Saturday, November 11, 2006

Eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

I was driving the South Island last week, which meant I saw a lot of small towns. Small towns may have lost a lot over the last few decades, but the one thing you can be sure to find is a war memorial:



Exactly who the glorious dead would have been was made clear to me when I reached my destination. I was heading to Dunedin to pick up my sister from university, and when I got there I met all these 18 year old boys, one of them looked acted very much like my brother. I am reasonably certain that none of them will be sent to war. They will not be told lies about the glorious empire to get them to sign up; they will not conscripted into uniform; and it seems unlikely that poverty will drive them to their army. But their grandfathers and great-grandfathers weren't so lucky, and those men would have been just as funny, just as silly, just as obnoxious, just as young.

Theirs war was not the war to end all wars, and never could have been. So I'll mark this armistice day with a song from another war, a song I can rarely listen to without crying:

Dig in boys for an extended stay
Those were the final orders to come down that day
Waiting to be saved in the Philippines
You'll wait forever for the young Marines

Now I believe to be here is right
But I have to say I'm scared tonight
Crouching in this hole with a mouth full of sand
What comes first the country or the man

Look at those slanted eyes coming up over the hill
Catching us by surprise, it's time to kill or be killed

Over here, over there, it's the same everywhere
A boy cries out for his mama before he dies for his home


If only we'd meant it when we'd said "Lest We Forget"

6 comments:

  1. Last year we visited Flanders Fields (Ypres), with the museum and monuments there.

    Should be a compulsory visit for anyone reaching a position of power where they have command over others.

    Anyone who can go through unmoved is not a fitting member of our society.

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  2. If only we had let the boys stay home and surrendered to the Facists...

    In reality, what could they have done that was worse than a world war?

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  3. Er, I think you'll find WW1 didn't involve fascists...

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  4. Was not the question for the most part "why did we not learn from the great war" as opposed to "why did the great war happen". Starting with why the great war was a crime agsinst the young people, the song rubbed that in by saying "look it did happen again and it was terrible (again)"

    we could have surrendered to the WWI germans too of course but maybe they had an excuse to think war was easy.

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  5. Seems we never learn. Throughout history we have had wars but to have one great War end in 1919 and then have another one 20 years later just proves that "Lest We Forget" was quickly forgotten.

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  6. Sorry, I get it now, Genius.

    I think the point is this: all these wars start only because large numbers of people think they have some kind of duty to go off and kill for their country. If we could have un-learned that one in WW1, Hitler would have had a hard time finding anyone willing to invade Poland, and the Japs and Americans would have been pushed to find cannon fodder willing to consider Pacific Imperialism a worthy expenditure of their lives. And more recently, Mr Bush would have found it hard to drum up volunteers for a bit of Middle East adventurism.

    Lest we forget? We're too fucking forgetful if you ask me.

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