Monday, April 27, 2015

What are we fighting for? Flanders Fields reflection

This morning I received an email from my Belgian friend Monika, a woman who has a long history of opposing wars. She has given permission for me to quote her. She wrote:

"Yesterday, I went to visit the Memorial places in Flanders Fields from the first World War ...  It was a very special experience, very moving, one no words can explain. ... we went to visit the gigantic, very impressive Commonwealth cemetery, Tyne Cot, with thousands of soldiers from the first world war.  I went looking for graves of Australian and New Zealand soldiers, and like to send some to you. It was very moving, touching, overwhelming, looking at their names if they had one, and their age. Some of them had written on them ‘Known unto God’, no name, no identity, nothing, for a war which has served whom and for what? I was thinking of you and would have loved you to stand with me at the memorial ceremony that evening in Ypres, with the Last Post.

Flanders Fields. Photo: M. Triest
There were so many Australians and New Zealanders who had come all the way, to present a wreath to show their respect. There were national anthems, songs, there were flowers, and I just stood there, speechless. It’s now exactly 100 years ago, and in Belgium there are an enormous amount of events, films, conferences, books, articles, TV shows on this topic. That’s a good thing, otherwise young people wouldn’t be able to find out what happened and learn some lessons from it....

 As you can tell, it was an emotional day for me. I would like to tell the world Pete Seeger’s words:
What if there were a war and nobody came?’"

I wish I could  reply that I am glad we have learned from that debacle, but unfortunately I cannot. The Anzac celebrations divided Australians this year. Not so long ago we could debate the Anzac Gallipoli landing, its merits and its relative position in our history but in 2015 we seem to have lost our sense of perspective. Yesterday Scott Mcintyre, a young and gifted sports reporter with the Australian multicultural SBS TV channel, posted some anti-war tweets online under his own name. The Federal Government Communications Minister complained about them (dobbed him in to his boss personally, then boasted about it online) and the young man was sacked.

So I am wondering what our soldiers are fighting for now? Not freedom of expression, as we have  lost that, nor the right to talk to each other privately without the government spying on us, as we have lost that as well. Journalists and especially whistle-blowers as well as anyone who talks to them lost protection under the law recently so presumably we are quite happy to put up with rorting, intimidation and wrong-doing in our workplaces. Two women in Australia are being murdered each week by their partners (current total this year is 33) while at the same time resources for women's refuges have been withdrawn (the new policy is called Going home, Staying home) so we are not fighting for safe and fruitful family lives either.

Perhaps now that it has become clear we are not fighting for a way of life after all, men will simply refuse to fight. It was reported today that Australian WWI soldiers frequently went AWOL which infuriated the British who demanded that Australia introduce the death penalty for such cases. The Australian Government resisted but I doubt our current government would be so reluctant. However I wonder if co-oped conscripts would shoot at their supposed enemies or whether they might turn their guns on those who send them to give their lives to protect the resources of the 1%?

First Dog on the Moon comments on anti-Anzac ...

Addendum: Online petition for Scott McIntyre to be reinstated

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