Remembering what this day is about

Yesterday was the 11th of November, Remembrance Day, where much of the world spends a solemn, silent minute recalling what a bloody useless waste of life The Great War was and tries to promise never to do that again. Hopefully one day it’ll hold. Lest we forget.

If you’ll allow it I’d like to quickly rant about all the people who seem to assume that generalised portions of the population (particularly my fellow Generation Y’ers) need to be reminded. I notice these people popping up in various media outlets (particularly radio and the more tabloid-y newspapers) every Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day (I’m sure it happens with other country’s nationally specific memorial holidays as well). Baby boomers and older Gen X’ers (I can generalise as well) who lament how little today’s youth know about our brave boys (sometimes they remember the girls too) who have worn and died for our great nation’s flag. They pipe up and mourn the lack of education kids receive these days on Gallipoli, perhaps make some pithy and faux-wise statement about the lessons of mateship and determination that can be drawn from the mythology. Words like ‘the ANZAC spirit’ get thrown about, making it sound more like a holiday special than the bloody failure of a campaign costing thousands of Aussie and Kiwi (and even more British) lives that it was (but hey, at least it gave us Mel Gibson).

I normally manage to ignore most of this, but every so often I see, hear or read something small that gets on my nerves. A year or two ago it was someone complaining on the radio about how the people who decide the national curriculum wanted to reduce the time spent studying Gallipoli in history (because they felt not enough time was being spent on the rest of the Great War we participated in, the ivory tower-living bastards!). This year, on Monday, it was someone else on the radio.

“I want to request a song,” the voice of a middle-aged woman chirped from the speakers at work, “and remind everyone that tomorrow is Remembrance Day. It’s particularly special to me, because I had relatives that served in the wars.”

Really? I felt like shouting at the radio, You think that people need to be reminded that tomorrow is Remembrance Day? Like a teacher reminding her pupils that tomorrow’s art day so they better bring their coloured pencils. People might not care about Remembrance day, I’m not so optimistic about my generation that I believe everybody does, but they certainly know what goddamn day it is. It’s one of those pervasive cultural nails hammered into us from an early age, like Christmas is on the 25th of December.

Then there’s the justification for the arrogance, that she had relatives that served. Y’know, just like everybody else. Seriously, these were called World Wars for a reason. The first one may have primarily involved Anglo-Europeans, but I had a great grandfather from the Middle Eastern half of my family that fought in British khaki during and in between both World Wars. Given the number of conflicts that have occurred since (Australia participated in the Korean, Vietnam and both Gulf Wars as well as many peacekeeping operations and the Malayan Emergency) and the number of immigrants from former and ongoing warzones, chances are everyone’s had family that have a worn one uniform or another. I suppose no one else cares?

I know this seems to be a pretty trivial thing to be pissed off at, and not in keeping with what the day is supposed to be about, but I get pissed off anyway. It just strikes me a whole lot of ‘look at me and how much I care!’ self-centred attention-seeking that trivialises what we’re supposed to be honouring. It assumes by default that no one else cares and that’s just not true, especially considering that with an ongoing deployment in Afghanistan and a re-deployment in Iraq to ‘assist’ the local army and militias in their fight against Islamic State, we have very recent war dead, very recent widows, very recent grieving families, and the very distinct possibility of more.

We don’t need to be reminded what day it is and what it’s about, because I doubt very much we’ll forget.

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