Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

This Is My Battlefield.

I went into my local library yesterday, looking for a specific book about the First World War. It is part of a well-known and highly-regarded series of history books, and I actually own a copy of it – it just happens to be in storage at the moment. The woman at the desk was very helpful, and advised me that every copy of the book that Glasgow Libraries own is out, overdue, and all but one are missing – taken out and never returned.

While she was searching, the guy left the desk and went to the relevant shelf – six metres away, if that – and looked to see if they had a copy. He came back and said that they didn’t have it, but they did have this book in the same series and about the Second World War, if I’d like that instead.

You know how all wars are interchangeable – historically, geographically, and tactically. The Second World War is just like the First World War, it’s just one number away – they’re practically neighbours. The use of Chlorine Gas that killed soldiers in the first war of attrition is much like the incendiary bombs that killed the civilian population of Dresden, differing only in almost every conceivable detail.

In the end, I left the book on the Second World War and just came back home and watched Braveheart while listening to Jeff Wayne’s “War Of The Worlds.” Since we’re not marking any clear distinction between conflicts any more.



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