ANZAC day message

We have plenty to think about.

My traditional ANZAC day message honours the courage of our troops. It speaks of their heroism. I usually conclude with a message about the futility of war and the importance of respecting the memory of those who died by pursuing peace in the future.

But this year I am despondent, if not despairing about the state of the world. We live in pre-dystopian times.

I have many concerns but let us reflect on two: Trump and Europe.

I remember reading Plato’s Republic as a teenager. I was probably too young to understand its meaning and nuances. Plato did not favour democracies. He wrote about them failing and being replaced by tyrants.

One line he used has stayed with me to this day. He described your typical tyrant as a man “not having control of himself (who) attempts to rule others”

Who does that remind you of?

We should be concerned that Trump openly espouses violence and violation. His attitude to minorities is well documented. He hates them. He speaks of torture, exclusion, deportation and vilification.

His attitude towards women is shameful. Notwithstanding his comments he succeeded in a popular vote.

His supporters are worse.

In the US primaries, last year, his supporters “hijacked” a number of the state conventions. For example, in Cleveland, one Trump supporter threatened to disclose the hotel room numbers of all delegates who threatened to vote against Trump. This generated significant fear and unease.

Trump was nominated the Republican candidate at that convention.

Trump is now President but there is nothing “presidential” about his term in office.

Troubles are brewing in Europe. I do not want to overstate the significance of Brexit but the departure of a powerhouse from the Union will have a destabilising effect. (My personal view is that an important and permanent decision such as Brexit, should not have been decided by a simple majority. Cameron made a mistake. A 75% majority is required for long term changes).

We have a number of European countries which are bankrupt and potentially unstable. A number are lurching towards extremist nationalist leadership (it does not matter if they are left or right wing, a tyrant is a tyrant). Some, like Turkey have already fallen to the heel of a strong man.

Trump has threatened to withdraw support for NATO, creating more uncertainty on the continent.

And of course, next door we have Putin waiting patiently for an opportunity to pounce. He has already shown a preparedness to annex parts of other sovereign states. He will not stop at a few trinkets when a treasure chest may fall into his lap.

Europe has been home to most of the large wars in the past millennium. A united Europe has maintained peace for nearly 80 years. This is unprecedented.

But this good work is slowly unravelling.

I have sons of “fighting” age. I fear for them.

I have written in the past of how we write history by looking backwards and “joining the dots.” Most of the time, those people living in the moment cannot see what is about to occur.

Then a “spark” ignites a fire, things change very rapidly, too quickly for anyone to stop. So we react and counter-react, as the world descends into violence and destruction.

It is a pattern that has been repeated many times over.

At present the “ghosts of wars past” are circling in a menacing fashion and we need to be vigilant.

In 1914, a little known Archduke was assassinated in Bosnia and Europe was then engulfed in a firestorm that burned for four years….. Early in the fighting many young men from the newest countries Australia and New Zealand were pitted against the then ancient Ottoman Empire. 8,700 Australians died in this battle.

There was less than ten months between the assassination and the landing of the ANZAC troops on the beaches at Gallipoli.

My wife recently commented on the growing respect shown by young people towards returned soldiers and ANZAC day….. more so than was shown by our generation. Maybe we should be tapping into this respect.

We have a lot to think about this ANZAC day.

Lest we forget.

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