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My mother died, compos mentis to the end, at the age of 98.The Nursing Home predicted her demise almost to the hour and family were advised to stop working and regularly visit in her final week. A gentle Filipino carer asked her in that last week to tell him about the happiest days of her life. He got a very surprising answer. My mother emphatically stated that her happiest days were during World War Two.
She had experienced the Blitz and volunteered for the British Army Censorship Board. She described the war as an exciting time where all suddenly got employment and there was a purpose to life. Cinemas and Dance Halls thrived under the blackout and clubs and pubs opened as new businesses. Then the Americans came with resultant high spending and filled the social venues. Though a Belfast Catholic she remained a pro-British monarchist with unionist sympathies all her life, especially when living out her purgatory in what to her dying day she referred to as the Free State.
Interestingly the women in the Censorship refused to believe stories of the holocaust, it was too unbelievable. The background music in our family was Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn and the quite awful George Formby who really couldn't sing.
I think she was describing war as an exhilaration of purpose. Society works well under threat and people put their shoulder to the awful work. We see this now in Ukraine which was unjustly attacked and fights hard to maintain normality, plan for a European future and has in a way united Europe in its support.
But where are the peacemakers? In the 1960s when a lot of us grew up there was a plethora of small post-colonial wars but there were missions proposing solutions throughout the Continents. Now Russia and Ukraine can agree on shipping routes, prisoner exchanges, and nuclear problems when all the while they fight a medium level war, a proxy war of sorts.
Where innocents are bombarded, children killed and massive destruction caused where are the people we would expect to try and organize a ceasefire? Where is the Vatican, where is the Dalai Lama or the Archbishop of Canterbury? Russia has refused the mediation of the Swiss and the UN but there are many other states that could act as honest broker-they don't have to be western European referees but there are South American or African states that have well-structured diplomatic structures who could at least stop the killing. One feels that solutions may not come from a Eurocentric source.
Whatever one wants there will be some medium solution which will not suit either side fully. When Ukraine develops within Europe it could be an attractive prosperous state that could embrace all its constituent peoples, they could win the peace rather than the war.
Blessed are the peacemakers, says the Bible. This is reciprocated in the other great World religions. All peoples pray for peace. Let’s hope that very soon we find the women or men to achieve it. The alternative is too frightening.

  Tony Feeney

September 17, 2022 - 4:30pm

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