The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: Millennials Forget “Bravery” of WWI

WWI, World War I, World War II, WWII, Millennials, millennial generation, Winston Churchill, Britain, JFK, John F. Kennedy


March 01, 2018 14:11 EDT

Millennials seem to think the assassination of JFK led to the start of World War I.  

The Telegraph waxes ironic, if not patronizing about the millennial generation’s ignorance of the facts associated with the official narrative of World War I. It appears that many of them think, for example, that Great Britain was at war with France and that John F. Kennedy’s assassination provoked the war.

The moral of the story, voiced by the director of SSAFA — formerly known as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association — is this: “The further we move away from the conflict, the more important it becomes to keep the World War One stories of bravery and courage alive and commemorate those who gave up their lives for our country.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:


The main attribute of every person’s nation or clan, as opposed to cowardice, the main attribute of the enemy

Contextual note

Bravery comes in different flavors, although some associate it exclusively to the glory of battle. Most Americans now consider Rosa Park’s and Martin Luther King Jr.’s preference for jail over submission an act of bravery. A significant number feel that Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden demonstrated their bravery in accepting persecution for exposing truths that the public needed to know concerning unjustified wars and illegal surveillance systems.

After President Richard Nixon’s abolition of the draft, in the US bravery has been delegated to the largely anonymous troops who accept (for pay) to stand in harm’s way. That is why they must always be “honored” and “supported,” because they are men and women who selflessly accept the unenviable fate of either falling tragically in the line of duty or surviving, often miserably, as neglected veterans.

And what better example of the value of bravery in the culture than Donald Trump’s boast that, during the Parkland school shooting, he would have “run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon”? One can always count on Trump to turn everybody’s cliché into a narcissistic caricature.

Historical note

For any society that sees acts of war as the most significant part of their national history, military bravery is a much admired virtue. It provides the essential stuff of legends. With reduced engagement in active wars, Britain may be literally suffering from symptoms of withdrawal (from the battlefield) while the United States, relentlessly active across the globe, has kept the idea of bravery in war alive, albeit increasingly with remote controlled drones.

World War I was a nasty affair from beginning to end. Historians have long considered that, unlike World War II, there were no good guys and bad guys. In both wars, Germany was the aggressor who opened the western front, but WWI was not about a single evil dictator, fanatical conquest or racist ideology. From one angle, WWI could be called a war of misunderstanding between competing colonial empires. Germany was looking for a way to catch up in the race to control its “share” of the global economy.

As one history professor puts it: “It is human nature to seek simple, satisfying answers, which is why the German war guilt thesis endures today … The actual decision to go to war … resulted from a fatal mixture of political misjudgement, fear of loss of prestige and stubborn commitments on all sides of a very complicated system of military and political alliances of European states.” The Austrian-Hungarians, backed by Germany, provoked Russia to react to their strike against terrorism in Serbia, while France urged Russia to resist, spreading the blame across the continent.

One of the lessons to be learned from WWI is that the reaction to a single terrorist attack can lead to an uncontrollably complex conflict, in which everyone ends up losing, except those who financed the war and owned the subsequent debt — a lesson that 21st-century politicians in the West seem to have forgotten. WWI lasted four years but left a trail of disaster behind it, leading directly to WWII and then the nuclear age. American funding of the war and the consequent debt of European nations contributed to the rise of fascism and ultimately to the empire of the dollar and the Pax Americana.

So, the SSAFA regrets that millennials are guilty of both failing to remember the “bravery and courage” of the British who followed the French into the fray and of making a muddle of the names of politicians associated with that war. But not so much of a muddle as today’s politicians have made of the real lessons of that war.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: PANGI /

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