25 April 2014

Forgive us for we do forget

Lest we forget.

Yet we do.  Time and time again, countries turn their weapons in the direction of other countries. Time and time again, countries turn their weapons on their own people.  War is not becoming less common, just less structured, more covert and more destructive, the enemy less obvious. 

Our family histories are no longer one long clearly demarcated line of loyalty.  Modern day Australians have grandparents born in Australia, England, Japan, Germany, Malta, Italy, Russian, Ukraine, Spain, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and the list goes on.  There is no longer a 'them' and an 'us'.  

Being citizens of the world makes it harder to declare war on any one country - so we go to war on terrorism, drugs, refugees, religion, and so on.  We become oblivious to the language, to the context, to the casualties, the suffering involved in 'war'.   We pride our soldiers on their 'leave no man/woman behind' but yet we are content in life to say 'every man/woman for himself'. 

War is a collective effort.  A mammoth collective effort.  And nobody is unaffected by the outcome.  The ripple effect reaches all elements of society, impacts generations of families - no matter whether you are the conqueror or the conquered.  

William Owen wrote a poem which I first read in high school and which I think of every Anzac Day as we rightly remember and honour the fallen with the more palatable 'In Flander's Field' and 'Ode of Remembrance'

It aptly illustrates that no matter what we read, or how brave the individuals who participate, how stoic the families, how clever the strategies or how history may shape it, war is not glorious. 

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori*

*The old lie "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" translates as "it is sweet and right to die for your country"

It's not.

Lest we forget.