Sunday, 26 October 2008

The De-Masculinisation of War

The German language knows, different from English, a specific term for soldiers who are killed in action at wartime. They are not soldiers killed in action or in a war, they are "fallen" soldiers. A soldier "falls" in a war. "Mein Vater ist im Krieg gefallen", somebody whose father was killed in the war would say.

Now I am writing this I realize it doesn't sound all that good in English, but trust me, in German it pays tribute to the extraordinary circumstances under which a soldier is killed in action.

The day before yesterday, at the memorial service for the two German soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan, our minister of defence Franz Josef Jung spoke about soldiers who "fell" during their peace mission for our country.

That is totally new. Until now, politicians had shunned that word carefully. In the same spirit, there are no enemies anymore but adversaries, no wars, but conflicts and no terrorists but insurgents, as the entire discourse has become flattened, euphemizised and (dare I say it?) de-masculinised. Cynics even jested that those soldiers had been the victims of a "qualified industrial injury".

So finally our minister of defence has come to the conclusion that we are at war, a conclusion to which, no doubt, the families of the soldiers deployed to the Hindu Kush have come long ago.

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