He kept his butt-cheeks under wraps but was a might loose with an insensitive tongue. I haven’t read any of the offended write-ups or seen any of the worthy TV interviews with the usual round of for-hire-experts. I’ve caught a few newspaper headlines, caught the odd sound-bite and therefore deem myself as well equipped to offer an opinion as any UK tabloid journalist (with the advantage that I won’t hack your mobile phone – Lord knows I can barely get into my own).
From what I can glean Harry’s been taken to task for talking about how he, along with his army chums, have taken a few Taliban fighters “out of the game” and even compared the action he’d seen to playing video games.
Right-on righteous people the world over are up in arms (ironic) over his gross insensitivity and callous, off-hand dismissal of taking another human being’s life.
And they’re right. Of course they are. I can remember feeling outraged at hearing stories of American helicopter crews listening to loud rock music as they shot at insurgents and again, made comparisons to playing computer games. It was as if they were treating modern warfare as some kind of leisure pursuit which totally devalued human life until the people they were fighting impinged on their consciences no more than a pixellated sprite on a computer screen.
That is plainly wrong. Dreadfully wrong.
But who is at fault here?
Let’s look at it another way. We train our armed forces to do many different tasks – but no matter how you dress these tasks up politically, they are trained to kill. Their goal is always to kill more of the enemy than the enemy kills of them. They are trained to do it without thinking. Without breaking down and needing counselling five minutes into a fire fight or even five weeks. As horrible as it sounds conscience doesn’t come into it. And yes it is desensitizing. I imagine when you’re in a battle zone the last thing you want is to be feeling a bit sensitive. You would not be able to function and as such would be liable to get yourself and your colleagues killed.
We expect our soldiers to go out and kill. To kill with honour, yes. To kill “viable targets” (what a horrid expression), yes. To not kill children or innocents. To not kill for pleasure or needlessly. But ultimately, when the need calls for it, to kill. It’s a big part of soldiering in the modern world, alas.
I daresay the soul searching, the emotional breakdowns and psychological payback comes later. But at the time, when you’re in the theatre of war, you keep all that touchy-feely stuff as far away from you as possible and by using whatever means necessary.
That’s what I imagine Prince Harry is doing.
And then we have the video game thing. Heaven knows I have complained myself about computer games which purport to replicate the “real war experience”. My granddad fought in WWII, I don’t imagine he’d have thought much of his experiences being the basis for a living room based computer game which involves the participant sitting on their backside twiddling a few buttons on a handheld controller and staring at a TV screen.
But these games are out there and proliferating in huge numbers. Our kids, siblings, partners are playing them. They play them for entertainment. They play them for fun. The realism element is a selling point, a way of benchmarking the quality of the game.
This is highly questionable.
This desensitizes us all. Cheapens us all.
As a society we condemn warfare while at the same time making it a significant element of most of our entertainment choices – computer games, movies, literature. It has become enmeshed with fashion, rock music soundtracks and the way we gauge our own status.
Not all of us, I know. But enough that in any high street in any town you can go into a Game store (for example) and immerse yourself in the war of your choice.
Who is at fault here? The individual soldier or the society that equates war with play and then sends that soldier out to play for real?
Just think for a minute of all those people who help design and create those ultra-realistic computer war games... how much blood is on their hands?
Real, not salaciously imagined.
Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.