I was considering not posting at all today. It’s Armistice Day, and I’ve seen some really thoughtful posts from friends and figured that my planned discussion of the latest Doctor Who episode wouldn’t quite be appropriate. I’d have felt like the guy telling his favourite joke at a funeral.
Wednesday is meant to be culture/comment day on here, so why am I talking about WWI and WWII? Because I’m wondering about how art and writing react to war. We’ve seen war poets like Wilfred Owen write eloquent verse about the horror, the hardship and the wrongness of it. The Rupert Brooke glorifying of a soldier’s sacrifice. We’ve seen war through a fantasy lens in Lord Of The Rings. What will our generation add to this kind of canon? I’d hedge a bet it’ll be things like the Hunger Games and the Divergent series. Even Harry Potter, to an extent. Books for the young, about the young in wartime. Not all wars are declared, or can be delcared. The Hunger Games is about the war on the poor. Harry Potter is about the war against death, against sadness and fear.
There was a theory about postmodernism, forgive me, I can’t remember who espoused it, that no art of real merit could be created after WWII. That after we drop a nuclear weapon on two cities then we’ve pretty much made everything meaningless. Once you can unravel atoms then the form of things doesn’t really matter any more, I guess. This probably explains why postmodernism lacks definition. Nothing matters.
The problem with that, I think, is that it all feels a bit teenage angst, all too easy. Nothing matters, so why bother? Slam the door and refuse to engage. Now, some people quote from great philosophers and some people quote from great artists and musicians, but all too often I’ll quote from Joss Whedon*. In one episode of Angel, the title character says, “If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do.” I think I like that. Yes, we can unravel atoms, but we can also make new ones, smash particles together to discover things we don’t have names for and that will only give us more questions than we had to begin with. I don’t believe in an afterlife, in the great beyond, but that only means that this aimless one I have is more important, and because I live in a free society, I can aim it anywhere I like. Not everyone has that privilege, the boys pressed into war, trenches, airplanes and boats, didn’t have that privilege. So I better make the most of it.