Rishi Dastidar

Writer

For all those who try to find the light, even in the dark.

Rishi Dastidar

Writer

Well hello there!

Forgive me for striking such a note of levity while you are stuck in a Belgian bog. But the truth is that the world, the country, the town you are fighting for no longer exists as you knew it.

So you could view your expedition as a massive waste of time; or as an opportunity for comic reflection. I would hope you might do the latter.

To that end, here are some other things that might tickle your funny bones while you are stepping over other skeletons:

1. You will be invoked come every election, as an unthinking exhortation for people to do their ‘democratic duty’. “People died so you can vote” they say, leaving aside the fact that the majority of you fighting weren’t specifically chucking bullets around in Europe for the right to put a cross on a ballot paper, but rather intervening in a pan-Continental family squabble.

2. Oh yes; due to the general ineptitude and inability shown by your commanding officers, their class will no longer be trusted to run the country without at least undergoing a show of consulting the lower orders every couple of years.

3. That Berlin you’re due to have tea and cakes in by December – it’s still the Continent’s playground. It has a few more scars and bullet holes – our Russian friends decided about fifty years ago that it might look better split in two – but otherwise it’s still the place to go to live a little. Pretty much all that’s changed is that you’ll see more beards there rather than moustaches.

4. Hardly anyone reads poetry any more, which I know you will find hard to believe considering the number of boys alongside you clutching volumes of verse. Indeed, a number of your colleagues in the trenches will be found to have been scribbling poems when they should have been shooting, and while it is very good stuff indeed, it has earned the somewhat dubious honour of being the last examples of the art form that a mass audience actually has any knowledge of, or affection for.

5. We’re pretty sure that 1913 will happen all over again soon, not least because we’ve been determined to recreate the Holy Roman Empire in a slightly less gaudy and more legalistic form, but without solving any of the underlying tensions between different ethnic tribes. In fact, scratch beneath the surface and there’s almost a yearning you can touch for our generation to have a fight to fight like you have had. Odd, this desire we have to want to sacrifice ourselves too.

6. Oh and one of the German guys you’re shooting at – he turns out to be the century’s incarnation of evil, with even worse facial hair than the Kaiser, and we’ll do this all again in about 25 years time – but this time with better weapons and a higher body count.

Progress is a funny bugger. Anyway, see you in Berlin!

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