While I was watching the film, They Shall Not Grow Old, I continuously tried to picture myself as a Canadian soldier in World War One, the difference between life as a man one hundred years ago compared to now, and different worldviews and perspectives.
I was constantly thinking about life as a Canadian soldier, because some of the soldiers who fought in the war were the same age as me when they entered war, so I can somewhat relate to them in a sense, being a teenager who enjoys playing sports and who goes to school, and then suddenly having to decide, or in some cases be forced, into joining the war. I would have to sail all the way to Europe, and there would be some feelings of fear because I would be forced to leave my sheltered life and homeland. At the same time, there would also be an overwhelming sese of patriotism and pride in carrying out my duty to defend it. In addition to that, all my friends would participate in the war, family would also try to convince me to join, and there would be a great deal of propaganda coaxing young men to participate, which would make it irresistible for a boy of my age to join the war. Plus, if I did not join, I might be made fun of and thought of as a coward during those times, because people believed that it was a man’s duty to fight.
Today, though, it would be a vastly different scenario. Looking at the film from a modern-day perspective, many would think of war as a crude way of increasing territory and gaining resources. Today, people frown upon the thought of war in order to retain peace. Governments should set up conferences and peacefully discuss their ideas rather than killing millions of people. War is a very inefficient way to get what you want, and it would be much more effective to simply communicate with other countries and open bilateral discussions to understand conflicting views. It is only through peaceful discussion that countries can achieve a better understanding of situations and find common ground.
While I was watching the battle scenes, I was picturing what it would be like if my battle partners were getting shot and dying on the battlefield. The people who I bonded with and shared memories with disappearing in the blink of an eye. The adrenaline rush of trying to escape and frantically running for your life, and if you unfortunately got shot, the pain would be excruciating. I thought of it like a scary video game where you were always in fear and one where you could not pause or reload the game, so if you made a singular mistake, it would be “game over.” This made me think about how the soldiers would constantly be in a life-or-death situation for those four years from 1914 to 1918, but if we compared that to the lives of young men nowadays, there is such stark difference, because I can eat comfortably, go to school, have fun with my friends, and play sports, whereas if I was alive over a hundred years ago, I could be one step away from death at all times, barely eat enough to survive, and my friends would be getting killed left, right and centre.
To conclude, while I was watching They Shall Not Grow Old, I was constantly reminded of the difference between life as a Canadian man one hundred years ago compared to now. It brings to light the little luxuries in life that we take for granted today, and how in the past it would be so difficult to simply enjoy a warm cup of coffee in the morning. My ignorance about the hardships of a 15-year-old a century ago brings into focus how important peace is. As the Buddha once said, “There is no greater wealth in the world than peace of mind.” This film made me realise how important it is to revisit history and see things from a soldier’s perspective. It is only then that you can see the devastation of war. And make every effort to prevent it in the future. After watching this film, I was given a newfound appreciation for what we consider trivial in life.