Spoilers for Doctor Who first of all, tying in with today being Remembrance Sunday and yesterday’s Doctor Who being all about pacifist messages, I want to talk to you about why THAT scene of last night’s episode was spot on and why the message rings true of pretty much every war in the history of mankind – from the World Wars to the ongoing Syrian Crisis. Without further ado, let’s explore the sentiment and how true it is, no doubt you’re well aware but I feel it merits discussion.
The scene I am referring to of course is the ‘scaled down model of war’ in which humanity and zygonity(?) stand in the same room, opposite ends of a table with boxes they have been promised will either slay all their enemies or slay all their own people and they have no idea which button to press to do which. The Doctor supervises and tells them that this is how war works, you can fire the first shot but you can never guarantee who will die from it, in a war anyone can die, friend or foe, guilty or innocent. Of course, the Doctor knows this all too well, it’s revealed previously he ALMOST destroyed his home planet to save the universe with a similar device but we know how that worked out (Which I have mixed feelings about but let’s discuss that some other time). Both sides think there is no hope of peace and forgiveness and the Doctor tells them to stop being petulant children and just try to forgive one another, which he manages to make happen by erasing the memories of the human representative and telling the Zygon one they now have a chance to make amends, which they do. The Doctor’s speech is very important to this turning point, in how war achieves nothing and those who wage it never see past the ‘kill the bad guys’ stage, so rarely is the peace at the end given much thought and that pain does not justify the infliction of pain, it should instead inspire someone to be better and channel that suffering into making a better world. Very true, lest we forget that this is the sentiment Robin Williams held close to his chest in life, he suffered in silence because rather than unleash his pain in angry outbursts and scorn, he made people laugh constantly so people could see him and feel better, not worse.
I think perhaps Remembrance Sunday is often seen as hero worship, in that we pay our respects to the fallen and the brave deeds they achieved but we forget that war is not glamorous, it is a terrible folly that claims the lives of soldier and civilian alike. Beyond the war poetry and Hollywood films, this wasn’t all a tale of tragic heroism, this was a tale of a few politicians and greedy people convincing generations of good young men to go kill themselves in order to resolve arguments. Harry Patch, the last Fighting Tommy, said this on the matter:
“I feel then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising legalised mass murder”
Now I think the Doctor would stand in agreement with Harry, except perhaps minus the guns but this is what war should come down to – actual discussion. If you, a politician or monarch or whatever, declare war, you aren’t bravely opposing a fascist, you are telling the world that you are prepared to sacrifice legions of innocent lives to prove a point and get your way. Ultimately, war costs us lives of guilty and innocent men and women and it is sad to think that war and aggression is what drives the advancement of technology, we are getting better and better at killing each other to the point now it can be done with a button. If you want true bravery, true bravery is being the one who lowers their weapon first and extends a hand to say enough is enough. As the Doctor says, cruelty only begets more cruelty, a vicious cycle that will go on and on until we kill everyone, it was true then and it is now – we haven’t plans for Syria once we bomb the everloving hell out of it or else the world would’ve been prepared for the refugees, the Syrian government hasn’t a clue how to restore their nation once the rebels stop, the rebels haven’t thought much further than revolution and ISIS’s train of thought boils down to “Fuck everyone”. We are achieving nothing but destruction and the people in power act like they are so brave for opposing ISIS, hardly realising ISIS was a demon of their own creation and their bravery extends as far as carpet bombing the innocent in hopes of killing the wicked amongst them. 200,000 people have died over the four years of war in Syria, 4,000,000 more have become refugees and I can assure you, those are not all terrorists that died and those are not scrounging thieves that fled.
War is the ultimate in human folly, it is the worst thing we do to ourselves and to one another, to call it brave is to romanticise the mass execution of our fellow men and women. Whilst we have moved beyond wars fought over family feuds and flags being put up where they aren’t welcome, we still wage war over political disputes and religious disagreements, things that we should really resolve through discussion, or perhaps even, leaving each other alone if needs be. I hold no power, I cannot gather the world leaders in a Doctor Who scenario and get them to settle it that way but oh how I wish I could. The greatest warrior of all is the one who chooses to end a war, rather than wage it until death.