Got innocence in everyday life?
A wit once said America was the only nation that could keep losing its innocence, and then finding it again. Even after Vietnam, America still rebounded, but was never, I think, quite the same. George Orwell noted that his generation, which came of age at the end of World War I, was rebellious, but they never knew why. Only years later did Orwell realize it was due to the loss of innocence after the great war.
His generation must have been shocked to learn the “establishment” did not care about them: At least, did not care enough to become competent and develop common sense. During the terrible incompetence of the Second World War, working in London during the blitz, Orwell would keenly scrutinize the upper class. His essay begins, “As I write this, highly civilized men are flying overhead trying to kill me…”
During the First World War, everyone thought the Prussian General staff was world class. At that time, common sense, to any civilian, would have meant that before you start an offensive to go deep into enemy territory you stockpile ammunition, rations, grain for the horses, and other supplies. At the same time, anyone who saw a fog bank would have known the wind is not uniform but blows into banks, swirls around empty patches, and even blows “backwards” too.
You will recall that both sides had built built a vast network of trenches, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean… Stalemate, as blocked as Brexit… Both sides still hoped for an offensive, taking pains to feed and care for vast stocks of cavalry horses… to use for a glorious breakout past the trenches! Such an innocent hope.
According to my childhood How and Why Wonder Book of WWI, eventually both sides sought to break the deadlock by finding a secret weapon: The Germans found theirs first. One day, when the wind was fair, they opened valves and advanced behind poison gas… Allied soldiers fell back, gasping and stumbling. The German’s own gas, as they advanced, sometimes blew back in their faces. Which was a problem, as the Germans had no masks and had neglected to stockpile any. Later they would even have masks for their horses, (seen in photographs) but there would be no breakout offensive, not that day. Whither common sense?
Servicemen and learned experts know that war is not glorious, a lesson that each generation of regular civilians seems to need to re-discover.
In the televised Sarah Connor Chronicles, as played by Lena Headey, in one of her voiceovers, Sarah muses on innocence lost:
In 1678 doctors diagnosed a mental affliction soldiers suffered from as 'nostalgia' - homesickness, a longing to return to the past. The cruel reality of war is that there is no return home. No return to innocence. What is lost, is lost forever. Like my father, war's wounds have bled me dry. No words of comfort; no words of forgiveness. No words at all.
From the episode Strange Things Happen at the One-Two Point.
I like Sarah; I have her on my blog list of labels.
You may recall that just as wooden milking stools use three legs for maximum stability on an uneven dirt floor, so too did did the Martian fighting machines, great black “boilers on stilts,” use three legs.
Uncle Jack was the only one who never hurt me.
In the town of Panchester, one day, I was scared.
The Martians! The Martians!
Uncle Jack had gone to the butchers.
I was on my way to find him when I saw It:
A dark dome half obscured by the stone buildings,
moving, bobbing, sinister.
I crouched below the porch of the church, afraid to look,
my mouth wide open.
It was coming this way,
I had never in my life heard my Uncle Jack yell in terror,
but I knew his voice,
when I heard his scream.
I glimpsed a man across the street.
In a split second a dark tentacle snatched him up,
as a massive pole-leg thumped down and rushed on.
I walked further down the block.
Jack had been picked up and dashed against a wall.
I went back.
I ran up the church steps and inside to the right,
up a narrow stair,
and trembled into a ten-by-ten wooden steeple.
Knees weak, I staggered to the window
with my hands and chin on the ledge.
Where was It?
There. Going up the valley rim.
I pressed against the wall and cried.
Not the even rhythm of a child crying,
not the even sobbing of a woman,
but a cry irregular,
rising, gasping, falling, gasping.
I would never be loved by Uncle Jack.
I stretched out,
flattened to the floor,
cheek resting on the sweet old wood.
H.G. Wells is a classic writer because he knew classic human nature, such as authority lacking common sense.
To document a certain lack of common sense in the present day, there has been a series of BBC exposes on the London Marathon, an exposure of unacceptable behaviour that has been going on for years. The BBC reports of this year have been about the slower, distressed marathoners being abused by staff. Here is one report about someone with, luckily for her, a little more self-esteem than others might have because she is supposed to be slow, as a pace setter: