“The chain reaction of evil–wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Remembrance Day is a day to honour those fallen in battle, but also civilians, animals and trees who have perished in the crossfire or because of the violence that is war. But the best way to honour all their lives is by not stoking the flames of militarism. With nuclear war once again rearing its ugly head, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s warning is truer now, more than ever before.
War is the greatest of human failures. A failure of diplomacy, a failure of empathy, a failure of our moral imagination. And the cost of war is too great to ever consider, especially today. Every bombing, every invasion, every “special operation” fills the coffers of weapons manufacturers while hacking away at the fragile web of life we all depend upon. These merchants of death have no interest in peace, and why would they? It is humanity, countless species and the earth itself that pays the price for their violent cupidity.
King spoke out against war and militarism at a time when the US was carpet-bombing villages and dousing children with napalm in South Asia. And he was very unpopular for doing so. Since then, there have been dozens of new conflicts from Iraq to El Salvador, East Timor, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Gaza, Somalia, Congo, Ethiopia, Syria, and to the killing fields of Ukraine.
Today, the great world powers have increased their saber rattling. We are even closer to mutual annihilation than we were during the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago. As with any war, the poor suffer the greatest while politicians get re-elected, and arms manufacturers get rich. But another world war could likely usher in our collective quietus.
Remembrance Day is meaningless lest we forget the causes of war, who profits from its implementation, and the ultimate cost it incurs. It is meaningless unless we understand how fascism grows and despots rise to power, how nationalism becomes a poison, or how imperialism continues today under different disguises. It is meaningless unless we reject the nihilistic impulse of militarism. And it is meaningless unless we use our voice to oppose the addition of more names to war’s monstrous tombstone.
In his revolutionary speech Beyond Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave this grave warning:
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.”
Kenn Orphan, November 2022
“War is the greatest of human failures.” That is exactly right. Also the greatest tragedy, the greatest waste, and the greatest shame.
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