The Tedium Of War

September 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

I was moved by a rather bizarre piece that I read today. There was nothing bizarre about the article itself, but it described how accustomed Syrians have become to the violence and desecration around them. Vasily Grossman, the war correspondent on the Eastern Front had something similar to describe: how the corpses strewn around the road that they were travelling on might just as well have been trees and hedges; fixtures on the landscape.

It’s not often that I quote mass murderers, but Stalin did have a point with his infamous “one man’s death is a tragedy, a million are a statistic” (interestingly enough this was made in conversation with Churchill). We have a very finite grasp, and sadly very parochial view, of matters beyond which we both cease to understand and care. It’s why we shrug at the mention of casualty figures or the corpse on the road fails to arouse any emotion.

When events of such colossal magnitude ravage our lives, we are reminded of how insignificant and powerless we truly are. And so, the semblance of normality is all that remains: the need to resume with our daily lives. As the bombs continue to drop in Syria: milk has to be bought, dinner has to be made, and the children have to be picked up from school. It is the grotesque paradox of war.


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