Prologue of the Future
I read Margaret MacMillan’s The War the Ended Peace not too long ago. If you were to ask me, the book is an excellent collection of evidence to prove one very simple statement- a statement that should be the first, the most potent one in times of crisis.
Peace is always an option. History stands witness that it’s the first option to be abandoned, but it’s the option that fights to preserve humanity, instead of bathing in grotesque victory over a bed of meaningless deaths.
Books, stories and words are the oldest way that humanity has written its story. They’ve stood the test of time to remind us of our faults and strengths when we can’t seem to figure a way out of our predicaments. War is one of the instances humans value power or wealth or geographical expansion or some other silly concept over humanity itself. It is mankind at its worst, which makes books and stories of war as important as they get- not to celebrate gunfire and death, but to remember to avoid war at all costs.
I am tempted to disagree, as most would- you wouldn’t quite picture a group of statesmen and military leaders deciding to read books one war when they believe their nations to be at threat. Past accounts on strategies and current records of armaments, perhaps, but not the consequence of wars throughout history.
Except, they did.
In October 1962, during the era of the Cold, the United States of America and the Soviet Union were on the very precipice of war-and a nuclear one at that. All that stood between peace and mass extinction was a book.
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman is about the mistakes that led to the First World War. President John F Kennedy was moved enough by Tuchman’s account to look into diplomatic avenues, and refuse to push the nuclear button- there won’t be a Missiles of October, he said. A thankful world took a nervous step back from the precipice of mutually assured annihilation.
I don’t believe in fate or destiny, but I do think the world got lucky. If not for the Guns of August, I wouldn’t be here writing this, and you wouldn’t be reading it, for the world simply would not exist. Remembering our history is our saviour, not blindly sticking to it whether we recognize it or not. For if Kennedy stuck to history, the world would be a pile of ashes
And here we are, in a world not yet destroyed, but turning to war. And the fact is, turning to war is always for the wrong reasons. We couldn’t be bothered to read our history-or our literature, for what is literature if not the first draft of history-to think better about the world we live in, but if you ask me, we should. For you see, our history is the prologue for our drafts of the future.