For the youngest two generations, the shadow of war has fallen into myth. It is a story bored (and increasingly illiterate) history teachers tell children who are distracted Tweeting about how they glued themselves to the freeway last week to save the world from brimstone and fire. The world’s current wars are little more than trending topics that interrupt their social media feed and are quickly scrolled over. They are cocooned from violence in the safe space of Western democracy.
Instead of instilling respect for the political system that raised them in a feathered nest, the kids of today intend to follow the twisted path of collectivism all the way to the hammer and sickle, wrongly believing that the liberties, prosperity, and safety created by their great-grandparents will endure regardless of modern politics. This is largely the fault of an education system that makes no attempt to explain the horror of successive world wars or the ideological civil war fought between collectivist regimes on the European continent. Their battle was never properly decided, lingering as a Cold War before settling into a veil of corruption that infects modern politics – especially within Pacific powers that have embraced communism.
Activism for the sake of it has become ‘cool’ – as has promoting a violent hatred of the past which has been re-written on the sly by the surviving villains of history. Far from honouring the dead on Anzac Day, a worrying amount of leftwing social commentators and influencers make a click-bait-buck out of radicalising children into the arms of predatory separatist cults.
While these children represent an increasing number, the majority still gather in the streets and stand in silence for the Dawn Service. A hundred years ago, they remembered their brothers, husbands, fathers, and sons. The personal connection has almost drifted into obscurity, with most today remembering the act of sacrifice rather than the people who made it. This is inevitable.
Our war memorials are not meant to be gravestones poking out of the towns and cities of the West. They are not there to evoke sorrow and passive regret. We have graveyards to mourn those we lost to the senseless violence that follows the failure of politics. War memorials are supposed to loom large over us as stone edifices – diminish us into hesitation so that we stop and recognise the scale of terror the world survived. They are bookmarks, keeping a page of history open with the lesson our ancestors beg us to remember. The purpose of a memorial is to outlive the grief of those who lost their loved ones.
The lesson is not that war is sad, brutal, or wasteful (we know this instinctively) – it is how easily peace crumbles at the whim of dictators. In particular, our memorials intend to ward us off any future flirtation with collectivism and all the bloodshed that stems from political regimes that demand sacrifice in the name of the soulless ‘greater good’.
When we say, ‘Lest we forget…’ we mean, lest we forget what happens when our politicians fail in their duty to protect the country leaving ordinary people to take up arms to save a nation and all its children from the monster of expansionism.
The celebration in the afternoon of Anzac Day is designed to honour the way of life that all those young people purchased when they fell on the beach. It harks back to our ancient European roots where heathens honoured the dead by rejoicing in life instead of wallowing in sorrow. This approach to Anzac Day has been successful. Few days of mourning are embraced as successfully by the young as Anzac Day – the celebrations that rage all afternoon at least make them aware of the solemn morning spent in silence.
It was almost enough. A century later and we remember the war. We remember the sacrifice. We diligently bow our heads in silence for our countrymen. What we have forgotten is why it happened and how to avoid it in the future.
The children our ancestors desperately wanted to save are the ones tossing ropes over memorial statues and dragging them off their plinths. They are the ignorant and foolish spawn of prosperity taking spray cans to the Cenotaph, imagining themselves fighting a war against capitalism instead of realising that they are supporting the same bloodthirsty, inhumane ideologies that starved and slaughtered more human beings than at any other point in history.
Perhaps this is our fault. We tried to teach our children reverence for war while sparing them the detail. Both world wars had their apocalyptic scenes. Those frightened of Climate Change should have been sat down and made to read about the fields in Mao’s China where people were buried alive with their hands reaching out of the dirt. The mothers that fed their youngest children to their siblings. Stalin’s cannibal island where prisoners were left in a frozen world to descend into a living vision of Dante’s hell. The trenches of the first world war where the filth, mud, rats, and constant scream of bullets left grown men trembling for decades after – all to progress an inch a week through a ruined landscape. It was the slowest and most brutal re-working of map lines ever undertaken.
When we remember Anzac Day specifically, we are not solely honouring the young men of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps that landed on the beach at Gallipoli and were ordered to race toward gunfire by inexperienced generals and a misinformed command. April 25, 1915, was the worst loss of life in a single day for our two countries, who were fighting on the other side of the world. The shock of it remains. Despite this, we do not focus on their failed attempt to capture Constantinople – a city that has sat at the heart of conflict and disaster for most of history with its treasures sacked and walls pockmarked by violence. Its construction in 330AD by the Roman emperor, Constantine the Great, was itself an act of desecration, rising from the bones of Byzantium. Anzac Day is not a tribute to military failure, but to hope.
History is full of echoes. 2022 already has some of the key pieces that led to the disaster of last century. Not only have we suffered a global pandemic that weakened the economics of the world’s peacekeepers, several powerful nations have risen to prominence with personality cults and men on the throne who see the annexation and conquest of neighbouring nations as adding to the glory of their reign. Surrounding them are corrupt dictatorships, happy to fight if it means riches for themselves. Half a dozen armies sit in want of something to do after heavily militarised dictatorships secured their regimes with decades spent displaying military might. If the first world war taught us anything, it is that leaders spoiling for a fight cannot be appeased with politics. They will find a way to war – the question is how soon and at what cost… We have those men with us today.
In 1901, Winston Churchill gave a prescient speech in which he said, ‘The wars of people will be more terrible than those of kings.’ He is right. Our wars are increasingly propped up by social movements encouraged by the regimes of mad men.
The desire to prevent the world repeating its mistakes were voiced in Churchill’s Speech to America’s Fourth of July celebrations in 1918. ‘Germany must be beaten. Germany must know that she is beaten, must feel that she is beaten. Her defeat must be expressed in terms and facts which will for all time deter others from imitating her crimes, and which will make it impossible for her to renew them.’ And then the second world war broke out.
The bitter truth is, Churchill made a strategic mistake at Gallipoli. That is the nature of war. A thousand decisions that could change the future of the nation are made every day and when things go wrong, innocent people die. It was a mistake that haunted him to the grave, but one that he studied ruthlessly and credited later on for saving the second world war. Our war memorials ask us to do the same – remember and learn.
We do not. Perhaps humanity’s predisposition toward conflict will forever override our dream of peace – in which case, our war memorials buy us time, save a few generations, and that is all.
The Anzac troops who survived the first world war were greeted by the Spanish Flu in 1919. There were no joyous street parades or crowds gathered to thank them, instead some of them attended a service at the Domain – wearing masks while forced to stand three feet apart. 2022 will be the first time in several years where Anzac Day can once again be embraced by the masses now that the Prime Minister has declared the Covid pandemic over.
While standing in the street, surrounded by skyscrapers, look at the forest of steel and concrete and remember that your cities are not safe, your freedoms are not absolute, and one day you may be called upon to protect your nation – this includes the kids that have been taught to resent Australia by the insidious push of Marxist lecturers. Those living before the first world war thought their empire of commerce, intellectual superiority, and internationalism would protect them from barbarity. Look to Ukraine. Regardless of how you feel about the politics, their civilisation was reduced to ash within a month.
That is our future if we fail to remember. Lest we forget.
Alexandra Marshall is a young ambassador for the English Speaking Union and Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.
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