Monday, May 26, 2008

Decoration Day Musings from Brother Brick

We present herewith an interesting idea from our friend Brother Brick. (No, he's not our actual brother, we're an only child.)

Ruminating over brain damage and other fun things on a Memorial Day weekend

Fighting off a bug this weekend and catching up on my reading. So I've been going through a big stack of cognitive/neurology newsletters I get, and as you'd imagine there is a lot of discussion on brain injuries suffered by Iraqi veterans, particularly due to concussion caused by IED's. Very profound after effects with a lot of changes in memory, skills and, most fascinatingly, behavior; victims can get quite nasty, vile and dangerous. (I'm more than a little familiar with these things first hand myself following seizures.) But it is astounding how much damage can be caused to the brain by concussion alone. Which got me to thinking.... I wonder, during the First World War, especially on the Western Front, just how many concussions were inflicted upon the soldiers who were subjected to all that shell fire? What was it? Hundreds of millions of shells fired? Is that an exaggeration? It had to be in the tens of millions anyway. Falling in a very small area, upon enormous numbers of men, for four years. Even accounting for all the duds and gas shells, that is an incredible amount of explosions in a small area upon a lot of guys over a long period of time. Who knows how many of those soldiers were concussed, and how often? There must have been, then, enormous numbers of men in postwar Europe who suffered from the after effects. So...did those after-effects collectively have an effect on post war Europe? Did those hundreds of thousands – maybe millions – of concussed soldiers with all those classic symptoms of paranoia and hostility and rage and depression and confusion – were they in numbers sufficient enough to actually alter the social and political atmosphere of societies and nations in the post-war years? Pre-war and post-war Europe were much different places. Post-WWI Europe was much more violent, rent by extremism and sociopathic political movements. And I wonder if any of that mass brain damage among the men of Europe in the twenties and thirties somehow made Nazism possible? Would normal people ever have fallen for it? Hell, was Hitler himself a victim of post-concussion that what made him so evil? He spent time in the trenches, exposed, and was nearly blown to hell a couple times. A lucky bastard...but did he suffer after effects? Just an idea. But the Europe of 1918 to, that is one inexplicably berserk place. Another horrible phenomenon that fascinates me is all these incredibly violent 'armies' of boys in Africa. They seem to be raised from the masses of orphans left by AIDS. There must be tens of millions of orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, and in many places so many adults have died or are dying that the social structure is simply not capable of taking care of them. Hence sociopaths collect them, Manson-like, into armies and they being kids they make ideal killers. Of course, HIV is becoming less lethal as the more virulent versions kill their hosts and, like malaria, soon it'll just incapacitate but leave the hosts capable of bearing and raising children. The supply of AIDS orphans will drop, and those armies will disappear. Funny how that happens. It's interesting that the Spanish flu pandemic had a mortality demographic somewhat similar to AIDS in that it killed almost exclusively people in the 18 to 35 year range (roughly..I can't remember the exact age range but it was young adults. The reason for this, btw, is that people above that and kids below had a resistance they'd developed after being subjected to a flu strain that the vulnerable group in between missed.) The flu killed tens of millions in Europe in 1918-19. I am guessing, then, that it left millions of orphans, especially combined with so many fathers having been killed in the war. It'd be interesting to see how many young Nazis in the early thirties were orphans. Anyway, little something to ponder on Memorial Day, I guess. War and its leftovers seem to linger long after the shooting stops. Brick
Editor's Note: While we do present ourselves as the "Editor" here, we only spell-checked Brick's opus (Try it yourself sometime, B., it's fun!) & can't be responsible for any syntactical &/or grammatical errors. We don't have all day to check others' shoddy work. M. B.


Larry Harmon said...

They still called it Decoration Day when my grandmother was a little girl. The idea was that they decorated the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers. Hey, whatever happened to those diabled veterans who used to sell those fake "poppies" around this time of year? What organization was behind that?

Glennis said...

Hey peabody, I think it was the VFW. I remember those poppies, I used to like them. I mean, I like them, I just don't ever see them anymore.

M. Bouffant said...

Mr. Know-It-All Answers:

We think it was the Disabled American Veterans, & we think they sold them on Veterans Day. But we've not seen them since the '60s, on the streets of San Fran. And what do we know anyway?