Friday, August 17, 2007


I have been reading Pat Barker's book, Regeneration. I saw the film with Jonathon Pryce and James Wilby several years ago. It is set in 1917 in an army mental hospital outside Edinburgh. Siegfried Sassoon, the war poet, has been sent there after making a protest against the continuation of the war. He comes under the care of Major Rivers, a gentle psychiatrist with an FRS for his studies on anthropology made in the South pacific. We meet several patients, among them Wilfred Owen, and explore their neuroses, all derived from the horrors of the front.

I was brought up on the war poets. They describe the horrors perfectly. I suppose you could ask why anybody is concerned about the 70 British soldiers killed this year in Afghanistan when in September 1917 102,000 British soldiers were killed on the Western Front. As I was reading the book I tried to think of what good came out of the first world war. I suppose you could say that the war poetry was one good thing.

Of course, many effective weapons first appeared or were significantly developed during this period: airplanes, tanks, bombing from the air, submarines and so on. But you could hardly think of these as great benefits for mankind. There were great advances in medicine, but proper blood transfusion and antibiotics had to wait for the second conflagration.

I've tried to think what good did arise. Here is my list.

Recognition that women could do the same sorts of jobs as men.
Social changes that made votes for women a reality.
The beginning of the end of the class system.
The recognition that war is hell.

Perhaps you, dear reader, can think of others.


Anonymous said...

I'm no student of WWI history, but I believe this was an instance of treaty being honored after treaty being honored after treaty being honored until much of Europe was at war. You do forget, though, that the British made a couple of changes in the Mideast at that time. The Ottoman empire was defeated and modern countries were created. A country named Iraq arose from the ashes, as did Lebanon and what was to become Israel.

So if good was to have come from the war, one would have to look elsewhere since stability certainly was not restored to the region.

As far as giving women the right to vote, I'll reserve comment.

Anonymous said...

Hello Dr. H.,
I am half the way through a book I think you may enjoy. It is "The Road" written by Cormac McCarthy.
I find this book both unsettling yet beautiful. So far
it is mostly about a parent's love for their child. But
it is sort of scary in an usual way.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed this comment
"As far as giving women the right to vote, I'll reserve comment."

I believe this person to be the jerk that posts mean
comments on David A's blog. Hi Jerk!

Sorry Dr. H., I was unable to reserve that jab to that person :) ! Or the one below.

Also if you feel women should not have the right to vote, that means you have been dumped by a women. Oh do get a more postive outlook, life is simply too short.

Anonymous said...

What has happened since women tricked their way into getting the right to vote? A huge welfare state, run on emotion rather than logic.

We've had a world war, the cold war, a defeat in Vietnam, a defeat in Iraq (Mormon Harry Reid said we lost months ago).

Obviously there are many smart, logical women who make decisions on thought, not emotion. But they are a minority. Most women want 'peace' more than anything, and when the country surrenders, they will blame men! It is a woman who has the bumpersticker, 'It will be a great world when teachers have everything, and the Pentagon has to have a bake sale'. Do they really believe that? Yes, they do.

Democrats are the mommy party, spending the country into bankruptcy so that everyone 'feels' better about themselves, a lazy bum is given free taxpayer money because his is 'unhappy' and unable to work because he is too sad (don't laugh; I've seen approvals for cash grants on that basis alone). 'No child left behind' makes us feel good, but we have young adults who think the US celebrates independence day on July 4, becoming independent from France, Germany or Poland (I've heard these offered as answers). I've heard a college graduate, when asked what country is directly north of the United States, answer 'Poland'. I've seen college freshmen at prestigious college think Sigmund Freud is a composer, Abraham Lincoln was born in 1925, the American war of independence was the 'Civil War'.

We accept this as a normal course of events. We accept the rapid growth (no pun intended) in obesity, even in children, so much so that they are approving statin drugs in eight-year-old children. We add drug benefits to Medicare we cannot afford, we fail to reform social security, we spend money we don't have, and we don't seem to give a rat's behind.

(Yes, the Republican party is almost as much to blame as the Democrats, but it's all to woo the women vote. Women believe that everyone should have the same amount of money, the same jobs, the same cars, etc. Men believe in the power of hard work. Men are daddies, and women are the mommies. Men demand you stand on your own two feet. Women think everyone should be taxed to the hilt so income can be distributed equally. Women are communists, men are believers in tough love. Men conquer the wilderness, women make nice soft pine beds from the wilderness.

Men are from tough Mars, women are from soft Venus.

With no woman vote, there would have been no Kennedy, but Nixon. No Clinton, but Bush and Dole. No Carter but Ford. No dismantling of the armed forces.

Women are necessary, but they can't be trusted to make important political decisions. They are ruled by their hormones, and not dispassionate thinking. I'm sorry, but that is the way it is.

justme said...

New courts and international laws to conduct humanity as a whole, which eventually led to the formation of the United Nations during WWII…is this a good thing?

Many, many wonderful songs. To name a few: “It’s a Long Long Way to Tipperary,” “Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile,” “Oh How I Hate to get up in the Morning,” “Over There,” “Hail! Hail! The Gang’s All Here,” “Til We Meet Again,” and “Watch, Hope and Wait Little Girl” (how about that one?:))

My husband! My husband's grandfather's first wife and two children were drowned when the Lusitania sank after being torpedoed on May 7, 1915 (not a good thing, of course, but good came from it). His grandfather remarried, had my husband's mother, who grew up and had my husband. So if it were not for WWI, my husband would not exist.