At almost all times throughout recorded history there have been people engaged in a war of some sort somewhere in the world. Perhaps only three in each hundred years have there been total peace in all nations. However, looking at it another way, you will find that the majority of people across the globe have not been participating in any fighting for most of the time. Most individuals are simply not interested or prepared to fight one another. Most of us respect other people’s desire to live and have no wish to kill. The cause of the fighting? Sometimes religion, but more often culture and power plays, to dominate land and resources.

The action of killing somebody is hard for most. Some do become accustomed to it. We can kill by dropping a bomb or firing an artillery shell from afar or experience the much greater personal intensity during hand to hand combat. There are a small number of people who become very proficient and may even enjoy killing and furthermore suffer no problems afterwards. These characters blazed the trail wiping out anything that got in the way. However, these people only account for something like 2% of the population. Huge numbers of soldiers have returned home having never fired a single shot, let alone at someone. Many fired their guns too high, over the heads of the opposition on purpose.

In modern armies, soldiers go through rigorous training programs to get a kind of automatic reaction when under fire. When battles commence the training takes over and normal behaviour is set aside. Without this training most would be hopelessly ineffectual, but no matter how much training is given beforehand, dealing with the aftermath is never easy for everyone. Many soldiers have been severely traumatised by their experience, which has often led to suicide or a troubled life afterwards. Visualisation techniques can help a determined person to overcome the awful memories to some degree, but this is an area few armies concern themselves with.

Those unaccustomed to the dreadful nature of real-life horror scenes may think that they would never do much harm to another. However, it doesn’t take a lot of time for many a kind person to transform into a pernicious individual. Two key ingredients are required. One being the authority from up high, someone respected in command. The other being in an environment away from normal life. Captors have been left in charge of prisoners both in war zones and in artificial experiments and the results have been deplorable. Within a few days the behaviour of those left in charge spirals downwards into a malicious contemptible affray. If someone broke into your home at night and attacked your family, you could become far more aggressive and protective than normal. Your reaction would be surprising, even to yourself, when reviewed in the calm days later. With the right incentive and the push from an authority figure we can be turned from a pacifist into a very mean individual fairly quickly.

Killing in the heat of battle is markedly different to terminating someone’s life in cold blood. We can be haunted more from seeing someone dying in front of us when it is done in a cold calculated way. Those in a firing squad can see the pain, anguish on the face and terror in the eyes of the victim. The commanders are aware of this so will often have the person blindfolded or shot from behind.

The ideal war is one where there is such overwhelming force bearing down on the troublemakers that they capitulate and give up without a fight. A significant aspect of war comes down to bravado and threat rather than aiming to kill. There have been many battles where thousands of people took part, but only a few died. Armies enjoy making a lot of noise and create threatening actions in the hope that the other side disperses or surrenders. In many battles it can be the perceived superiority rather than the actual strength that allows one side to achieve victory. Hence why the garish uniforms, drums and ineffectual but frightening looking equipment made earlier armies look formidable. Elephants have been used to charge at the enemy. They were somewhat effective except many turned around and ran back at those that sent them into the melee. Gas too had a habit of harming those that released it when there was an unexpected change in wind direction.

If you can’t defeat the opposition head on, then endurance is key. Whoever can keep the effort up for longest prevails. Hit and run guerrilla tactics over long periods of time also wear out all but the most patient fighting forces in the end.

One clown remarked that it was two years in the making and ten minutes in the undoing. The quote refers to the time taken to train large groups of fighters and the speed at which they were annihilated during a minimally productive assault. The element missing from this portrayal is the twenty years or so of dedication, sacrifice and commitment made by their parents. The pregnancy, the years of weaning, the slog mixed within the fun and reward of nurturing each of these individuals. The investment made in each of us is huge. To be a pawn in somebody else’s game, to have a bead of lead dismember a vital part of our body is not the same as being unfortunate in one’s own premeditated risky adventure. All that structure that took years of arranging and refining is lost in an instant. Everything right down to the spelling tests that your teachers insisted was so important to do well at.

Whether it is through war or accident the exasperation of losing someone whom we have devoted so much attention to is never easy to come to terms with. Solace might be found in cherishing the memories of the time shared and a life cut short is still bountiful. Those with loved ones still intact may consider what could be if a warning is ignored. We need reminders from time to time to stay grateful and make attempts to tear down any barriers created through petty feuds. It is noteworthy though how people in a country rally around and help each other before or whilst an enemy is attacking. Most personal differences are set aside, and communities get together and share the common problem. Then go back to petty feuds after it all calms down. However, a few unpopular people in the community ‘disappear’ as law and order is replaced by confusion and mayhem.

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