The Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter talks about war being only “a shot away” while peace is “only a kiss away”. We were the original peaceniks of the Vietnam era who believed this; although, during WW1 (?) a generation were also despised conchies. The conservative party in Australia were all the way with LBJ; but then a left-leaning inspired leader, Geoff Whitlam, came to power and offered my age group the opportunity not to fight in Vietnam. Up until that moment I had used my university education to “dodge the draft”.
Finally, things could no longer be put off and I fronted the recruitment office to be examined by its doctors, one of whom was amused by my lack of athletic chest expansion. One wonders what his moral and ethical values consisted of. Given the new political directive, he had to ask whether I wanted to be included in the call up. I replied that I felt “I was not emotionally compatible” with the concept. I suppose the good medico read that as code for my being gay, because he looked embarrassed and marked my file accordingly.
We have all heard the Red Gum song I was only 19, and seen the colossally mythic film Apocalypse Now. But the reality was that these diggers as we call the returned soldiers came home and were completely incapable of living normal lives. Was it the repeated memories of having killed people? Many soldiers committed suicide. Our post war rehabilitation was pathetically inadequate.
More recently we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars based on corrupt information; one of the pertinent anecdotes was that one of the US army generals involved in the planning of those conflicts admitted that allies were involved because there was nothing else happening. In other words, the massive budgets set aside for military spending needs a target, justified or not. In Iraq, my nephew was part of a night patrol; he came back at dawn inexplicably tanned. The US invention of artillery shells filled with depleted uranium material deserves an International Court of Justice’s condemnation.
Now, we see US President Trump and North Korea Kim Jong Un facing off; both are toying with ultimate (nuclear) weapons; it reminds me of the European intellectuals prior to WW1 announcing that western civilisation was sick and in need of complete renewal. People on my Facebook page say: put them both in a boxing ring and let the rest of the planet get on with the more delightfully fragrant activity of living harmoniously. I, for one, do not believe in war; we could all vigorously repudiate its existence. We could start by reducing our national military budget.
More than ever, we should GIVE PEACE A CHANCE.
Someone on my Fb page mentioned a demo by Muslims against ISIS that was completely ignored by the western mainstream media. I can understand the writer being puzzled; in Europe, ok there have been battles based on conflicting religions since the crusades. That event consisted of the christian knights on their way to the holy lands, slaughtering Jewish communities along the Rhine, perhaps to practise their sword skills.
Where I live, in Australia, white people venerate their ancestors, convicts preferably, bushrangers also, although laws were in place that allowed settlers to shoot to kill. They were also able to behave thus against the indigenous people. All that myopic activity spans 200 plus years.
Here, the current ultra right winger, Pauline Hanson, has described the presence of Muslim settlers as a disease, against which we must vaccinate ourselves; despite last week leading an anti-vaccinate crusade, saying that children could be pre-tested to determine if a negative reaction could happen. When she was informed that this was incorrect she quietly withdrew her support of that cause.
Just today, a cyclone is at work along the far northern Queensland coastline; a town mayor interviewed by ABC used the expression “drawn to Mecca” or “collecting at Mecca”, in a cavalier, tourist context. Since my early school days, this has been a metaphor freely in use. Of course, it is well known that the city is sacred to Muslims, who must make a pilgrimage there at least once in their lifetime. It is surely a characteristic of the dominant culture that slights to sub-cultures are hardly recognised, much less the possibility of constructing an equal one, equivalent in offensiveness, as a retort. Consider, on pub night: “we’re going to the pub, it’s a Vatican for riotous good times” hardly makes sense, much less a reference to Westminster Abbey.
We have a long way to go, doing the first thing that will encourage Muslim newcomers to feel welcome if extremism is to be avoided.