The Worst Friend And Enemy Is But Death

In the Somme valley, the back of language broke. It could no longer carry its former meanings. World War I changed the life of words and images in art, radically and forever. It brought our culture into the age of mass-produced, industrialised death. This, at first, was indescribable.
— Robert Hughes, The Shock Of The New

Late yesterday, I was asked to write a post about Remembrance Day for a fairly popular website (starts with m and ends with 'ia'). I hesitated because the last time I wrote for them, they put up my article... well, let's just say it was after the fact, and leave it at that.

But then I thought 'stuff it', because it was a couple of years ago, and also because otherwise the chances were, they might get my arch nemesis MoriLambie in and then the world would go to hell, as opposed to the really cool, Nirvana-like place we're in right now.

So. I wrote the post. I struggled a bit, because there were a lot of old feelings churned up. But I got it down eventually, and as per SOP (that's Standard Operating Procedure - I'm in military speak, as befits the day) I ran it past The Man Who Vaguely Resembles David Tennant.

I got a fairly 'meh' response, which didn't thrill me. Hey, I don't expect unqualified praise, but this was a real... yeah, 'meh'.

Why, I enquired somewhat frostily, was he less than enamoured by my article? Was it not articulate when it came to armistices and artillery? (I may have been somewhat sarcastic. And alliterative).

'It was absolutely brilliant', he said.

'I just don't like war. And maybe it's because I don't have the same connections to Defence that you do... but I just see Remembrance Day differently'.

This set me back on my heels, because honestly? How could I say that's wrong - it's not.

I see Remembrance Day as a way to respect and honour my friends and loved ones in the Australian Defence Force. For me, it is not a glorification of conflict, or a 'booyah' to killing, or let's go and get 'em, or any of the above - and I doubt it is to most of those who will be standing there for that minute's silence at eleven o'clock, particularly those who are actively serving their country. By the same token, there's no doubt that there are plenty of numbskulls out there who will use this as an excuse to start - or escalate - their own private crusades.

World War One was a dirty, stinking cesspit of mud, blood, sweat, tears and death. It went on for four long years. It led to another six years of hell on earth for untold millions and repercussions which echo today.

And yet we still strive for the best ways to kill each other.

This however is why I disagree with TMWVRDT on his view of November 11.  I get where he is coming from. I don't like war either. But I also know that it ain't gonna stop anytime soon, because humanity is a nasty piece of work and as long as we lurk around, we are going to try to hate each other as much as possible, because we are stupid that way.

So for one minute, I am going to stand still, close my eyes, and stay silent. I am going to say a thank you in my head to all of those people who have gone before me in the fight against the dark side (in whatever form it may take), who stand for me now - and whom I know personally, and love and respect - and are willing to be the thin Kevlar line. They aren't superheroes. They aren't martyrs. They aren't necessarily good people, or morally righteous. But what they are is brave, and courageous, and they are, despite personal misgivings about leadership and legislation, prepared to defend any member of this nation from invasion. They are also prepared to do the same for others who cannot defend themselves.

Is this simplistic? Perhaps. Am I biased? Also perhaps.

But I will remember them. And I know that despite his misgivings, and because he knows a couple of them now too...

So will The Man.

We Will Remember Them.

This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.
— Wilfred Owen, The Poems Of Wilfred Owen