Commentary : Coming Up To November 11th 2008
There was no place for labels such as "Post Traumatic Syndrome" 90 years ago ...Just the "thousand year look" - white faced and dissociated . And some named it "Shell Shock" ...Why?
Shells were not just designed to explode on impact in the field, but in the air too ...So there was a steel rain of peppering death over soldiers in the field sometimes ..Living with a death rain of steel teeth and watching it rip friends apart will put men into an internal outer orbit - so they leave their white shocked skin selves far behind - on battle planet ..
I recall a man who used to have a "dog in his skin"....It was a shrapnel "dog" and he made it "sit up and beg" by manipulation and he showed it to children and made them smile when the dog settled down on his arm ...
He never told them how the shells in packs tore his friends apart... The tragic and mad and gallows humour though all link hand in hand - its the way of some soldiers
Today a BBC documentary on a Cornish man showed him remember the battle and deaths of friends and they filmed him on the french field of war - putting a wreath at last where his friend died .. 90 years it took to talk and join some tears together . Of honour, and war's stupidity, of some kind of gains, and of loss that saw another World War arise ..What a mix of a race we all are ..
Post Trauma though is a valuable locked in testimony often untold . Often socially unreceived because human pain is taboo and the truth of our collective madness is taboo. We have to allow people to own it more quickly on an individual level and to receive its implied terrible critique - of all of us ....
World War One ? Its worth remembering to the core ..
Jack's left with
The clay god
Who in the rain runs red
And the mud-poke-bullets stand up
From the soil
Like the bone fingers
Of the machine gun dead
John's poppy is a time machine
He has learned to dread
For armies and those ripping screams
Under thunder tanks
Come out of the tracks in his head