A great hero,
And a coward
Stood in the dawn
And wept for humanity.
We have fallen from grace
Thrown open our own doors
Tied our own hands
And surrendered our souls.
I was watching the epic ‘Troy’ the other day, the version with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom. As the battle scenes unfolded before me, I reminded myself that it was not real, could not be real. A film it was, nothing more. Yet I thought that the expression on Hector’s face as he watched Achilles’ Myrmidons sack the temple of Apollo belonged truly to Hector, not to Bana, and Achilles’ calm collectedness was a product of Brad Pitt’s understanding of the character. The obvious faded away. This truly was another world, one in which these men walked, and plundered, and burned. And I daresay it was a better world. Hollywood possesses the uncanny ability to construe and twist historical facts, but it must be doing something right – it is only films that depict war that truly show us ourselves. I compare our general fall from such grace to war because it truly depicts the grit and baseness of humanity.
The bitterness of humanity is displayed upon the breadth of a sword that will impale a young innocent who truly believed in honour, and in valour. By our standards today, men like Patroclus, who donned Achilles’ armour and fought like the man he craved to be, are fools. But our greatest achievements, and the stories that fill our history books, are all the works of such fools! It is through war that humans better and worsen themselves. Today, the weapons of war are cunning, speed, and underhandedness. What do we fight for? The same things for which empires have fallen, and droves of soldiers sacrificed, in yore. Power. But the means by which we achieve those ends have degraded. The sword passed through generations of proud soldiers versus the big red button that will detonate a far-off nuke to some far-off place. Hand-to-hand combat has become tiresome, as seen in the differences between World Wars I and II. In the former, swords and rifles with little range. In the second, machine guns that made the revolutionary trench warfare obsolete – machine guns prevented the gain of more than a few yards of land at a time, at the expense of countless soldiers, lands riddled with fire, ash, blood, and dust. And as our technology advanced, our hearts became colder, as we chose to no longer pierce our opponent with our gaze in moments of triumph or defeat. We thought we had outwitted the slow, weeded out the weak. The Knights Templar, with all their swords, hearts strapped to their sleeves, wouldn’t last ten seconds facing the barrels of an armed tank. But whose valour weighs more? Whose sense of value, honour, love? Yet we stand so much taller. We place pride where shame belongs.
So what does our method of war have to do with our society as a whole? Well, think about how often you email your friends or talk to them online instead of picking up the phone or calling on them personally. Dawud Wharnsby-Ali, the Islamic singer and songwriter, put it quite well: I sent an email to my loved one, just the other day
It’s sad communication has evolved this way.
We use so many words but have so little to relay
As angels scribble down every letter that we say.
All the viral attachments sent and passionate insults we vent
It’s easy to be arrogant behind user passwords we invent.
But on the day the scrolls are laid, with every word and deed displayed,
when we read our accounts, I know, for one, I’ll be afraid.
By saying that I think techonology has failed to make us fuller, more whole people in general, I do not mean to say that is does not have any benefits. But what we have made is already taking us over, sapping us of our time and, frankly, the very thing that makes us human. We lose a bit of ourselves projecting ourselves onto a screen day after long day. How many of us take the time to read the stars at night, paint the colours of the rising sun onto our hearts? Read a book instead of watch a film? Write something instead of cruise the internet, bored senseless? Play football (the real kind) instead of playing video games (not that I have anything against video games, but moderation is in order)?
Sharper senses beget sharper minds, beget strength. Cry in the rain, and smile into the sun, lose yourself in the fog. Do something. Be something. Ours name are only cast in stone when we change something, not fade away into our couches, wear out our thumbs before the XBox (or the PS2, if you prefer inferiority). The point I am trying to make here, at 3AM on a Tuesday morning, is not that I disrespect our soldiers in Iraq, nor do I scorn any army. I just think that we’ve lost something in our quest for betterment. And maybe it’ll be nice to realise what that is.