Turning Remembrance Day into a New Myth to Justify War

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by Neil Godfrey

last_postI recall as a little boy at school grown men leading solemn ceremonies pleading with us in prayerful tones never to forget the sufferings and horrors of war — Never again. Futility was a word I learned the meaning of. It was a moment for tears. The message was clear. Hate war. The idea of following the “example” of those who suffered (both those dead and living) was the very antithesis of what the day was all about.

Today Remembrance Day falls at a time our government is eager to send more soldiers to war, to be part of the fight, to show our loyalty to the cause. Volunteers in the services are sent with good pay.

How the message has changed today.

The Great War which we remember today . . . was also the crucible in which our nation was formed.

Of a population of under 5 million; more than 400,000 volunteered, more than 300,000 served overseas, more than 150,000 were wounded and more than 60,000 never came home.

It was sacrifice on a stupendous scale. . . . 

As well as suffering, there is another legacy; a legacy of comradeship under fire, of service and sacrifice, of duty in a good cause.

Of the original ANZACs the official war historian Charles Bean said, “their example rises, as it will always rise, above the mists of ages; a memorial to great hearted-men and for their nation, a possession forever.”

And so today we remember all of them, we remember all who have worn our country’s uniform – we remember them – and dedicate ourselves to be worthy of their example.

Lest we forget.

Now the suffering is presented as not an obscene horror never to be repeated but a noble nation-making, character-building experience.

It was not a horrific waste; it was all for a good cause. It was a duty.

The voices of those who led services when I was a little boy are lost. They are replaced by the words of the leading propagandist historian of the day, the one whose accounts were carefully censored so as to encourage more volunteers to go and kill and die, Charles Bean.

War is not something to be avoided. We must be worthy of the example of past soldiers.

Wars are now the positive molders of our character, our national identity, our heroism. Somehow the lessons of “never again” and the “waste” and “futility” have been lost.

Those lessons have been replaced by their very opposites. I would have expected mass protests at every suggestion from our politicians that we should return to another war.

Or am I imagining a past that never existed?

Portrait of Charles Bean, official World War I...
Portrait of Charles Bean, official World War I historian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Neil Godfrey

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2 thoughts on “Turning Remembrance Day into a New Myth to Justify War”

  1. You may find this article interesting – written before the war mongering gathered full steam.http://andrewelder.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/a-modest-proposal-for-newscorp.html

    Here are a few extracts
    “What obliges the Murdoch press to run those pictures is the fact that its business goes up slightly when its major markets (the US, UK, and Australia) are at war.
    The sales of newspapers have been in long term decline for many years. That decline is lessened slightly when there’s a war, or the prospect of one. People tune in to small-n news outlets to find out what’s going on, and to hear the ploughshares beaten back into swords.

    The Murdoch press wants war again.”

    The whole thing is worth a read.

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