When an Austro-Hungarian archduke was assassinated by a group of Slavic nationalists over 100 years ago, countless brave, naïve young men, lay dead, dying or scarred on foreign soil, all in service of a pointless war.
Every Anzac Day, we are compelled to honour the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand, who serve, have returned (intact or not) or have lost their lives in various conflicts since 1914.
Today, as the world spirals towards an apocalypse, we’ll hold our noses, as our Prime Minister croaks out platitudes to those who have lost loved ones, or had their families transformed by the deep wounds of war.
The truth is, none of the powers that be really care for these men and women. If they did, they would be more mindful of the actions that cause conflict; if anything, they benefit from the perpetuation of conflict and strife.
Once they identify their folk devil of the year, whether it be wayward teens, immigrants, or intellectuals, they can sell us anything on a wave of foaming nationalist frenzy.
In addition to the steak knives, they’ll tell you that climate change is a hoax, that corporations have your best interest at heart, or that the brown people don’t love Australia like the pink ones do.
So beware the lizard-folk, who talk of the "Anzac Spirit', while they rub their hands in glee as another radicalised, traumatised group emerges from the fire. They will walk away, whistling nonchalantly, as we foolishly charge past them, pitchforks in hand.
(They're not actually lizards. They're humans like us. Behind their warmongering and greed is fear, and behind their fear, is a deep desire to be loved.)
“We learn nothing because we remember nothing.”
- Gore Vidal, 'The State of the Union' (2004)
We use the succinct and poignant phrase “Lest we Forget”, as a solemn slogan for Anzac Day, but what is the meaning behind those three little words?
I can tell you that it isn’t, “Lest we Forget that there are evil people out there to get us, so the end justifies the means” (that wouldn’t fit on a lapel pin, for starters). If an addendum were to be added, it would be: “ ... that war is always avoidable, that people shouldn’t die pointlessly, that our words and actions define us, that the end doesn’t justify the means, because when you torture, use excessive force, or kill indiscriminately to advance your own agenda, that is the end.”
Lest we Forget is a cautionary phrase, not a chest-beating slogan for Aussie pride.
I’ll leave you with a poem by Wilfred Owen, called 'Miners'. He wrote this in January 1918, following a pit explosion at the Podmore Hall Colliery in Halmerend that killed 140 men.
[Line 21 onwards]
I thought of all that worked dark pits
Of war, and died
Digging the rock where Death reputes
Peace lies indeed
Comforted years will sit soft-chaired,
In rooms of amber;
The years will stretch their hands, well-cheered
By our life’s ember;
The centuries will burn rich loads
With which we groaned,
Whose warmth shall lull their dreaming lids,
While songs are crooned;
But they will not dream of us poor lads,
Left in the ground.
Lest we Forget. Promise us, your children, and your children's children that you won't ever forget.