God, King and country

In certain circles it’s controversial to think of Nazis as figures of fun. You could argue that what’s happening in Gaza at the moment is a direct result of people not understanding that it’s fine to point and chuckle at the corpses of the bad guys in the most obviously good versus bad war the world has yet known.

Then there’s the war before, the one that’s currently celebrating its 100th birthday with, as I type this, someone called the Duchess of Cornwall about to lay flowers on a tomb. If that’s Camilla then fuck me she’s undergone quite the rehabilitation since she killed that other girl everyone was so fond of. I think that was what happened; I don’t really follow the royal family, I just remember everyone banging on about it around the time Greg Rusedski lost a tennis final.

The TV’s just said the Queen is in some private church service while her various underlings do the serious stuff. Understandable. Being born eight years after millions upon millions of people died in the most sickening bloodbath the modern world has known must have really hurt the old dear.

She’s got a church to go to though, so that’s all right. Because this commemoration of the start of the First World War is all about churches, and gods, and crosses, and blokes in robes lined with more expensive material than they probably need if they’re honest. There’s a chap here in a Belgian graveyard talking about how ‘God is love’, and how God is almost certainly looking favourably at this very moment at the souls of the various people he demanded massacre each other a century ago.

If I might strike a note of potential controversy I’d like to float the idea that, today of all days, on the 100th anniversary of the most disgusting turn of events the human race has so far brought upon itself, religion might want to fuck off as far away from the rest of us as it can. On the day when we’re attempting to reconcile 21st century life with people who died drowning in mud in fields they had no reason to be in, long before any of us were born, we might do a little better without the religious banging on about how their fucking deity saw it all coming, let it all happen and did so for the love of us all.

Clearly, I’m not a religious man. Clearly it’s a farcical human construct based on a combination of a fear of death and the desire of some men (of course men) to control the actions of others, and ideally get rich off it. The Archbishop of Canterbury is still living in a gilded mansion and still wears clothes and silly hats made of material that could be cut and cut again into a thousand sweat-shop shirts to clothe a thousand soldiers’ corpses as they’re dressed for burial. And I was born in Canterbury so I’ve more reason than most to call the bloke a fucking disgrace.

But my own desire for religion to end is not the point, not today. Don’t the God Squad understand how standing in front of a huge cross and laying wreaths on the graves of people who died with the sound of ten thousands vicars egging them on for the good of ‘God, King and country’, and God first of course, is a tiny bit inappropriate? There’s a fair chance that God is right up there with the very fucking reasons these people died in such astounding misery, fear and sorrow. A generation bayoneted each other to death, because they were told that their god willed it.

The Nazis, regardless of the horror of what they did and how many innocent victims they dispatched in excessively egregious ways, can be laughed at for the mind-boggling methodology they brought to warfare. They are the Bond villains of history and they went the same way as Goldfinger, Zorin and the rest.

But the villains of the First World War were all of us. Stupid fucking humans sending millions of others to their deaths, and shooting those who refused to go. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to us because there are no obvious bad guys to put into the history books, just kings and kaisers and clowns on all sides robbing us of a generation of bakers, tailors, brickies, butchers, doctors, sportsmen and plumbers.

All people who, 100 years ago, went regularly to church on a Sunday to thank their god for their life and livelihood. The same god who would decree their time was up within the next few years because he quite liked finding out just what shrapnel could do to a poet, and what bits would go where when a tank drove over a bus conductor.

Yes, it’s true – religion, we’re coming for you, and you’ll be lucky to survive another 100 years. But if you want any hope of surviving the next decade you’d do well to understand that sometimes you just need to fucking shut up and let humanity wallow in its self-inflicted shame.

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