Fighting for what?

Yesterday on our walk we spotted an eagle being harassed by our resident buzzard. The day before that we'd seen the buzzard under attack by a pair of hooded crows. A much fairer contest and a brilliant display of aerobatics.

This morning another avian battle took place on our bird table. This time the ring doves were at it. There must have been a dozen of them all trying to reach the richest feeding grounds on the table itself but of course there wasn't room for everyone. I watched, fascinated, as one particular dove, apparently no bigger than the rest, scared off one after the other of his / her associates. These unsuccessful ones had to settle for the grass beneath the table, pecking up the scraps from His Majesty's feast.

But His Majesty himself had very little opportunity to enjoy his domination via all the seed on the table. Far too busy rushing at anyone having the temerity to try again to join him.

You may think there's a parallel here in our own way of life and of looking at things. Whether through our personal greed or our national predispositon to fight, I would not know. But as a matter of fact I well recall my first day as a Royal Air Force student pilot, back in the bad/good old days of something called National Service. 1952. We few were rushed out of bed into a cavernous and perishing cold hanger well before the crack of dawn. A grizzled old group captain entered shortly afterwards. He stood there in silence for a while, without much sign of kindness, surveying we 'sprogs'. He was leanig on a stick - the legacy, we were later told, of his heroics in the Battle of Britain. Finally he said, quietly, "Step forward any man who does not wish to kill the enemy." Nobody moved a muscle, although it has to be said that most like me had arrived in this position merely to fly airplanes; fighters if possible. Up to then we hadn't thought about the taking of life or indeed about the losing of one's own life.

Why bring up all this conflict now, on the eve of Christmas, Peace On Earth, etc? Well, I for one am appalled by the slow and often repeated processions of shiny autos through Wooton Basset. And I just read that Great Britain has enjoyed only three weeks in the past fifty years when our armed forces weren't actively trying to kill some folk of other lands.

I know the birds are protecting their feeding territory but what the merry hell are we up to? What are we protecting? Ourselves? Our way of life? Or are we simply trying to dominate, to impose our democratic culture on those who would rather carry on without it? All those tears, both genuine and politically crocodile! Would be nice to have some kind of explanation we can all subscribe to, can thereby feel the waste of fast disappearing British wealth and British youth was worth it.

ps to this one ... recruitment in Scotland into the armed forces, in particular the army, is running at record highs right now. I know all about unemployment, recession etc, and I suppose I can see the attractions: good and regular pay, good and regular food, clothing and shelter. And besides, soldier boy, you get a chance to shoot someone and be applauded for doing so. Perhaps fighting is so ingrained within the human soul that peace can never, ever be more than a passing illusion.

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