On Saturday I was waiting for my wife outside the supermarket in Wendover and noticed the war memorial in the middle of the little square. Round the memorial, one on each side, were four plaques with about a dozen names on each of people who had fallen in the two world wars. Reading the names I was struck by how many had the same surnames. Presumably in such a small town they would have been brothers or close relatives. I thought again about how devastating this level of loss of life in close families must have been, especially with little connection with the world outside their rural environment they must have had.
I then found myself wondering about that lack of connection and how different things are nowadays. We are all closer to the wars that are fought in our name. We are less protected from the horrors, especially through uncensored footage on the web, and less naïve about what it is like to fight. We are also closer to the consequences of war.I know from working with NATO a few years ago that it is a challenge to stick to well established bereavement procedures when the family find out about the death of a loved one at the speed of an Internet connection.
But we are also less naïve about why, when, and how we fight wars. Would it still be possible to achieve mass movements and global war like Hitler did with the aid of Goering? Will it be harder to get us to fight wars when we are connected to those we are meant to be fighting on social platforms? Do the geographical boundaries and dated concepts like nation states mean as much as they used to and will we be as willing to fight over them?
Will we feel less need to fight wars generally when we are more connected and more understanding of each other – or will we just find new reasons to fight?