Lessons from war time by an '88 born

How we know all the lessons but have learned nothing.

As infants, we were born into a country embroiled in war. Where previously peaceful neighbours were now mistrustful of each other.

Just a few years before we were born, our parents and those who were only children witnessed shops being burnt, and dead bodies floating down blood reddened canals while they drove by.

Our first writing lessons from the age of 5, were about peace. We were taught that peace starts at home and the people around us. We learned songs that sang of how this land is for all of us to live in harmony. We wrote essays on how we would bring peace to the country.

As children we were taught to not tell or spread lies. To respect and listen to others. That arguments weren't won by shouting or hitting each other.

As children we grew up watching reports of bombs in the city. We grew up alongside other children who had lost parents to explosions. In the city. We never even had to experience the daily horrors of people less fortunate than us.

As children, we had our school bags checked daily for explosive devices or other illegal items that could be used to cause harm. To other children.

As children, we grew up with others of all races. Friends. And we wondered why the adults were fighting.

As teenagers we watched skies go dark and anti aircraft fire boom and echo through the night.

As teenagers we watched on TV how people have their lives made even worse as bombs and mines took away peace. Indiscriminately. Their only fault was to be born in a certain area and not have much in the way of money.

As young adults, we watched the war come to a close. Bloody and brutal to the end. As always, the innocents were the ones caught in the middle. Literally. Unable to escape for fear of having knees shot out from under them. We watched all of this.

As young adults, we cheered when the war was finally declared over. We took to the streets. Not to celebrate the fact that so many were killed. But to celebrate that so many people would not have to die anymore. That the children of the future would not have to live with fear.

Now here we are as adults. Some of us have children. Here we are at the start of a fresh generation. The memories of our childhood still fresh enough to recall them in vivid colour.

What have we learned though? Truly?

My child has been born into a country where innocent people who were lost and displaced to the tragedy of war still live in camps with no hopes of seeing their homes again.

My child has been born into a country where young people who were sent to fight a war, try to go about their lives with limbs and eyes missing. Almost forgotten. All after fighting a war that was started on the back of a small group of people acting violently on the premise that one race was better than the other.

My child has been born into a country where while all that is still our current reality, we are seeing the same, damn, cycle start all over again. People who grew up alongside each other, have started hating or mistrusting each other because of their difference in race. We spread lies across Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Or we don't stop others from spreading inflammatory falsehoods.

My child has been born into a country where it seems that we know all the lessons but have learned nothing. We've not learned how to love. Not learned how to see how a small well organized group can cause outrage to spill over to innocent people. We've not learned to speak up. To question things. To know the difference between relevant and irrelevant arguments. We've not learned how to put the wealth of information and the access to all of it to good use. We've not learned how to not shout in an argument. We've not learned that violence only begets more violence. Whether that violence is verbal or physical.

My son has been born into a country where if nothing changes now, he'll soon witness everything I and all the others I grew up with had to witness.

If nothing changes.

It's not too late to learn. And learning will mean doing something different this time.


To be clear to anyone reading this. I had a very privileged life during the war time where I was fortunate to avoid anything happening to me or my family. There were others who experienced horrific things and had their lives torn apart. Some of these people are my friends now. Some became my neighbours after fleeing war torn areas. I don't intend to trivialise anything they went through. I don't intend for this piece to be seen as anything contributing to a greater change. These are just words. Feelings. A release for sadness that I feel in seeing people I grew up with devolve into the same mess we grew up in. I don't know what steps one takes after this. I don't know how to effect change. I want to. And I hope I do. But this piece is not part of that change and sharing it won't be that change either..