"The universal pervasion of ugliness, hideous landscapes, vile noises, foul language...everything. Unnatural, broken, blasted; the distortion of the dead, whose unburiable bodies sit outside the dug outs all day, all night, the most execrable sights on earth. In poetry we call them the most glorious." - Wilfred Owen
"Or suppose I had been hit by that mortar that burst with an awful shriek so near to me, and turned into a Catherine wheel of body-parts and (even worse) body-ingredients? Once again, I was moved above all not by the thought that my death would 'count,' but that it would not count in the least." - Christopher Hitchens
I stand by the New Zealand news media for the most part.
Ranked at number 13 on the Press Freedom Index, most issues are covered with that famed indifference so expected of media worldwide, championed by behemoths like CNN and the BBC.
The need for some reports to come down on either side of the ethical coin has been crucial, at times, in ratifying public opinion on certain issues in New Zealand: the laughable 'white supremacy' movement, child abuse, scandals attached to government or parliament in any way, and so on.
But the rush to condemn Jock Anderson has seen far too many New Zealand journalists tripping over each others' stilettos, collapsing in to a large pile upon which the Australian media have furiously planted a flag that reads INDIGNATION in bright, sparkling letters.
The supposed controversy around Anderson's labeling of Australian World War I soldiers as "lazy bludgers, some of them, and excellent black-marketeers, scavengers, poachers and thieves" sees two institutions line up in ranks like the cavalries of old, taking turns to rush head first in to the suicidal and integrity-bursting melee.
Traditionalists, nationalists, and the sensationalist gutter press have their beady eyes firmly locked on to the jugular of freedom of speech, journalism, and historical academia.
Every year we are expected to hold hands in the stifling cold and silence and 'remember', regardless of the notion that we cannot possibly do such a thing, those soldiers who were killed, maimed, or utterly emotionally traumatized on the battlefield. The media trumpet this too, an all-hands-on-deck hollering of principles and awkward silences to the melody of 'The Last Post' where solid and decent reporting once was.
So where is our critique?
What is it for one public figure, commenting on a historical text, to insist that perhaps a soldier is like every other man?
Heaven forbid he remove that pedestal and podium on which we place all military figures as though they were all supernatural beings, God-like and only capable of defending freedom and liberty with unwavering solidarity and a heart of cold iron.
We erect monuments of cold stone and cut marble upon which we lay symbols of blood and murder, and insist these poor old veterans with replacement hips march in slow procession, gleaming medals proudly pinned to their chests, steely defiance still imprinted on their eyelids - to what end?
War is necessary only sometimes, for whatever end, and we must fall once more in to a pit of hell from which escape is a constant struggle, but the celebration of all wars and all soldiers is a facile and grave mistake.
Young men fell dead at the guns and shells of their enemy not because they were brave, but because they feared the gun and shell of their commander, the penalty for desertion a constant surveillance at their backs.
Despite Hemingway, it is better to steal the fake banner of 'courage' in death than that of 'cowardice'.
We glorify bygone wars and the souls disaffected by them, and yet do so little to despise the gutless killings on foreign fields, a life extinguished within each silent second that is wasted at our beloved dawn parades.
Say a prayer and bow your head in silence for those dying of wounds caused by a Syrian government rocket less than one minute ago.
Pin a symbol to your lapel for the families of those whose bloated carcasses appeared in photos alongside the smiling and jeering members of the 82nd Airborne Division.March in silent formation for Palestinian children who cannot attend school under threat of death from Israeli Defence Force snipers in residential neighborhoods.
Lay a wreath down for those millions of souls left floating needlessly in the wind, forever attached to names like Srebrenica, Darfur, Hutu and Tutsi, Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek, Dresden, My Lai, Operation Menu, Anatolia, Halbja, al-Askari, Auschwitz and Dachau.
We must stop holding the country to a standstill, our usually-reliable news media pulling out ever feeble excuse for proselytisation.
The celebration of long-dead soldiers as fearless defenders is a frivolous embarkation and a defiant insult to innocent lives lost.Pity them, as they did not choose their fate.By James A. Robins
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