World War I in Colour

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// February 14th, 2007 // Blog

This is the third entry i'm posting in a 24 hour period, which is likely to be a new record on this blog. The first was a bit of fun, the second was referring to someone else's opinions, so doesn't really count, but this is the one i've been wanting to write all day; so pay attention, please!

As i said a few days ago, i've never been much one for history. It always seemed a bit too dry, and the bloody bits were too horrific to contemplate for very long. However, now that i am older, and the world seems to keep making the same mistakes, again and again, i feel the need to look back in time, in order to discover the lessons that are being so easily forgotten, by so many. In addition, the introduction of various well-produced factual TV programmes has made it a lot easier to receive, as our US cousins say, a '101' in World History; although i'm sure i'll need to keep an open mind with regards to their honesty. History is written by the victors, after all.

I caught one such programme last night. It was about the first World War, which i know embarrassingly little about. Now there must be dozens of similar documentaries on this topic, churned out over the years, but this one came with an exquisite twist:
it featured footage from various episodes of the War, that had been digitally-remastered, and converted from black and white into FULL COLOUR. It was pretty mind-blowing, actually. I don't know what it was, but everything seemed so real, almost like it was jumping out of my TV; i'm not sure that i can describe what i mean adequately.

When you watch war films, set in B&W, you feel somewhat distanced to what is going on before your eyes; perhaps it is because the world is not in B&W, so our brains know not to take it seriously. Of course, the technology available to today's film-makers can wipe the floor with that of the early 20th century, but there was something eerily realistic about the re-mastered footage they showed. Now i knew something of what these young men witnessed when they went “over the top“. I could no longer dismiss it as a problem of “that generation”; it was in my front room, in my life, to contemplate, to fear, to say “never again”, and to mean it.

It is amazing that one programme could have such a profound effect on me, subhanallah.

However, what shocked me the most was the actual history. Please correct me if i get any of this wrong (also, i am rubbish with dates, so i won't be mentioning any). According to the programme, there were many factors that led to WWI, but the actual event that kick-started it all, was the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and his wife, while they were officially visiting Bosnia. The Bosnians blamed Serbian terrorists (i sighed that nothing much had changed), and together with Austria, made ready to attack. The Serbs called upon Russia for help, at which point Germany (who had been building up their military to further their imperialistic ambitions), threatened them as a warning to stay out of it (which they ignored). Russia called on France for back-up, as they were allies at the time. So Germany decides to attack France, by smashing through Belgium. The Belgians, in turn, call up Britain for support.

Look at a map of Europe, and though some borders have changed, you will see why this was a recipe for the greatest disaster that the world had ever seen, up until that point. I still can't believe that any of these governments, or should i say empires, thought this whole fiasco would be somehow beneficial; that they could survive a war of such proportions. I know hindsight is 20/20, but c'mon… what were they on?

But the biggest tragedy, IMO, was not this war, but rather the one that came a few decades later. How can the same awful mistake have been made within a generation? It is beyond belief; i'm still reeling from the reality shock.

There is much more that i want to say, but perhaps i will leave it for another entry. The programme is actually a series, so if i manage to catch anymore, i may have more to talk about, inshā’Allāh.

Looking at the world today, as it writhes in the throes of bloodlust, the most clichéd of questions comes to mind: Will we ever learn?

5 Responses to “World War I in Colour”

  1. Manas Shaikh says:

    History consciousness, and being honest about it, is very important for any community to grow and prosper. It is also very important to avoid falling into same mistakes.

    And that is the reason why history is distorted. If people are aware of history in it’s impartial form (or very close to it, because impartial is humanly not possible), then they can not be fooled into war and hatred and a lot other things (even hopelesness).

    We see it very well in India. India’s history sounds so different from state to state (depending on whether the Hindu Right, or the Congress or the Communists are ruling), that you doubt whether you are reading the same history at all!

    An article about Rajathan’s texbooks.

  2. iMuslim says:

    I suppose with history, comes identity. No-one likes to hear that their ancestors made big mistakes (including us Muslims) as we feel it reflects badly on us. Similarly, national pride, and extreme nationalism, comes from believing that one’s nation has always been superior; so any history that contradicts this idea, is actively supressed.

  3. Lucyp says:

    Your comment “History is written by the victors” is so very true. In WW2, after the British and American needlessly killed hundreds of thousands at Dresden, Churchill famously said to the American president that they had to win the war otherwise they would be convicted for war crimes.
    The first World War was actually a consequence of what had gone before it in Africa with the European empire building late 19th Century and WW2 was a direct consequence of what followed the previous War which allowed Hitler to take control of Germany etc etc.
    It seems that we are destibed to never learn from history, the debacle of Iraq could be replicated in Iran very soon.

  4. Daniel says:

    Wars creates only losers. It creates destruction, death, shattered lives, hatred, resentment and the burning desire for revenge.

    But it does make a few people more rich and more powerful. Cheers!

  5. Faraz says:

    I know what you mean, about feeling “removed” from history. I didn’t know much about World War I, but I did learn quite a lot about the second World War when I was younger. Still, it all seems so foreign, moreso since our country was not severely affected by it. This was mostly Europe’s war. But with the same mistakes being repeated again and again, we all need to start waking up to the realities of the world.

    Will we ever learn? I doubt it. Because, as Daniel pointed out, war usually does make a few people more rich and powerful. And the prospect of that wealth and power will always override the risks for those people. Millions of people suffer, not for any real cause, but just to satiate the desire of a few greedy men (and by men, I do mean “male”, not just “human”. It’s always a man.)

    It’s depressing. And everyone’s already very depressed these days, so it’s just much easier to ignore these things rather than make ourselves feel worse. But we can’t ignore them for much longer, because ultimately they will affect us somehow.

    May Allah protect us all.

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