Randwick War Memorial

The sounds of war
Echo across
The oceans of time:
We remember

Our local war memorial in High Cross Park, Randwick. I took this photo earlier today to mark Remembrance Day. The memorial was originally dedicated in 1925 and contains a scroll with the names of over four thousand Randwick residents who served in the First World War. Over time plaques remembering the soldiers of the Second World War, Borneo and Vietnam have also been added. Lest we forget.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2012

Cenotaph at Christmas

Bronze soldiers
Monuments to war
From another time:
We remember

I was in the Sydney CBD yesterday, looking at the Christmas decorations and doing some late shopping. The crowds were awful, particularly in the shops, but the atmosphere was quite festive and pleasant and I actually had a lot of fun walking around, taking photos.

I took this photo in Martin Place, outside the Sydney Cenotaph, where people were leaving Christmas cards and flowers in remembrance. The cenotaph was constructed in 1927 to remember the fallen from World War I; it is used extensively in the ANZAC and Armistice Day dawn services each year, drawing thousands of people.

As of December Australia has approximately 3,000 personnel stationed overseas, 1,500 of which are in Afghanistan. 2011 has been a horror year for Australian casualties; of the 32 deaths Australia has suffered in Afghanistan, 11 have been this year alone.

Please keep all of our soldiers and their families in your thoughts this Christmas.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2011

Lest We Forget

ANZAC Cove and New Zealand Point by Frank Hurley

“When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow,
We Gave Our Today.”
Epitaph at Kohima memorial cemetery

Yesterday was ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, commemorating the Gallipoli landing on April 25, 1915. Of the more than 44,000 Allied deaths at Gallipoli almost 11,000 were ANZACs; over 130,000 soldiers died on both sides.

This year was the 95th anniversary of the campaign and Gallipoli is still seen as a defining moment in Australian, New Zealand and Turkish history. The operation was a strategic and military failure but it was the moment both Australia and New Zealand started to emerge and forge our own identities, separate from Britain, in the wider world, and it also laid the groundwork for the formation of the Turkish Republic eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a commander at Gallipoli who became Turkey’s first president.

There is a dawn service held at ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli each year to commemorate the fallen and ANZAC Day has expanded over the years to remember all  those who have died and served Australia and New Zealand; from World War I and II, to Korea, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq. Usually there are services and veterans’ marches in every capital city.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Gallipoli campaign but I must admit I have slightly mixed feelings about ANZAC Day. As a day of remembrance and reflection it’s something I value greatly, particularly knowing how lucky I am to live in a free country and the sacrifices many Australians have made in her name. What I don’t like about ANZAC Day, however, is the  way we often overlook New Zealand and Turkey in the commemorations, and particularly the nationalistic fervour that sometimes overwhelms it.

In recent years ANZAC Day has become more like a day of national pride in Australia. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except sometimes it’s seen more as a national holiday than a day of remembrance and some Australians think if you don’t wrap yourself in the Australian flag and wear green and gold, you’re being unpatriotic. Personally I try to commemorate ANZAC Day in my own way, looking at old photographs from Gallipoli and reflecting quietly on the losses on both sides and what it means to be Australian, but that attitude has begun to intrude on ANZAC Day more and more. It’s got to the point where the role of New Zealand is often overlooked in Australian commemorations and some Australians almost consider ANZAC Cove to be Australian soil, even though Gallipoli is still Turkish territory. I often wonder if we’re starting to lose what ANZAC Day is really about: remembering the cost of war.

Worse, though, is when people seem to have no respect for the ANZAC legacy at all. A war memorial in Sydney was vandalised on Saturday night, with a flag pole broken and garbage strewn around the Cenotaph. Why? What kind of person would do that? There was also a furore recently over the suggestion that because ANZAC Day fell on a Sunday this year, there shouldn’t be a public holiday in lieu on the Monday as it would be disrespectful (something I agreed with). But there was a public outcry against the idea and so the holiday stood. Likewise Kmart and other retailers recently applied to be able to trade on ANZAC Day morning, which RSLs were outraged by. Both cases show that people are beginning to associate ANZAC Day as more of a holiday than a day of reflection, which is troubling.

