In our literature class we have been learning about war poetry, which is a literary movement that surfaced in World War I. After investigating on many famous authors belonging to this movement and their work, our teacher asked us to bring something related to what we were studying about war poetry. This could be an article, a poem, an image, a video, etc. The aim of this was to be able to relate things of our daily life or even war-like issues the world is facing nowadays to what we were studying which is set a century ago, henceforth we would further our understanding of the topic. Then, in class, she divided us on groups and within each group each one of us explained what they had chosen and in which way it was related to war poetry. This allowed us to see the different viewpoints of our teammates and learn from them. Not only did we share information and perceptions, but we also interacted by making comments and asking any doubts as regards what brought by the other group members. After that, our teacher gave us some pieces of paper and asked us to think of a word, a phrase and a sentence related to everything we had discussed and learned that day. Then we wrote this down and we all pasted it in a cardboard in our class for everyone to be able to see and read it. Both of these activities encouraged us to see matters from different perceptions and seeing how there is not a single interpretation of things, but there can be many. We all learned from one another.
Personally, what I brought as material for class were two videos (the ones above). Both of them were ted talks, from different parts of the world. Following the type of activities we have been carrying out lately, I wanted to find something that also displayed a different perspective upon an issue; war. Moreover, I also wanted to choose something in which personal experiences were included, as I believe that the people who go through war situations first-hand are the ones who know most about it. The first ted talk I choose was from an american soldier who was sent to Iraq. In his speech he talks about how war teaches you to appreciate everything and everyone you have that you take for granted. He also talks about the significance of brotherhood and how his colleagues were an essential element that helped him to get throughout the dark times. What standed out the most for me about his speech was how he believed that war showed the absolute worst part of humans, but at the same time it showed humanity at its best. Why was that? At war humanity becomes dehumanized due to the lack of mercy and the high levels of violence against its own race. But at the same time, war showed how soldiers would fend for one another and even sacrifice their lives for their “brothers”. While war brought out the worst in people, it also brought out the best in them. He also talks about the painful losses of war and how they taught him major life lessons, primarily to value even the slightest things about life.
The second ted talk I chose was one of a historian that talks about the significance of the individual and of society to stop wars from taking place. He mentions the issues related to war in the 21st century and the solutions fort them. He talks about how many wars have started due to fight over natural resources, such as oil, and how these could be avoided by replacing oil with another natural resource. This makes an emphasis on how we individually and as a society can contribute to stopping war and its implications. Something from his speech that impacted me and allowed me to see a different perception about something was when he talked about the world trade center terrorist attack in 9\11. He points out how the nationality of one of the terrorists was found to be muslim, and how that doomed the muslim population to be associated with terrorism. Many muslims are feared and discriminated for the sake of being muslims. Many muslims suffer the consequences of what a group of muslims did. Through this we can see how there is also an issue that has to do with our minds and the prejudices we have towards people that should also be stopped.
I was able to connect both of this speeches mainly with a recurring theme that is present in many war poetry poems which is brotherhood. One of the poems from the ones we have studied that talks about brotherhood is “Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen. In this poem Owen, who had a first-hand experience of war, talks about the pain of losing a fellow soldier, and to make it even worse, witnessing his death. In the poem the voice tries to warn his fellow soldiers from the poison gas, and through this you can see how soldiers took care of their “brothers”. In the first ted talk, the soldier talks about the exact same thing; how it were his mates who helped him go through his experience at Iraq. This poem contains a lot of visual imagery of the death of the fellow soldier, and this horrors are also described by the soldier in the speech which is another connection between both. The brotherhoods born out of war are deep and strong, as together they underwent the worst experience of their life. This made losing teammates in the battlefield much harder and painful. But it were this relationships which showed that there is some humanity left in humans even at war. I could also relate the soldiers speech to the poem “Futility” written By Wilfred Owen as well. In this poem, a group of soldiers is trying to save their fellow friend who is dying by moving him into the sun. Although brotherhood is not the main theme of this poem, it’s present. In the poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth” there are a lot of auditory images and onomatopoeia related to gunfire and the “stuttering of rifles”. In the speech , the soldier also talks about the deafening and scary sounds of war, which have haunted his mind ever since his return. By last, I could relate the second speech to most of the poems because it provides a solution by the issues which are presented in all the poems. In the poem “Soldier, Rest!” it’s suggested that death is an escape from the horrors of war. However, by each of us making a small contribution society can change and wars can be stopped, as presented by the historian. Therefore, death would not be an escape because there would be no war to escape from. Without war there would be less deaths and aggression, which is why it needs to stop. By contrasting war poetry from world war I and this speech which talks about war issues in the 21st century (a whole century between them) we can see how although the world evolves, there are some things which remain the same, as war and aggression. The fact that war is so powerful and constant in our society makes the neccesity to stop it bigger.
One of my teammates, Sol Santayana, brought material that was very interesting and informative. She brought an article that talked about children in war in different ways. She talked about how many children are witnesses to the horrors that are actually taking place in Siria and their situation as refugees that makes them suffer terribly. Many are orphans who lost their parents in raids and witnessed it with their own eyes. The article talked about how these children live in appropriate conditions, barely eating enough food and unable to have any kind of education. The article also talked about how in many countries children even participate in war or in terrorist attacks, sometimes willingly. This can be also seen in the poem “Dulce et Decorum est”, which criticises the belief of dying for one’s country being proper and honourable. The poem talks about how children believe in this “old lie” and are blinded by it. The article shows how this continues to take place nowadays, with children dying for their countries believing it’s the right thing to do when it’s actually not. Children should be able to have proper childhood, supported by their parents, having access to spaces to develop their creativity and receiving a good education. They should enjoy life at that age, rather than suffering as a result of war.
All in all these activities we did in class were really helpful and allowed us to learn in a different and more interactive way, in which everyone participated and learned from each other. Being able to share different perspectives really broadens your mind. It allows us not only to further our knowledge, but also to be able to understand and validate someone else’s viewpoint, which is essential to be able to coexist in a society. Moreover, studying the horrors of war encourage us, or at least me, to try to find a solution to them. The youth is the future, and that is why education is essential, as through teaching young people the right values, society can improve in the future.