Cruelty and Compassion, War and Peace

After finishing All Quiet On The Western Front, it was easy to think of so many questions that reflect our current society and lives. We had the opportunity to imagine a daily life filled with the unimaginable, constant fear, death, and shocking conditions. The novel makes you question the purpose of war and the lasting effects it has not only on society but the extensive damage, often physical and psychological, to multiple generations. It brings into question nationalism and pride, fear and bravery, and life and death. But most importantly it makes us question humanity. Evident in this book, how can we, as a species, be so destructive and so cruel? Will we ever change (is it even possible to change?) and are we heading in a downward spiral to our extinction? Are we calling into question our morality and is their anyway to change our behavior or alter our fate?

As we, the Council of Blood, battled it out in the BRAWL, not only did we attempt to answer these questions but it changed, or at least opened my mind, to different perspectives on war, humanity, and morality. Is war justified and necessary? Will it ever cease to exist? Is revenge ever justifiable? Is it better to be feared or loved? What is the significance of material objects in contrast to relationships with other people? And how is war altering and/or destroying future generations, the hope for our future?

As I dove into these tough questions, I found that several of them ended up causing me to make a more personal connection with the book and made me reflect on my own life experiences. There was one question; “Why is it that we can attach ourselves to material objects more easily than we can to actual people?” and my personal attachment to my stuffed killer whale that I got when I was eight ended up being the basis for our argument. While just a stuffed animal, it always came with me when I needed it most including when I had major spinal surgery and this personal connection really helped to back up our argument with meaning and real life experience.

As I searched for pictures to symbolize our responses to each question, I had to think about their relationship to what I already knew or what I had already learned. Questions like “What can we do, or what are some ways to conquer or move past our fears?” reminded me of quotes like this:

Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear and how to be free from it, that’s the point.

[Divergent, Veronica Roth]

And to show how we can learn to be more compassionate and kind to other humans in response to this question; “How can we help others understand the importance of the life of every human?”, I found this touching video of a woman performing a simple act of kindness:

In the final round, we faced off with the intent of providing insight to the question; “Will humanity always find war necessary? Will there ever be a non-violent way to achieve the same results?” and while all three teams agreed that the extinction of war is impractical and highly unlikely, the question brought up the issue of a world where universal equality exists. And although, literature like Harrison Bergeron effectively refutes this idea, it truly made us wonder what that type of society would be like and we concluded that it would likely be highly unstable and result in a poor quality of life. Whether this will ever be proven is unknown (and hopefully, unlikely) but it makes one think about violence, power, and unrest in society and where it will lead us, where it will leave us, humanity, in the future. We are the next generation, and the actions of society and of the individual will likely determine our fate. We can only hope that maybe one day violence and hate will be less of an issue, less of a discussion point, and compassion and kindness will step up to the plate.

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