Given the times and events it seems worth popping an extract in from my non-fiction book for upper primary students.
YES to ‘that the world would be better if we only had peace’
Who’d have thought there would be people who say NO to peace?
From a debating point of view, it’s certainly much better to debate something than fight over it. But some people do seem to love a good war.
So what is going on?
Here’s a graphy sort of timeline of some wars. You might ask – why just SOME?
Simple. There are just too many to put them all in. Literally thousands.
Right, I want you to imagine lots more of these on the page. But I’m going to jump ahead to just the last century.
Okay, are we done with wars?
I put all those boring battles in (and it could have gone on much longer) to show you how some people seem to really love wars. Maybe it’s just battles they love. Fighting.
People want things:
• Land to grow food
• Resources like gold
• Money (selling other people guns and stuff)
• To convert people to a different way of thinking
Is there such a thing as a good war?
That’s a really smart question, audience. I had to do lots of research to find out if such a war has ever happened.
The one that a lot of people say was a ‘good war’ was World War 2. There are evil national leaders like Adolf Hitler [Germany] and Benito Mussolini [Italy] and Tojo Hideki [Japan]. And there are good guys like the Brits (Winston Churchill is famous for his speeches) and Americans (Roosevelt is the president in the wheelchair) and Aussies (Ben Chifley and John Curtin are the famous leaders) who fight against them.
Another good war is supposed to be the American Civil War from 1861-65. This war is called a good war (sometimes they say a ‘just’ war) because it ‘ended’ slavery. Slavery, like Hitler, was—and is—an evil thing.
Aren’t all wars bad?
That’s another really smart question, audience.
Many people say that all wars are bad and every peace is good.
In fact, if you said that you’d be saying what a famous American called Benjamin Franklin said . So well done you.
Mr. Franklin (and you) believe that all wars—no matter what you are fighting for—end up with lots of death and destruction. No one really wins.
Here are some facts and figures about the two biggest 20th century wars. They have the unsurprising titles of World War 1 (1914-18) and World War 2 (1939-45).
Have a read and make up your own mind—was WW2 a good war? WW1 certainly wasn’t.
Over 65 million people fought in WW1. More than eight and a half million of them died. That’s more than 1 in 10. Lots, lots more were wounded. And there is a good chance the war also helped with the spread of a terrible disease called the Spanish flu, which killed millions more between 1918 and 1920 (see the picture below).
And here is another graph (stop groaning).
These numbers are estimates provided by the World Atlas.
The graph above is for WW2.
Please note, Australian readers, we are not even on the graph. More than 35000 Australians died as a direct result of the Second World War. Greece, which is number 20 in the rankings (not the sort of ranking you want to win) had just over 300,000 deaths. You can see why Australia is not on the graph.
People remember wars. Maybe that’s why we still make war movies. But they don’t seem to remember the blood and the hate and the awful stuff so much. Remembering wars also sometimes make the people who lost a war want revenge.
And people make money out of wars. Most of them are probably not very nice people. We have names for them; profiteers, gun runners, military industrialists.
Might all wars be good?
I am going to be a bit of a devil (despite being on the YES side) and suggest that maybe wars have actually done more good than bad. (Remember, I am debating so I don’t necessarily think this is true. But good debaters look at all the sides.)
There is a historian called Ian Morris who thinks war has done more good than bad. He’s even written a book about it, called ‘War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Fate of Civilization from Primates to Robots’. Good title.
It’s a bit heavy so I’ll give you a summary. It’s mostly about maths. (Now don’t look at me like that.)
Basically, Mr. Morris says that back (way back) in the stone ages people fought a lot. (Remember Uncle Fred and Cousin Igor squabbling over those mammoth hunting grounds!) Feuding, warring, fighting. Lots of people died in these fights.
Mr. Morris estimates that (way back) as many as 1 in 10 or even 1 in 5 people in a tribe or group died as a result of fighting between tribes and different groups. So if you had 100 people in your tribe as many as 10 of them might die. If it was really bad, as many as 20 might die. That’s a lot. Who’s going to help you hunt for those yummy mammoths?
As time went on Wars got bigger and more technological (phew). Governments got better organised, there was more and more law and order and people got safer. Governments became stable, often having had to fight to survive. So fighting wars actually made us safer. (If you ask me it seems a bad way to make people safe. But there you go.)
Countries got richer and we discovered the internet. Now we can have cyber wars. Nobody dies but boy, a lot of computer monitors and screens cop it.
Result (according to Mr. Morris):
These days not many people fight terrible wars with their neighbours. Not knock ‘em down and kill ‘em wars. People are actually safer now. Wars have given us, accidentally maybe (Mr. Morris says), security and stable government. Now, less than 1 in 100 people die in wars. So our tribe only loses one person, and with any luck, it’s Cousin Clarrie. We’ll all sleep much more sweetly.
Mr. Morris says that the maths proves that wars have improved things. Even if everyone is not around anymore to go “Yay!”
Particularly the people who died in wars.