Been reading about modern art lately. The part about Dada, Surrealism, ... and then even some of the post-1945 movements, ... where they're a part of the reactions to the world wars, got me thinking.
World War I genuinely traumatized Western Civilization. That all this "progress" and bourgeois rationalism, and Christian civilization, and etc., etc., had produced a cataclysm that sent millions of men into a meat-grinder, for year after year, killing 10 million people, ... it produced a crisis of faith that resonates with us today. 10 million people!
Then, over the course of two decades, Europe again trundled into mass-slaughter (with Japan doing its bit) killing over 60 million people! And ending with atomic weapons that would continue to be developed and built so that humanity could now deliberately commit suicide!
People recoiled at the insanity. A lot of artists took the view (misguided I think) that rationalism itself was at fault. (Hence, Dada, Surrealism, etc.,) The whole cultural distrust of authority, reason, sacred ideals, etc., etc., a lot of it comes as a response to the mass slaughters of the world wars (and by the mass killings of Hitler, Stalin, and later Mao, Suharto, Pol Pot). Oh hell, while I'm at it, I shouldn't leave out the genocide against Native Americans and the mass famines imposed on India and elsewhere by the British and other imperialists. [But the ability to know, write, and acknowledge those latter mass deaths is a result of the questioning of authority resulting from the moral and intellectual failures of the world wars I think.]
The point that I was trying to get at is similar to the one I was trying to make here, where instead of being outraged and appalled at the torture or death of one individual, as a society we shrug our shoulders at Canadian government direct complicity in the torture and deaths of THOUSANDS. Here, it seems to me that whereas the world wars used to traumatize us as a people and made us doubt our sanity as a species, nowadays they're used to justify current wars. "Canada's casualties for the whole Afghanistan 'mission' are less than one day of battle in World War II! So shut-up about it! Nobody cares!"
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the US had led a wave of violence and cruelty that has resulted in the deaths of over one-million people and devastated the lives of many millions more. And Canada is a participant. And I blog, write letters to the editor and occasionally stand in the street with millions of other sane people, but we haven't been able to stop it. And Jon Stewart joked about it (ruefully at times) and other people fought each other over discounted merchandise at "Black Friday" completely oblivious to reality and some people actively cheered the slaughter.