In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

24-05-2014

The poppy is member of the plant-family of which heroine is made, now used by the Taliban to finance their wars. This one-year flowering plant became symbol of both life and death in the Great War-trenches of Flanders Fields through the poem of the Canadian major John Mc Rae in July 1915. It flowers in spring and summer in tilted soil, whether this happens by a plow, a spade for freshly dug graves or the impact of a death delivering shrapnell grenade.

The poppy grew to a natural symbol that marks the epoch when the whole of life was industrialized, with even murder and death in mass production.

The Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres employs the blood red poppy as logo for the centennial anniversery of the Great War, for the obvious association with the blood spilled of 550.000 soldiers in 1914-1918 around Ypres alone. The red leaves/ drops of blood combine with an other symbol from the trenches, inspired by nature: barb wire.

The barb wire was invented in the 19th century United States to fence of large areas of land and claim ownership. It facilitated more intensive animal husbandry, and with cheaper mass production facilitated by monopolies colonized the US.

Only after itís massive millitary use in Europe in 1914-1918 and falling production prizes barb wire also colonized European agriculture. It there replaced thorny hedges, the natural grown barriers that kept livestock in for centuries and trespassers out. Hedges need attention and maintenance to stay effective, and barb wire made this Ďunnecessaryí, uneconomic.

With the lasting effect that barb wire thus facilitated mass-destruction of the traditional small scale countryside in many locations in the century since 1914. The natural thorns that inspired the invention of barb wire were replaced by itís human version, facilitating change in agriculture released by former natural limits. Just as bodycount was formerly limited by our own physique, but technology facilitated the industrial killing seen in 1914.

This is just one of the many direct and indirect examples of how the Great War still impacts both life and death today. And how our extended phenotype called technology changes the way we deal with life. In industrial farmland poppies are rarely allowed to grow, and the larks that bravely sang in Mc Raes poem vanished from Dutch agribusiness. Itís vastness, straight lines and monotones breath the utter efficiency with which we need to outcompete our economic foes on the great war fought on the world market.

Every advantage- like our modern way of comfortable life- comes with a prize.