“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”-Plato
Oh how right he is. We may try to deny it at times, but isn’t it true? Isn’t the entire human race a collection of unknown soldiers, all waging their own individual campaigns on the immense battlefield of life? Some face larger battles than others, some are better soldiers than most, but all share one thing in common: we are all veterans.
Weary and tested, we have clawed our way through innumerable conflicts, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. At times we seem to merely be at odds with life itself, but all too often we declare war on each other. We make alliances on the vast battleground of existence, forming our own military coalitions for the purpose of destroying our common enemies. Others group together to weather the assaults of aggressors, but all too many crumble under the merciless blows of expectations.
What are the weapons of this universal conflict? They certainly aren’t physical weapons, but rather words, actions, thoughts, deeds, movements. Even the Facebook wall has become a weapon in the arsenal of humanity. This essay itself can be used as a weapon. Every word, every action, has its consequences on the battlefield. There are marksman, so to speak, striking with precisely the right comment or statement, thought or deed to destroy a foe’s primary defense: confidence. Others, like the blitzing tanks of modern armies, seem to advance and materialize out of nowhere, rolling over and utterly crushing their enemies. The shock and surprise of the unforeseen are their weapons.
Some are perpetually aggressors, others defenders, some victims. In the war of the words there is such thing as collateral damage; those sucked in despite attempts to distance themselves and remain neutral. Unintended casualties, misfires, mistakes. Stray bullets find targets unintended, and alliances and relationships dissolve in friendly fire incidents.
In the chaos of modern personal conflict all are soldiers. Unseen are the medics, the chaplains, the homefront. There are certainly leaders, Generals, Field Marshals, manipulators, saboteurs, the good and the evil. But where are the doctors, the cooks? Those to encourage and revive the fallen, to provide a warm meal, a place to sleep. Those to mend old wounds, to heal scars. Where are they? This frightening world seems to have no room for the battlefield medic or the well-meaning chaplain, as no one respects the red cross anymore, and the few who try to support others are soon enough sucked into a war of self-defense.
But maybe the reason no one respects the red cross is that there are no crosses to be seen. Where are the negotiators, the peacemakers, the healers? Who mediates the conflicts and attempts to hold peace together? Certainly I could try, but a single medic can never treat a world’s worth of injuries. We all must make the effort. To change our entire worldview: to see ourselves not as warriors, but as fellow humans; just the same as our perceived adversaries. If the unknown soldiers would lay down their arms and take up the bandages instead, then we might discover a startling truth. Those across no-man’s land might not be as distant as we once thought, and, in fact, we all suffer from the same battlefield wounds. We’re all just unknown soldiers, slaughtering each other on a battlefield we should be facing together.