Each year we remember the troops who died serving our country. In the early hours of the morning people gather together and listen to platitudes and prayers. They quote John 15:13 (Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends) – and talk about how these men made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Perhaps though it’s a little disingenuous to say that these men laid down their lives – they went to war intending to murder, not die. It proved to be a foolish decision, they put themselves and others in great danger. These men acted recklessly. Like drink driving or russian roulette, going to war is a really really bad idea.
Our troops arrived in a foreign land with weapons in hand. They offered their opponents an ultimatum: surrender or be killed. Trying to murder another human or brandishing such barbaric coercion is sickening, and it comes at no surprise that someone was going to get hurt. We were far from innocent victims – we voluntarily brought suffering and death upon ourselves and our enemies. We took up this deadly tango.
Even if you support these war efforts, and perhaps they are the lesser of two evils, the tragedies that we focus on during ANZAC day are still events we should regret. These men didn’t do something great, the landing at Gallipoli only demonstrated their self-destructive ability to follow stupid orders. The result was mindless, senseless, pointless carnage.
I find no pride in this behaviour. It’s not something to respect, it’s something to strongly oppose. The men who landed on the beaches don’t deserve to be honoured. Even if their intentions were nobel their actions were preposterously stupid. I understand the military isn’t a democracy – but what is honourable about a soldier who follows orders unquestionably? They are just as dignified as the droids they oppose. I prefer to honour people who think and avoid killing things.
And most of these “men” were young – 20, or 18 or younger still. It’s much easier to get a bunch of boys with their perceived invulnerability to take senseless risks. This is what I think we should really be reflecting on today. Our elected officials – middle-aged men who should know better – are willing to send our youth off to be slaughtered.
They talk at the war memorials about how we need to remember the past to prevent the same atrocities from repeating. If that’s the case, don’t honour the fools involved, honour the brave conscientious objectors who thought for themselves and refused to participate.
“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” - Gandhi
I think this simple act of civil disobedience is less esoteric than many perceive. But it would be far from easy. First, if conscripted you would need to realise you still have a choice, you don’t have to kill just because someone orders you to. Act like an adult, hold yourself accountable for your actions and refuse to support acts of violence. Segregate yourself from the war efforts, protest respectfully and serve your gaol time.
“You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees. An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her whole soul.” – Gandhi
As regrettably as they talk about the atrocities of war, ANZAC day is distinctly pro-war. If only we had more heros like Gandhi who showed it was possible to overthrow an oppressive regime with non-violence.