Monday, 20 April 2015

Lest we forget - and yet we do

I don't know if it is only me but we have been bombarded (probably not a good word to use!) with scenes of The Great War, TV and movies of The Great War, in fact everything to do with The Great War (including some tasteless advertisements) in order to 'cash in' on the 100th Anniversary of the Anzacs. And we haven't even arrived at Anzac Day on the 25th of this month! 
What is reality?

To be honest - I am 'over it'. And yet here I am writing about it. So I am also 'getting in on The Great War act'. Sorry. What a pity. The last few years there has been enormous interest that has seen us remember those young men who fought and died for freedom, with so many not coming home and decimating our young population in this still young country. Many died at the hands of those who ruled the Empire - who used our soldiers as fodder for the enemy. I find it all sickening. Yes, I think it is important that we remember them but not in the way they are now presented. It's a bit like a Hollywood movie.
The Avenue of Remembrance tapestry - an extraordinary work in progress

Last week I popped in to see the most recent commemorative tapestry to be created at the marvellous Tapestry Workshop (see the link here). The 3.3m by 2.8m tapestry took over 2380 hours to complete. It was to have been 'available' to see on the day I visited but the weavers were still busy completing it and there was little to show (most of it was rolled up as they reached the end). So I went on line to try and see it in its finished glory (another war word!) Unfortunately I just couldn't find the finished work anywhere on line. It was designed by the artist Imants Tillers and the Avenue of Rememberence is a wonderful piece which will find a home at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra (see the link here). 
Imants Tillers, Avenue of Remembrance, 2014, oil on board, 3.27 x 2.83m, photo courtesy of the artist
I was interested to read that Tillers' was inspired by The Gallipoli letter (read it here), an 8000 word document written by war correspondent and later media baron, Keith Murdoch (father of Rupert) to Prime Minister Andrew Fisher in 1915 during the early part of World War 1. It is considered to be one of the National Library’s most important objects and the content of the letter is regarded as having helped bring an end to the Gallipoli campaign. In this letter Murdoch laments, “how young Australians, knowing that they would probably die were flocking to fight on Gallipoli’s “sacred soil’”.

As the Tapestry Workshop statement reads "Tillers' poetic landscape painting is reminiscent of the wartime roads on the Western Front and the many ‘avenues of remembrance’ planted in memorial to the First World War around Australia.  Layered over the top are words from the Gallipoli letter and a selection of names of the many places where Australians fought and were buried during the war.
My ‘Avenue of Remembrance’ is, I hope, a way or means to remember not only those young men who died but also the profound loss and grief experienced by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers and sisters. By their friends, by their communities. By our nation.’

The "Ode of Remembrance" was written by Laurence Binyon (I never knew that) and was taken from his poem, "For the Fallen" and first published in September 1914.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

It seems that nothing has changed and we haven't learnt a thing. All the time we are glorifying our own soldiers we are puzzled by the pull of young men to join up with our current ISIS enemy. As the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Falidi reminds us:

When the enemy has no face, society will invent one.

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