Despite the danger that closely follows their occurrence, wars have unfortunately become a significant part of world affairs. War has long been labeled as a method for world peace and stability. Some countries, especially those belonging to dominant societies, see it as a means for progress. However, ultimately, it’s merely a method to show off one’s power and authority.

While it’s a work of fiction, Can’t Hobble the Elephant by Francis J. Dutch doesn’t steer far from what happens in real life. The book depicts how the end of a war doesn’t automatically bring peace, especially to individuals directly affected by it. It’s only then that people realize the things they’ve lost and when the pain truly dawns in. After the bloodshed, survivors – either civilians or the military – are haunted by painful memories of the event and may even receive unfair judgment from the people around them. When people talk about war, it’s mainly about the horrors of what happens during it. Not much is discussed what happens and what the people go through after it.

Society After War

From a political perspective, the end of the war wouldn’t signify peace. It doesn’t symbolize the settlement of an issue. Even after the dragged-out conflict, there will still be a continuous sense of dread clouding over the multiple countries involved. The unspoken truth that everyone has agreed with but the authoritative and influential countries can’t seem to comprehend is that wars aren’t the solution. It’s the beginning of more significant problems.

Rebuilding the society post-war is more than just physical and societal labor. This also includes a lot of indulging and processing of emotions. Post-war might as well be considered the actual war and when its struggles begin. During this post-war, survivors are slapped by the harsh reality. What welcomes them after all the chaos is their new life – their new normal. Post-war clarity shows the severity of damages and the loss they need to process in the coming days, months, or even years.

During the war, everything would have felt surreal. The intensity of the situation won’t immediately sink into people’s minds. Once the first explosion happens, things would have looked and felt blurry; minds and emotions could have gotten numb – as if it’s not happening. With the chaos the country would have fallen into throughout wars, everything will stop feeling the slightest bit real. However, once the chaos settles down, the aftermath takes place. People get to see their cities reduced to rubble. They will be experiencing a shortage of resources for the next months or years, not to mention the number of casualties they need to mourn and get over.

Survivor’s Guilt

At the end of the war, people rethink their whole life situation. While many survivors can look forward to a better future, some wallow in despair. Society after the war would have been reduced to something less of society, and it’s the civilians affected by it the most. Throughout the recovery process, civilians suffer from the remnants of the war – a reminder of what their lives had been. While the rest of the world has moved on, survivors may still be reliving the experience and the grief of losing someone, and the guilt of living through the calamity.

Survivor’s guilt is a prevalent condition for a witness or a survivor of an incredibly traumatic experience. Since they typically leave the scene the slightest injured, sometimes even unscathed, survivors develop this condition which manifests in questions such as, “Why not me?” or “What could have I done to change the outcome?” Some may even question the purpose of their second chance in life and why couldn’t they have just joined the casualties. This type of guilt is considered a severe symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And given that wars are one of the most traumatic and significant events that could happen to most people, survivor’s guilt commonly happens, especially to war veterans and survivors. They get so grief-stricken that they wish they shouldn’t have lived.

Since the survivors and the deceased went through the event together, the former wonders if death was their fault. They associate the tragedy with themselves and blame themselves for not taking enough measures to ensure none of the consequences happened. They trouble themselves with the possibilities in hindsight, causing them to stay in the past rather than move on.

Survivor’s guilt is an actual condition, and it affects more people than the general public knows. There’s no surefire treatment for it other than support and change from the individual’s perspective.

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