in the first place saw
thousands sign up in Great Britain to "teach the Hun a lesson"
and be back in time for Christmas. Now they were sharing their muddied
tobacco with the sworn enemy at Christmas and kicking a football
around!

Such
a series of episodes should teach us that the State and individual
are two different entities indeed. When the State, embodied in its
generals, heard of these events, they were prohibited vigorously
on the grounds that it "destroys the offensive spirit in all
ranks …". How right they were, but how wrong to think these
"lions led by donkeys" were like themselves safely hidden
miles from the front line.

The
State got its way eventually and this small flame of humanity was
muffled but not extinguished as millions walked the march to death.
The milk of human kindness would flow in other areas but warfare
never looked back as new degrees of slaughter evolved to finish
the portrait of the century of blood.

Let
us not forget what may have happened if these individuals had thought
through the implications of their libertarian spirit – if they had
seen what lay ahead for four sanguine years. But then again, we
have the finished canvas, what have we learnt?

December
29,
2001

Roland
Watson [send him
mail
] writes from Edinburgh, Scotland.

©
2001 LewRockwell.com

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