a bonobo humanity?

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

lest we forget

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2008-03-18-PeacerallyMarchlongWell today I’m just going to rabbit on for a bit, which I don’t often do, and maybe don’t do enough. It might also be good for me in that I’m trying to improve my touch typing skills, after years of two finger plod.

Today’s Anzac Day, and I’ll later be attending a humanists meet-up with war and peace as the general subject of discussion. For my overseas readers, ho ho, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealander Army Corps, and the day was chosen to commemorate the ill-fated landing at Gallipoli in 1915,to launch an offensive against the Turks in WW1. It was the brainchild of Churchill, and it was a failure, not to put too fine a point on it, resulting in huge loss for no apparent gain.

This day has come to mean, if any easy meaning can be given to it, a day of reflection on the sacrifices made, largely by young men, in the various theatres of war Australians have engaged in. For myself, as a largely pacifist anti-nationalist, who loathes guns with a passion and sees war essentially as a whole lot of suffering endured by the largely innocent at the bidding of a powerful and belligerent few (viz Vietnam, Iraq, and of course WW1), I greet the day with very mixed feelings. It’s a good time, though, to contemplate the horrors of war and to unpick the myths, and, frankly, to be grateful that we live in a generally better-informed, more co-operative and more international age, unless I’m kidding myself (and of course it’s not true for all of our species). I saw a little news feature yesterday in which a group of Aussie secondary students retraced some of the steps of their forebears in the Passchendaele campaign. For them, as they well realised, it was just a little taster, conducted in much pleasanter weather than the real thing, with lighter backpacks and far lighter hearts, yet it clearly had a large emotional impact, which is all to the good – there’s no more valuable lesson we can give to the young than empathy and a visceral understanding of others’ experience. I wondered, though, how much they’d been given to reflect on the point of it all. I still hear schoolchildren solemnly parroting the sad nonsense that ‘they died so that we could be free’. In fact, those young, able-bodied, fresh-faced boys died because they were naive, feisty and adventurous, and had been fed on a diet of patriotic, imperialist pap – the standard diet of the era. Of the Passchendaele campaign, the generally judicious Lloyd George had this to say, in his memoirs written 20 years later: “Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war … No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign …”. As to Gallipoli, the term ‘cannon-fodder’ could’ve been invented for it, and I don’t recall the Turks having any plans to invade Australia at the time.

So we should indeed recall those sacrifices, for they did ultimately serve a purpose – the larger purpose of teaching us to be wary of authority, and of teaching ordinary working people, the sort of people who are called upon to do the dirty work on these occasions, t0 be more aware, to be more educated about what they’re letting themselves in for, and to put pressure on their political leaders to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, or to face increasingly dire consequences for their callousness or incompetence.

And to me it’s simply an outrage that the perpetrators of the Iraq war, or rather the Iraq slaughter – George W Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the rest, have never been brought to justice. So much innocent suffering to satisfy a bullying administration intent on restoring its nation’s rep as the invincible tough-guy on the block. So much blood for such childishness.

Written by stewart henderson

April 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Posted in politics

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