Today millions of bright young men and millions of not-so-bright young men are playing violent video war games. Some are playing these games from dawn until dawn, headphones on, internet-connected with another million young men around the world. They revel in a good “head-shot”, they compare weapons, get excited about a clever kill, taking out the enemy, and know far more about guns, explosive devises, battlefield strategies than they will ever know about history, art, literature, primate studies, or women.
It is fun; it is addictive; it is glorious; and I guess it is far too late to put this genie back in the bottle.
Most of these young men can distinguish fantasy from reality and their violent and aggressive impulses are confined to the virtual world. The debate is ongoing about how much this gaming affects their attention span, real-life problem solving, and ability to engage in a human world. We do know years of video gaming increases dexterity when piloting a fighter jet.
Which brings me in a round-about way to Remembrance Day and language. My grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge. He survived, but I am sure it affected the rest of his life. I’m sure he came home with, what in those days would be called, shell shock. He must have seen horror. He was wounded three times. He never talked about his war experiences, with the exception of funny stories whilst on leave, tossing his months-old underwear from the hotel window into the streets of London, and for his grandchildren, tapping the small metal plate he said he had in his head.
Let us remember the sacrifices, the terror, the horror of it all. Let us also remember that that war, and many others, was never, ever necessary. Let us come together in remembrance. Let us celebrate our survival and honor the fallen.
But let us not glorify that war or any other war. Our soldiers may look splendid in uniform. They may display great courage, and sacrifice much. But it is not a glorious thing they had to do.
War is not glorious, neither real war nor virtual war, for all its noise and thunder and drama, for all its fear and pain and suffering. It is not glorious.
It is a tragic failure of evolution that in real life our older Alpha males pound their chests and send adolescents off to battle other tribes; and a failure of evolution that our young males take so much pleasure in the game of killing virtual others.