Oops! I Forgot



“I forgot” is a convenient excuse to justify our neglect to remember what is important. 

According to The Polynational War Memorial i,since 1900 there have been 251 wars in just about every place on earth. From these 251 wars, 112,867,707 people have died in battle. Consider these wars (in order of occurrence from the most recent):

First and Second Congo War, when 208,367 people died.
Rwanda Civil War, when 527,145 people died.
Uganda Civil War, when 116,044 people died.
Iran versus Iraq War, when 644,500 people died.
Mozambique Government versus Guerilla War, when 115,600 people died.
Afghanistan Civil War, when 121,536 people died.
Angolan Government versus UNITA Guerilla War, when 157,400 people died.
Lebanese Civil War, when 144,000 people died.
Chinese Cultural Revolution, when 2,050,000 people died.
Cambodian Civil War, when 246,204 people died.
Vietnam War, when 2,048,050 people died.
Algerian War of Independence, when 182,526 people died.
Korean War, when 995,000 people died.
Indian Partition Communal Violence, when 200,000 people died.
First Indochina War versus France, when 269,500 people died.
Chinese Civil War, when 1,200,000 people died.
Third Sino Japanese War, when 1,000,000 people died.
Spanish Civil War, when 466,300 people died.
Communists versus Koumintang, when 500,000 people died.
Polish-Soviet War, when 100,000 people died.
Russian Revolution and Civil War, when 802,225 people died.
Mexican Revolution, when 125,000 people died.
Russo-Japanese War, when 151,831 people died.
War of a Thousand Days, when 100,000 people died. 

Do you know what any of the above wars were about? Maybe we learned about them in school during history class, but now we forget. Or maybe we heard about them on the news but it has been so long ago and in some cases before our time, so we just forget.

But of course the most famous wars of the last 100 years include:

World War I, when 10,670,868 people died.
World War II, when 50,000,000 people died.

And none of us forget why more than 60 million people died. Or do we? I forget. 

According to a 2012 Annual Report from the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research, the major conflict items in 2012 by intensity groups included:

  1. System or Ideological Change
  2. National Power
  3. Territory
  4. Subnational Predominance
  5. Resources
  6. Autonomy
  7. International Power
  8. Secession
  9. Decolonization
  10. Other

When considering these conflicts and their causes, we must ask the question, was this really necessary? Could we not have resolved these issues peacefully or did ego, greed, anger and pride prevent us from doing so? What is it about human nature that drives us to kill each other over a disputed piece of land, hate toward another, natural resources such as oil, independence or beliefs and ideologies that not all people will accept? As evolved, intelligent people, why is all this killing necessary?

According to a 2011 research project from Brown University,

“When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America’s wars. Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion (Reuters).

Now consider these facts:

  • Of the 7 billion people on earth, 1 in 8 people are chronically undernourished.ii
  • 783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.iii
  • 8.8% of Canada’s population lives below the poverty line.iv
  • Nearly 774 million adults, age 15 or older, still cannot read or write – two thirds of these people (493 million) are women.v
  • Among youth, 123 million are illiterate of which 76 million are female.vi
  • 35.6% of women worldwide will be affected by physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.vii
  • Between 4% and 10% of older adults in Canada experience some type of abuse.viii
  • In the US, every day more than 4 children will die from neglect.ix
  • In the US, every 10 seconds, a child is abused in North America.x

Shouldn’t we be declaring war on all these matters instead and attacking the injustice of poverty, illiteracy, abuse, neglect, cyber bullying, racism and physical violence? Would it not be better to spend $4.4 trillion dollars on these social justice concerns to help make people’s lives better as opposed to buying weaponry to destroy a life?

Or have these social justice issues become so commonplace that we forget to consider them as real issues anymore, much like our attitude toward war, its costs and its regular loss of life?

In a few days, we will be remembering those who died to protect us from humankind’s destructive behaviour. I will try not to forget the reason for such a tremendous loss of life, and I remember the sacrifice of so many brave men and women.

At the same time, I must not forget that humankind’s destructive behaviour continues in many forms notwithstanding continued war. Today, so many still need our protection and support.

Will I remember to help? Will I remember to give? Or will I find myself saying “I forgot?”