I’ve enjoyed today, as much as one can enjoy a sombre commemorative occasion.
As with every ANZAC Day, I watched the services from Gallipoli and Villers-Bretonneux, the latter I find particularly poignant due to the scene, the massive memorial and the seemingly endless rows of names of the dead.
I remember ANZAC because I am of the first generation of Australians who have never experienced war, although my Father fought in New Guinea. I came of age for conscription just after Whitlam took took Government in 1973, and thankfully, I was spared any sojourn in Vietnam. I seriously doubt I would have gone willingly, given that I understood what that conflict was all about, and didn’t at the time agree with following America simply because politicians regarded her as our “great and powerful friend”. Would I fight for what I hold dear? Yes, of course I would, but I have never agreed with politicians sending our young people overseas on expeditionary adventures at the behest of any other nation.
Today has also given me cause to ponder on the current youngest generation’s understanding of just what today means to people like me. Yesterday, I received a SMS from the driving school call centre wanting to know if I was having today off. Really, REALLY stupid question, so I have doubts of the understanding of ANZAC on behalf of the young lady in question. She wanted to know if I was working today, because a young lady that I’ve taken out previously, rang in “desperately wanting a lesson” today. This is the same young lady who sent left me a voice mail message on Friday 7 April, telling me she “couldn’t make it” the following day at 3:00pm. Last week, she SMS’d me on the Thursday before the Easter weekend, wanting to know if I was free on the Saturday. Well, no, I’d planned a long time ago for the four days off. This sort of attitude seems to be commonplace for today’s sixteen year olds. Convenience for them, zippo for anyone else.
All of which causes me concern. Does that generation – the millennials – genuinely understand what ANZAC means. Do they have any inkling of the importance of the day in the Australian cultural psyche? Do they understand the historical significance of remembering the sacrifices of those who – willingly or unwillingly – gave their lives in a foreign land (and at home here) so that we who live on in their memory can enjoy lives they strove to protect.
My Dad hated his time in New Guinea, but he went because it was ‘expected’ of young men to enlist. I distinctly recall him telling me of the white feathers some of his friends received anonymously in the mail, such was the state of the Australian society in 1940. If you were of age, and you didn’t go, society regarded you as a coward. So much for the ‘fair go’. Do the kids today understand anything of those times? Do they understand what “Lest We Forget” really means? I don’t think so.