Today as we commemorate the silence as the horrendous machines of death fell still in 1918, we are recalling a time when the world had changed. It did not go back to what it had been 4 years earlier. Those who had lost their lives of course did not experience that change, but for those left behind the world was and became very different. War brought to all who participated a toxic dose of PTSD ruining thousands of lives, some even in death were facing ruin as a result of what was seen at the time as cowardice. Whole towns were stripped of the lives of their menfolk between 16 and 40, and the few that did return were damaged beyond recognition. However there were positives too. In theory the war was a leveller, bringing ordinary men and women into the same space as those who had created the society which led to war. In practice as the veterans are gradually lost from our memorial events, the old order appears to be reasserting itself even in the moving actions at the Cenotaph and in local events. The extraordinary men are no longer able to walk or being wheeled alongside Queens and Lords. Within months from the first real silence, the men who had fought were granted the right to vote, and whilst it took another generation for the franchise to be extended to all people, those changes can be clearly traced back to the change brought about by the war to end all wars.
As we face change of our own making here in the UK and observe it in the USA, let us hope that the silence today as well as the one on Thursday will act as a catalyst for ordinary men and women, to take hold of the society we are part of and bring about change that ensures that all people in all nations can experience the best possible outcome, despite the terrors and distress of recent days, months and years. The end to hostility in Syria and in other nations is possible, but only if we ensure our elected leaders focus on peace, just as those in the first silence were forced to do.