Lost Lives

Chloe put down her copy of the Guardian and sighed. She was troubled, in fact more than a little conflicted. She had agreed to go to her best friend, Sally’s, grandmother’s funeral tomorrow. The problem was that it was in Birmingham, around midday and there was to be a family gathering afterwards. Sally’s mums had agreed to drive them but it was clear that they would be gone all day and not get back until very late. Sally’s grandmother had been a councillor for many years and there were bound to be many ex-colleagues, long-lost family members, old friends and acquaintances of the old lady.

The really pressing problem now was she had an essay she had to get in the for the day following the funeral. That wouldn’t have been so bad but for the fact that she had gone to that party on Saturday. She hadn’t meant to stay out all night but she had met this really cool guy and one thing had led to another. They had stayed in his flat until midday on Sunday, when they went down to that really cool new coffee shop on the high street for some lunch. She had intended to get straight back home to start on her research but Johnno had persuaded her to go back to the flat and, well…she squirmed with the thought of it. They had then gone for a drive into the country to a gastro pub he knew for dinner. On the way back, Johnno had been showing off how fast he could drive his Porsche (his pops is a banker and he’d got the car for Johnno’s 21st). They’d nearly knocked down an old chap out walking his dog. Silly old sod shouldn’t have been walking in the road.

Well, mummy and pops hadn’t been coming down to visit her this weekend, as they were away in The Seychelles, so no harm done!

Still, she and Johnno had really clicked and she had agreed to join him at a no-platforming protest at the Uni the following week. Some ghastly right wing economist had been invited to give a lecture on the Social Benefits of Austerity! What? No way could they even countenance such poisonous ideology being spread on campus. The very thought of the offence that would be caused to the more socially disadvantaged students filled her with horror. No, it was her duty to do everything in her power to ensure the Uni provided safe spaces for students.

Chloe sighed again. God, why did she have to go to this old lady’s funeral? She was dead and gone and Chloe had never met her more than a handful of times, anyway. The old dear had gone dotty and would never have remembered her. She might have had a chance to hook up with Johnno again tomorrow. She felt a warm flush coursing through her again.

Ah, well. The essay was part of her 2nd year Economic and Social History course. Throughout her teens, she’d had a growing sense of the injustices of capitalism and a burning desire to do all she could to steer the future of society into more progressive and sustainable ways.

She glanced down at the time on her iPhone. If she got stuck in she could get most of the research done and the essay fleshed out overnight. Sally’s Mums was really cool and wouldn’t mind if she got her head down in the back of her Volvo on the way down. Then, she could do the final edit when they got back.

The essay was on the social costs of warfare. Shunning some of the dull, old course books, it was Google Chloe turned to. Soon she was ploughing through page after page of papers on people killed in the conflicts of the 20th century. Opening one page she read –

“According to Matthew White’s estimate on Worldwide Statistics of Casualties, Massacres, Disasters and Atrocities., a total of about 123 million people died in all wars of the 20th Century, including 37 million military deaths, 27 million collateral civilian deaths, 41 million victims of “democide” (genocide and other mass murder) and 18 million victims of non-democidal famine.”

Chloe sat back stunned; 123 million people killed! Reading on, she found other, even higher estimates, one totalling 142 million!

She felt rage welling up in her – just think, she thought, if even some of these people had had safe spaces, they could have been saved!

Author: Tony

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