Posted in Essay, General Interest, John Anstie, Peace & Justice

The Value of Life

Word art image by John Anstie via 'Cloudart'
Word art image by John Anstie via ‘Cloudart’

This year marks the centenary of the beginning of a war that should have ended all wars. My thoughts for this piece were inspired, nay possibly provoked, by commentary from two recent sources.

The first was an item on the BBC’s Newsnight. This was a contention by some commentator that the perspective of the horrors of the Great War had swung “too far to the left”!

The second came from somewhere inside those compartments of my brain that store data from my professional life in commerce and trade. It relates to how successful companies aim to keep the balance sheet healthy (and the shareholders or directors happy).

It doesn’t matter which political regime is in government – left, centre or right – we keep going to war, somewhere in the world, for some reason, the truth of which is often illusory. So, whichever social, political or historic perspective we decide to adopt to absolve ourselves of the guilt, brought on by the inhuman horror of war, it alters neither the fatal results on the lives of so many, nor its lasting and damaging effects on the survivors and future generations.

Any company, developing a new product for market, will want it to succeed in the market. If the product fails to sell in sufficient quantities or survive against the competition, then would they carry on producing it and pushing it into the market, expending their valuable resources on a failing campaign? The answer is a resounding NO! They would either review and redevelop the product, remodel its placement in the market or withdraw it altogether!

An army, like a commercial company, has as its main resource what any organisation should value most, it’s people. Their operations in the field have to be managed in a way that ensures the highest probable success at the lowest possible cost. So the generals (and their political masters), who presided over operations at the front in the First World War, failed! It still hurts now, even after nearly one hundred years, that, by any measure, the obscene loss of young lives in that war was a failure on a catastrophic scale. However great was the threat that existed from Central Europe’s ‘Triple Alliance’ (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), they could have managed that threat with far better strategy, better tactics.

Surely few could have foreseen the horrors that would follow but, years later, with countless tomes of historical reportage, documentary … and some of the most poignant poetry ever written … there comes a time for reconciliation; a time for present leaderships to face the truth, admit their predecessors were wrong and apologise to the descendants of all those lost and hurt by such bad management. I think it is important for any civilisation, if it is not to descend into a dark Orwellian future, if it’s peoples are not to be subjugated by fear of war, foreign invasion and death, that its leadership, regardless of political colour, must be able to stand up and face the truth, admit their failures and apologise for taking us to war, any war! We all need to seek truth and reconciliation.

It has been said that we should not ‘celebrate’ but rather ‘commemorate’ the First World War at its anniversary. I disagree. I believe we should celebrate it, which means that, once we acknowledge it was a complete failure because of its decimation of life, it should serve as an unforgettable beacon that we will always celebrate for reminding us of the value of life.

© 2014, John Anstie, All rights reserved

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

* * * * *

product_thumbnail-3.php51w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_John has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.


“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John enjoyed being fit and sporting. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines as Gordonstoun, giving shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. This fitness was enhanced by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, by selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a forty-eight year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and a mixed barbershop quartet. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strapline sort of reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iVolunteer ”

2 thoughts on “The Value of Life

  1. Thank you for the considered comment and for sharing your family’s history of association with both world wars. My Father was an RAF Spitfire pilot, my Grandfather worked in the Admiralty as a fluent German speaker, he helped in the process of decoding the communications that eventually saw the undoing of the U-boats’ grip on the North Atlantic supply fleets. I think what they all did was exceptional, even though they had no real choice and even though it could be argued that both wars were effectively a defence against territory grabbing tyranny – Kaiser Wilhelm in the first and Hitler in the second war, both of whom were driven by hatred – I just argue that the WW1 could have been managed better to minimise the losses. All other wars in the twentieth, that I can think of, were avoidable, if political will and diplomacy had their way …


  2. How I wish this could be the case. As an American whose great grandfather fought in WWI and whose grandfather fought in both WWII and Korea, I am proud of them both for serving, but ashamed that there was even a need. Both have passed on now, and I am not sure what they might think of celebrating the wars, but I think they would both agree with you about celebrating the wars as a reminder of the value of life.

    There is no profit in peace, as you know. Even back then, when the ‘reasons’ for going to war were supposed to be more noble (to fight oppression, free people from tyranny, retaliate against enemies who had hurt us, etc.) don’t think for one second that profit wasn’t the underlying motive. I would like to believe that most people in the world want peace. But the deck is mightily stacked against us by the people with power, money and puppeteer strings. Anyway, thank you for writing this. It is nice to see another perspective of an ideal that *could* be possible if it were allowed to spread and flourish.


Welcome to "The BeZine" Virtual 100,000 Poets and Others for Change event! Share you work here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.