 

I’ve come across that kind of thing myself. I caught the bus home from Bondi on Saturday and a couple stood next to me, about my age or perhaps slightly older. Their language was vulgar, so much so that I won’t repeat most of it, and they spent most of the trip talking about an all-day party they were having on Sunday, planning to get so wasted they’d need Monday and Tuesday to recover and to “fuck like bunnies” all night. I have no idea if they even knew Sunday was ANZAC Day or not. Worse, though, they were standing in the way of the door and when an elderly woman stumbled into them as she was getting off, one of them called after her, “Fucking bitch. I should hit you so fucking hard for that. I hope you drop dead.”

They really got under my skin. First, I don’t see why such abysmal language is necessary in public. There was a little girl in front of me who heard all of it – and believe me, most of it she definitely wouldn’t have heard before. But much worse was the way they treated the woman. She was old enough to have been a nurse or war bride in World War II; is this the way we talk to our elders? To abuse them the night before ANZAC Day? Who knows what she has seen or done in her life. And what about the party? Getting that wasted on ANZAC Day of all days? Don’t you have any respect?

Maybe I’m off the mark but I think the ANZAC legacy deserves more respect than that. I know the original ANZACs wanted ANZAC Day to be as much a day of celebration as commemoration but I think the very least you can do is to spare a few minutes to think about how lucky we are for all we have on this one day of the year – and perhaps to abstain from getting so drunk that you won’t be able to remember any of it in the morning.

But perhaps it’s ignorance that is the real problem. After all, how can you really respect something if you don’t know the true story behind it? I wonder how many Australians actually know the true story of Gallipoli? Not the legend that has arisen since but what really happened? Somehow I doubt many do. There’s a famous quote by Alan Bond after winning the America’s Cup; his crew had been behind at one stage and he commented afterwards “it was just like Gallipoli, and we won that one”. That is simply wrong (not to mention insensitive). The Gallipoli campaign was a complete disaster from the beginning, ending when the Allies pulled out in January 1916 – yet it’s a misconception I hear again and again. Likewise many young people believe the first ANZACs gave their lives to protect Australia from invasion. Again that’s not true. The Allies were the invaders; the purpose of the campaign was to capture Istanbul (then Constantinople) and provide sea access to Russia, a campaign in a war we joined because of our ties to Great Britain. Also, Gallipoli is often referred to as the birth of our national consciousness, but the Western Front was just as important. Some Australians don’t even seem to know that New Zealand was part of the ANZAC Corps as well: at least one student at Queensland University was “shocked” recently when a New Zealand professor told them what ANZAC really stood for.

I can’t say any of it surprises me. I’m convinced the majority of Australians (and perhaps it’s true for other countries as well) don’t know their own history well enough. If we did there would be more sympathy for Indigenous Australians in particular and figures like Ned Kelly and Jimmy Governor wouldn’t be so notorious. I guess I can understand why; history is often dull and legends tend to take on lives of their own. But I don’t believe you can know who you are unless you know where you truly come from. That’s why I’ve always been interested in learning about the colonies, and Gallipoli, and why I began to research my family tree as well. I think most Australians would be surprised by how different much of our history really is. I doubt many people even know the extent of our deployments outside of Gallipoli, or just how close we came to being occupied by Japan in World War II.

I guess I’m just afraid that we’re slowly losing what is really important about ANZAC Day: remembering the fallen and our troops around the world, and the true cost and horror of war. Instead some people barely seem aware of it; for others it’s becoming more a day of national pride and while there is room for that as well, it shouldn’t be the focus. Each year ANZAC Day is being commemorated by more young people, at their schools and with their families, so that is a good sign at least. It shows they want to remember, to hear the stories and know what happened. If we can pass on the true history of Gallipoli to them, then the real Anzac spirit should never be forgotten.

