Before we mouth empty words of praise on ANZAC Day – please consider that our World War 1 myth of happy go lucky adventurers standing up for what was good and right is a lie. It was conscription and feral abuses of power were given to the State to punish dissenting opinion. That’s the antithesis of democracy. We were slaughtered for King and Country in 1915 and we are slaughtering for 5 Eyes in 2015.
That ANZAC Day has been welded on as a justification for our re-invasion of Iraq and mass surveillance powers is a desecration to the sacrifices those who did die and suffered made.
This current wallowing in militarism is an affront to the dignity of those who were forced to fight for a pointless blood bath. Such cultural propaganda serves the current war mongers, it does nothing for those who paid the price.
Remembrance can never be used as an excuse for forgetting the atrocity of going to war in the first place. The dead deserve nothing less.
The Gunner’s Lament
A Maori gunner lay dying
In a paddyfield north of Saigon,
And he said to his pakeha cobber,
“I reckon I’ve had it, man!
‘And if I could fly like a bird
To my old granny’s whare
A truck and a winch would never drag
Me back to the Army.
‘A coat and a cap and a well-paid job
Looked better than shovelling metal,
And they told me that Te Rauparaha
Would have fought in the Vietnam battle.
‘On my last leave the town swung round
Like a bucket full of eels.
The girls liked the uniform
And I liked the girls.
‘Like a bullock to the abattoirs
In the name of liberty
They flew me with a hangover
Across the Tasman Sea,
‘And what I found in Vietnam
Was mud and blood and fire,
With the Yanks and the Reds taking turns
At murdering the poor.
‘And I saw the reason for it
In a Viet Cong’s blazing eyes –
We fought for the crops of kumara
And they are fighting for the rice.
‘So go tell my sweetheart
To get another boy
Who’ll cuddle her and marry her
And laugh when the bugles blow,
‘And tell my youngest brother
He can have my shotgun
To fire at the ducks on the big lagoon,
But not to aim it at a man,
‘And tell my granny to wear black
And carry a willow leaf,
Because the kid she kept from the cold
Has eaten a dead man’s loaf.
‘And go and tell Keith Holyoake
Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs his hands
He’ll never get them clean.’
James K Baxter