Non-management: Scrawny as I was, then and even now, I used to fantacize a lot about playing soldier. With an escrima stick or two in hand, I’d imagine myself wielding a variety of far more violent instruments: swords, guns, spears, cannons. I’d imagine myself in skirmishes and battles, as generals and warriors charging in and taking aim, spilling my enemy’s blood and then my own, cutting down foes before being cut down myself… all of this play, mind you. My tastes in media back then pretty much reflected those battle-struck fantasies, leading and advancing myself and parties and armies. I mean, I still do enjoy those kinds of media, but not as much nowadays, and I can’t stand the really gratuitously violent content. And that’s because, to a certain extent, I’m growing older, wearier, disillusioned with that sort of stuff. I know now there’s just too much cruelty and suffering in the world because of conflict. It’s too much anymore for me to enjoy the prospect of brutal violence for its own sake. There are few good wars.
That’s not to say my experiences are one and the same with a PTSD-stricken vet, but I get a little the kind of trauma war can have on people personally affected by it, young people particularly. I get somewhat the frustration of enduring those war pains with no signs of progress or victory in sight and for the sake of some stupid and irrelevant cause. I grew up on the war narratives of America fighting the good and triumphant fight in WWII, only to see myself and my generation turned sour on war in because of the travails and meandering of the American War on Terror. Whether one can serve honorably in war is a question that’s a resounding “no” for Paul Baumer and Shinei “Shin” Nouzen in theirs. In All Quiet on the Western Front and 86, neither of these young men feel pride in fighting for their sides–for countries that considers them expendable for their own greed, on the one hand, or because they hate them on the other–and words of praise for their war deeds are hollow or non-existent.
War so traumatizes their young formative years that they simultaneously are hurt by war and look forward to returning to it–much like an abusive domestic relationship–because there’s nothing left for them outside of war, or they feel like there’s nothing left for them outside of it. That ended up being the case for Paul, but it doesn’t have to be for Shin.
But anyway, I’d like to give a big thanks to ANN’s Lynzee Loveridge for commissioning my article. Below is a summary short of the article. If you’re interested in reading further, click the link embedded in the title or at the end of the article sample:
When protagonist Paul Baumer returns from the no-man trenches on leave, he finds himself alienated in his childhood home. Men of white, greying hair and smug, portly disposition crowd around Paul, dismissing his frontline soldier assessments, enraptured by cigar-lagered armchair play. Books and sketches of childhood interest offer Paul no more fancy or warmth—their meanings just the literal observation of dried black ink on dead plant matter, their sensations the chill of the eve Paul revisited them. What was to be respite from the stress of battle became a new and unfamiliar stress the twenty-something-year-old Paul could barely handle, and he departs his former hometown, regretful about ever returning. No longer the person that place once knew, Paul’s true and actual home is now very different: on the battlefield, with his comrades. And one-by-one, they all die there.
It is from this scene and the larger story of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front that 86 -Eighty Six- draws its brutal and unglamorized characterization of war and the toll it takes on the young people that are drawn into fighting it. Like Paul, Shinei “Shin” Nouzen and his 86er comrades are given leave from the fighting. Unlike Paul, Shin and the 86 are offered the opportunity to retire from it all. And yet, after a hard-fought escape, a miraculous rescue, and a bout of rest (perhaps too much rest) they all decide, to their saviors’ bewilderment, to return back. They feel they must… READ MORE