In any case, I wanted to do a post to commemorate the 95th anniversary but I thought I’d post this on the 26th instead as I didn’t want my views to seem disrespectful. I thought I’d do something special as well, so I’ve put together another photo post, to show what the world and war was really like at that time.

The photos are from the Australian War Memorial, the State Library of NSW, the National Library of New Zealand and the National Media Museum on Flickr. They are all from World War I and II. Lest we forget.

And to all of our troops around the world, stay safe. We’re thinking of you, always.

Click here to see the photos

I Am

I Am Another You

Image: I Am Another You ~ Jeff Robinson

I am many things
A son, a writer, a boy, a man, a friend
I am all those things and I am nothing
On myself, I depend

I am a memory that will be forgotten
I am a face that will fade away
I long to be remembered
But even night must fade into day

I am a student, always learning
I am a child looking at the sky
I seek neither knowledge or power
Just the means to open my eyes

I am a dreamer of great dreams
I am the voice of all sorrows
I live for the simplest of things
A laugh, your smile; gone tomorrow

I am an atheist, asking questions
I am a soldier seeking peace
I do not fear death, or darkness,
I welcome its release

I am the wind howling in the treetops
I am the voice whispering in your ear
My anger can be quiet and unspoken
Or fill your heart with fear

I am the beggar on the street corner
I am the insect crushed beneath your feet
Pity me, for I am no one,
A lost soul in full retreat

I am a chameleon with many faces
I am a prisoner suffering on my own
I struggle silently behind my mask
But cry when I am alone

I am wise and I am stupid
I am a writer lost for words
My past haunts my footsteps
My story is waiting to be heard

I am honest like a true friend
I am jealous like the gods of old
Hurt me with tears and I am forgiving
But words make my heart grow cold

I am the fire burning brightly
I am the thunder and the rain
Everywhere I leave death and destruction
In my wake life grows again

I am a child born at the wrong time
I am the remnant of another age
I long for an end to violence
But war is history’s stage

I am a walking contradiction
I am everything I should not be
Proud; arrogant; ugly; beautiful
I am me

Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

You can also listen to the poem at AudioBoo


If you’re wondering what inspired this poem, I wanted to write something different than I had written before. I have been feeling unwell recently and I wanted to write an honest examination of life, with all of its ups and downs.

It’s about me, an exploration of who I am as a person, but it’s also about everyone. I wanted it to feel personal but also to mean something different to everyone who reads it.

I hope you enjoyed the poem and that it means something unique to you, as it does to me.
~ CJ

Quotes for Peace

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Palestine

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

This is a follow up to my last post. My look back at 2008 was quite long; I had a lot to say, particularly as the situation with Israel and Hamas was developing. It has now escalated further and I’ve been extremely disturbed by the violence and the scenes coming out of Gaza.

The civilian deaths yesterday were some of the worst I have seen and have been weighing heavily on my mind today. I’ve been reading through several of my collections of quotes about war and peace and I thought I would share some of my favourites. It is my plea for peace to both sides.

Feel free to share a favourite quote or any you think are appropriate. Let’s hope the violence ends soon. It has cost too much already.

* * * * * *

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war?”
~ Eve Merriam

Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict – alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence.
~ Dorothy Thompson

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.
~ Jawaharlal Nehru

As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.
~ Oscar Wilde

Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence, confidence, and justice.
~ Spinoza

Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.
~ John F. Kennedy

You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
~ Albert Einstein

True power is when we have every justification to kill, and don’t.
~ Oscar Schindler

I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace.
~ Helen Keller

We have war when at least one of the parties to a conflict wants something more than it wants peace.
~ Jeane Kirkpatrick

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.
~ Franklin Roosevelt

We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.
~ William E. Gladstone