The women who tried to stop the slaughter; the vibrant young nation crushed; that a nation’s soul cannot be sponsored by arms manufacturers; the Australian war.
Lest we also forget the 1200 brave women from twelve nations, including combatant nations, who gathered at The Hague in April 1915 to consider how to stop the slaughter already well under way, though still to get much worse. Post-war they formed the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Their resolutions fed into the League of Nations and thence into the United Nations. Would that we had heeded the wisdom they distilled, in the face of derision, hostility and dismissal.
Lest we forget that WILPF, US President Woodrow Wilson, John Maynard Keynes and many others vehemently opposed the crushing settlement imposed on Germany by vengeful allies, Australian Prime Minister Billie Hughes noisy among them. That settlement sowed the seeds of another war, as widely predicted.
Lest we forget that the spirit of our soldiers was not magically formed on the beaches of Gallipoli, it was nurtured by the vigorous, optimistic and progressive young nation in which they had grown up.
Lest we forget that the spirit of that young nation was crushed by some of the heaviest casualty rates of any nation, though the war was distant from our shores and fought much more for sordid reasons of empire and race than for peace and freedom.
Lest we forget that the deep wounds of the survivors, physical and emotional, darkened the lives of their children and are with us still.
Lest we forget that the soul of a nation does not reside in a building, it resides in our hearts and our hopes. Buildings or institutions may symbolise or embody aspects of our nation: libraries, galleries, concert halls, the ABC, parliaments and local halls no less than memorials to sacrifice. We need to tend them all.
Lest we forget that a nation’s soul cannot be defined by bloodletting, let alone be sponsored by corporate arms manufacturers.
Lest we forget that war will not end war. We cannot fight for peace. Peace will come when we have the courage to transcend our fears and reach out to understand those who oppose us, and to find a way forward that will serve everyone’s interest.
Lest we forget the war (and it was called a war at the time) that was fought on Australian soil, with even higher casualties, by credible estimates.
Lest we forget that the descendants of the defeated survivors of that earlier war have reached out to us and invited us to walk together to a better future. Were we, the non-indigenous of this land, to take up that invitation we might learn to grow beyond the timorous national adolescence we have been stuck in for a century.
Dr. Geoff Davies is an author, commentator and scientist. He is a retired geophysicist at the Australian National University and author of The Little Green Economics Book and Desperately Seeking the Fair Go.. He blogs at BetterNature Books http://betternaturebooks.net.au.
WILPF, Gallipoli, armistice, Australian War Memorial, frontier wars, Uluru Statement, Billie Hughes