How Do We Justify Our Actions? "The Wars" Timothy Findley

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The Wars

Justification. Defined as the act of justifying something. To serve as an acceptable reason or excuse for our actions, based on actual or believed information. Throughout the history of not only the modern world, but certainly back to the "barest essentials of reason" our species have made decisions that have effectively shaped our world into what it is today. Or have not. The judgments made in the past may also have been relatively insignificant to a larger picture, but would still be important in one persons or a group of people's day-to-day life. Either way, choices made in any way, shape, or form, are based on what the decision maker believes to be true or morally right. Timothy Findley displays the abovementioned opinion-based judgments in the novel The Wars. From the background behind the novel, to the ending scene of the main character being burned to the ground in a flaming barn, many choices are made. Whether large and important or small and insignificant, Mr. Findley asks us as readers and as humans to look into ourselves to uncover the reasoning behind the choices, as well as our own actions and the actions of our leaders. The justification for most of the aforementioned incidents in The Wars can be classified under 3 broad-based ideas: safety, self-interest or the moral/general good. The first of these main ideas brought up in the novel is safety. The time setting of the story starts in 1915, almost a year after the First World War has begun. At the beginning of this war, the first major decision based on the idea of public safety was made: going to war in the first place. Assassination at Sarajevo sparks what would be a catastrophic loss for nations all across the world. This decision that directly affects the main character, Robert Ross, is Britain declaring war on August 5, 1914. This automatically makes Robert's home country, Canada, at war as well, as they were part of the British Empire. In the past century, public safety has been the main justification for most types of war. But is going to war really safe? The conceived viewpoint of the author, often referring to the battlefield as lifeless and, in essence, counterproductive, says no. 9,000,000 casualties in four years across the world says no. Many attempts at peace by the UN and peacekeeping countries such as Canada say no. Yet, world leaders still position troops across the world claiming they are preserving the safety of their country. And still, people are dying every day from war related causes, soldiers and innocent civilians alike. So is war really justified? This is for us as a people to decide. Another smaller, less significant implication of the idea of safety being used as justification, is Robert's shooting of the German soldier at the crater on the frontlines. Even though the German had not made a move to kill after been given many opportunities to, Robert acted on impulse and shot the soldier as he was simply reaching for his binoculars. The safety of his men overcame the desire for peace as primary objective in Robert's mind, leading to one out of 9 000 000 unnecessary deaths. The second main idea used as justification throughout this novel is self-interest. This is brought up several times in the duration of The Wars. In sequential order, the first is Robert deciding to "make love to his pillows" instead of looking after his sworn-protected sister, Rowena. Doing something fundamentally based on pleasuring oneself is a prime example of acting out of self-interest. It is not stated directly, but rather implied that this action leads to Rowena's death. This incident leads to the next decision based on self-interest. Robert, not particularly liking what was happening at home, volunteered himself to the Canadian war effort, as many young men of the time were doing. While predominantly for changing his current situation, this action could also be tied in with the idea preserving the safety of his...
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