Reading for Friday, 26 December

So, as I said earlier, I’m assuming that I didn’t have to read a chapter on Christmas Day (though with my skipping of days, that’s a bit all over the place.)

I really like this chapter, because it turns from a big gung-ho action sequence into a moving revelation, when Nikolai realises that the French soldier he has caught is terrified, frightened – in a word, a human being.

One of the things that worries me immensely about today’s culture, is that if you watch the vast majority of war movies, the enemy is always portrayed as just the person you’re shooting at.  You don’t know anything about their background, and so they’re either portrayed as being horrendously ugly, one-dimensionally evil or – if it’s a WWII film – unable to speak English.  With this kind of black and white view of war, then there’s always a good guy and a bad guy, and it’s as simple as that.

The problem is that war isn’t like that, and that the other side have stories and emotions of their own.  I think we desensitise ourselves from war far too often.  I’m not a complete pacificist, but I worry about dehumanising our enemies.

One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 9.15 – A Human Being

  1. Yes, it’s certainly worth coming back to Tolstoy any time we might find ourselves becoming desensitised to the reality of what war does to human beings, regardless of what side of the battle lines they are on. Actually, just last night I watched a DVD of one of the best, and yet most harrowing, Russian war films “Idi i smotri” (Come and See). It’s set in the WWII and the Germans are certainly portrayed as pretty iredeemably bad, until a quite famous scene near the end where the young kid (about 14 or 15 years old, I think, and the central character of the film), horrendously traumatised by all the suffering he has seen, sees a photo of Hitler and begins to shoot at it – but then he (and we) see time regress before our eyes, until he (and we) are finally facing an image of Hitler as a little baby on his mother’s lap. It’s actually a real photo of Hitler as a baby, and suddenly the young boy stops shooting as he (and we) are reminded that even Hitler was, one day, a little baby, innocent and vulnerable. It’s a tremendous film, if you can cope with unrelenting images of horror and grief. It was made in 1985 in Belarus.

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