Today I visited the american cementery at Omaha Beach, Normandie, where 3000 american soldiers died on the 6th of June 1944 whilst trying to gain the shore in the first step to free Europe from Nazi occupation.
Everywhere in this memorial we are reminded that these soldiers died for our Freedom.
I walk around these many crosses wondering, once again, about the limits of human stupidity whilst I read amazing stories of courage and sacrifice of these soldiers in their twenties coming from the other side of the ocean to give their lives for us. By “us” I mean “us” in the broadest sense.
Could a scene of sacrifice like this be repeated today? I remember reading of a soldier from Illinois, 18 years old, who lied about his age to be enroled as volunteer and who was among the first to be killed in Omaha beach… Would a white, middle-class, 18 year old american of today be capable of a similar sacrifice? Would a 18 year-old, middle-class european bother enrolling in an army to go defend freedom in the other side of the ocean?
More amazing even is the fact that these people died “for free”. They were not a professional army, they were not getting paid -as we understand a “pay” today-, yet they gave their lives when its country requested them to do so.
Currently, the armies have been professionalised and middle-class boys -an girls- can easily avoid getting killed in wars. Wars are fought by “latinos”, afro-americans, arabs… and they don’t fight for “freedom” in general but for the ticket for their families to a better world. They don’t fight for general ideas or countries but for papers and money to bring their families out of poverty. In this sense, modern soldiers put a price to their lifes. Yet, I don’t think they would dare to jump on the beaches of Normandy like these soldiers of the second world war did. The price is “too” high.
We definitely live in a different world where “freedom” doesn’t mean what it meant to those youngsters in the 1940s. We can say that the pursue of freedom has been individualised in the same way as the consumist society has turned the “people” into a “consumer”. We are all different individuals having our individual freedom as one of our main assets. The concept of collective freedom has been diluted and prostituted to an extend that it is only use by clowns such as G. Bush to justify forcing ilegal wars upon empoversihed countries.
This is not the freedom the american, british, polish, french, russian soldiers died for during the WWII. However, the need for this “collective freedom” tends to be rediscovered in times of economic, political and moral crisis. The current systemic crisis has the capacity to rally the youngsters of the world to save the destruction of the planet resources, to bring them together to ask for their right to freedom and consequently build structures and institutions that make war impossible but also that control the financial markets, the fiscal paradises, the food markets, etc…
The question is: will the new generation be ready to jump in the Omaha beach of the 21st century exposing themselves to the enemy fire?
Would they be willing to do it “for free”?