Smith: Appreciating Armistice Day

Josiah Smith, Staff Columnist

Too often I am guilty of harboring an overwhelming sense of dread. There are so many things happening in this world that I don’t just casually disagree with, I fundamentally oppose them without any space for mutual acceptance.

At times, reading through a bad newscycle leaves me questioning how much longer humans will be able to cohabitate peacefully. How long until we inevitably destroy ourselves? Several news outlets seem to only cover the impending doom—wars, poverty and loss, hunger and decrepitness. These headlines seem to have become the norm, as if fear should be a natural part of news consumption.

Where the news fails us is in its portrayal of the ways that this world is getting better. There are troves of data providing evidence for how quality of life, especially within developed countries, is continually increasing.

For example, when looking at trends that reflect extreme poverty, in 1980, over 40 percent of the world was still caught within the grasp of poverty. Today, that percentage has decreased to around 10 percent. If you look at metrics that show active wars during a specific era, you’d notice an incredible decrease in those numbers as well. Thirty years ago the world’s countries were involved in nearly 23 active wars, while today that number has essentially been halved.

I’ve included these statistics because they highlight how life has progressively improved at the hands of the hard-working citizens of the world. I wish I could include the entire scope of the impressive statistics showing what challenges have been conquered over time. But since I am unable, I’ll stick with the most important.

For me, the statistic about war is highly significant because the 20th century was plagued by numerous high-stakes conflicts. I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been to be alive during these times.

On Sunday, Nov. 11, the world again celebrated the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. In fact, that Sunday marked the hundredth anniversary of the signing. The Armistice was, and still is, so radically important because it signifies a collective effort for peace. Officially, the document ceased fighting on land, sea and air and declared victory for the Allies over their opponent, Germany. But, most importantly, the document became symbolic for peace and an effort to sustain it collectively.

Unfortunately, this day seems to be a relic of history, with few people aware of its existence. To be fair, there’s nothing inherently wrong about not knowing when Armistice Day is, even if it does have its own catchy slogan: “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” How could anyone forget that?

Personally, I keep it in mind because it signifies another instance of a world that seemed beyond repair. If this feat was achieved before, just beyond the reach of our average lifespans, then there is no reason that it can’t and won’t be achieved again.

I’m sure that during the devastating days of the Great War, many thought similarly; that this conflict could potentially ensure the end. But like all of the positive trends that have been observed over time, their conflicts have been only that: problems that needed solving and not some doomsday death sentence for the planet.

Armistice Day is a reminder that it is neither too hopeful or woefully wrong to experience both feelings of optimism or pessimism in a conflicted time. In fact, both feelings are natural and necessary in order to solve the problems that face us.

What’s unnatural is a daily news feed that reports only on what isn’t working, what hasn’t happened yet and what is most likely to kill us. The world has never existed without a conflict that seemed like it would it bring the end of days.

But, as you’ve probably noticed, that hasn’t happened yet. And, this world is becoming a better place because of a collective effort to right its wrongs.

Josiah Smith is a fourth-year English and business management double major.