THE striking thing about the weekend celebration in London and Paris of the centenary of the armistice that ended World War I – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – was a sense of immediacy.
Nobody alive today remembers that conflict. Yet the ceremonies were packed, with young people as well as veterans of wars since. Relatives came forward of soldiers who died generations back, some wearing their medals.
In Paris, a spread of world leaders were invited by President Emmanuel Macron to a peace indaba. He proclaimed narrow nationalism to be "treason". It's as if the centenary jerks humanity into a new focus on the tragedy and futility of war.
It's worth recalling how the war began. It wasn't a calculated move by one side to overwhelm the other. It began almost by accident with a fanatic in the Balkan city of Sarajevo assassinating the Archduke of Austria and his duchess – "the shot that rang about the world".
One thing led to another. A series of treaties and pacts were activivated, mobilisations occurred, setting up a domino effect until the horror of mechanised warfare was unleashed on the world for the first time. Europe had been a disorganised patchwork of rivalries.
World War II was a continuation of that, a failure of diplomacy and international organisation. Could it happen again? Surely not. We have the UN with oversight. The EU unites Europe. Nato keeps the peace.
Yet the Brits are hiving off from the EU. Nationalism simmers again in various parts of the organisation. President Trump appears ambivalent about Nato.
Maybe that's why there was such a turnout in London and Paris. The Last Post concentrates the mind.
AS EX-SERVICEMEN and women marched past the London Cenotaph, the bands played jaunty tunes from World War I: Pack Up Your Troubles, It's A Long Way to Tipperary, Mademoiselle from Amontieres and Oh, What A Lovely War.
Er, was the last a little insensitive? I guess not. It was made up and sung by the blokes in the trenches themselves.
INVESTMENT analyst Dr James Greener takes issue in his latest grumpy newsletter with Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane over the lack of PhD degrees contributing to the country's lack of innovation.
"Registering for a doctoral degree is normally an indication that the candidate is very comfortable in academia and has scored funding for another three years indulging his interests. He will definitely not be taught innovation.
"Necessity is the mother of invention and sending people out to find or make a career as soon after school as possible will be a far greater spur to innovation than being nestled in the bosom of some leafy campus."
A 69-YEAR-OLD pensioner in the Netherlands, who says he has the body of a 45-year-old, is taking action to legally change his age to improve his job prospects and his luck with women.
Emile Ratelband argues that if people are legally allowed to change their sex, he should be allowed to change his age, according to Sky News.
It's a beautifully logical argument. Happy hunting, Emile!
THIS fellow takes his dog to the cinema. Whenever the villain appears on the screen, he growls. When the hero appears, he wags his tail.
A little old lady approaches. "I've been watching your dog. I'm amazed at the way he appreciates the film."
"Me too. He hated the book."
Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.