Boys and guns. Boys and swords. Boys and lightsabers. “Pateeew, pateew, pateeeww!”

My son loves to rumble, fight, shoot, kill, slice off heads, dance-fight, crush, defeat, battle… WIN! It seems like an inbuilt thing in boys. And most men love the idea of war. Look at the success of The Pacific and Band of Brothers. And before that there have been countless movies made about war. The first ever Oscar winning film was called Wings (1927) about men and war (see my review There seems to be an insatiable hunger out there  for war stories, heroes, good overcoming evil. From violent video games to paintball, men (and some women) seem obsessed with the thing.

When my husband and I visited the Dachau Concentration camp, many of the people there wore somber faces, taking in the seriousness of the place. One particular fellow looked like he was having too good a time. He was rushing about the place with his camera rolling with a kind of an obsessed look on his face. This guy was taking the war, buddy-buddy, hero thing way too far. It was quite disturbing actually. On the memorial at Dachau they have the words ‘Never Again’ in five or so different languages and that is the general feel of the place. It really brings it home that war is nothing to be sneezed at.

image by Forrest R. Whitesides

Boys/men are wired for adventure. I look at my bouncy son who likes to fight and roll and hiphop dance and I see his lust for adventure right there in his testosterone. For boys and men alike, war is often seen as a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of thing. It is overseas, you get to wear funky uniforms, put black and green stuff on your face and carry a real life gun! You can grunt and fart and be crude if you wish, it’s all ok. But then something happens. When the first battle is fought, the first gun fired, the first soldier killed, that’s when war is no longer exciting. It is hell on wheels (I know, cos I’ve seen the movie/miniseries etc).

There is bonding to be had in this place. I can understand that. But war destroys these men, these families, these countries. It is a humbling experience, one that we, in Australia, have not known for a long time. Perhaps that is why we can run around with video cameras sucking in as much war history as we can without really grasping the devastation that has occurred. We can play violent games, watch disturbing movies as we sit in comfort, eating, drinking (sometimes sleeping) without really being moved at all. We may have thought the world was going to end with September 11th but then it went away and we ate our tinned food and locked up our bomb shelters.

We are living in a time of relative peace in Australia. Our boys may enjoy the “pateww, pateeww” of the imaginary war. In many parts of the world, this pretend world becomes all too real. While we experience the horrors of war from our comfy lounge rooms let us not forget the evils that are happening everyday as well as the lessons of the past.