Michael Gove, our ignorant and generally nasty education secretary has a long list of bullshit he likes to pull on a regular basis. His latest gem is to lash out at Blackadder – and schools showing it – for spreading “left wing myths” about World War 1. See, they should be teaching about Patriotism and Honour and Courage – not incompetent generals, grim conditions and horrendous loss of life.
World War 1 was one of the stupidest conflicts in the history of mankind. It was fought because all the great powers of Europe rather laughably though their rather shaky domino-alliances would stop them all going to war – instead those alliances ensured that a relatively small regional conflict escalated beyond all measure. It didn’t have to have been the death of the Archduke, not long before there were severe tensions between Britain and Russia which almost set the whole ball rolling anyway. It was inevitable because, ultimately, you had a lot of power mad fools, playing the whole world as if it were some kind of chess board with zero inclination to talk to each other just dying to slaughter a whole bunch of people for the sake of those 3 demons: Patriotism, Honour and Courage (with Glory also raising its ugly head).
Not only was it fought for stupid reasons, but it was fought in a mind numbingly stupid way – a way that was guaranteed to massacre lives over and over again.
This isn’t “Blackadder” or “Oh What a Lovely War” that created the whole “lions lead by donkeys” meme – HISTORY created it. We had a deadly modern battlefield complete with fortified trenches, artillery, machine guns and poison gas and generals who were still using tactics that were 50-100 years out of date. Maybe that could have been excused, but they were so insulated from the suffering on the ground (and had a pretty callous view of the troops anyway – just look at the fate of those men who were shattered by shellshock, so many of them shot as “deserters”) that they stuck to those tactics over and over again, no matter how many times they failed.
This isn’t “revisionism” Gove, this is history. This is the history of conflict that killed over 15 million people for no damn good reason at all and ended after a good part of the continent was absolutely shattered with a treaty that settled very little except sow seeds of simmering resentment that would grow into World War 2.
And as for “patriotism”, “honour” and “courage” (and of course, “glory”)? Manipulative buzz words used by the elite to send a generation of men to their death – and it’s the same lie they try to peddle today. If teachers and TV shows are exposing this then more power to them! Let them expose the rampant foolish pride of nationalism that you want to hang the flag of patriotism on. Let them see how little “honour” there is in innumerable rows of graves – let them find no honour in filling those graves (with their own bodies or another) and instead look for true honour in peace. And the courage to die needlessly for arrogance, for pride, for pigheaded refusal to talk and think and learn – that isn’t courage, that is a foolish obscenity, a waste of insufferable proportions.
There is only one possible good that could have come out of World War 1 and that is showing us the utter horrors of war so starkly as to expose the lies of those who sit peacefully in the halls of power while sending another generation off to die.
If teachers and Blackadder can firmly bury Patriotism, honour and courage as the murderous deceivers they are in the minds of school children then I will celebrate them for having achieved something amazing for our future.
And Gove, from his lofty perch on high, again shows how unfit he is for the role he fills.