In 1977, as a new arrival to this great country that is Australia, I first heard about “NZ Day” and wondered why Aussies celebrate NZ Day. Why not leave that to the Kiwis? It is meant to be a solemn day, but for a school student, it was a happy day for me. A public holiday meant double time pay for me at the Chinese restaurant. Weekend work there financed my spartan life as an overseas student, the pay was enough to cover rent and basic necessities such as food and toilet paper.
Wind forward forty two years. It is Anzac Day again. But this time, I understand the real significance of today. It is the one day in the year when we commemorate those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. More than a century after the first Diggers were massacred in battles such as Gallipoli, this day is now embedded in the national psyche. For some though, it is mere tokenism to respect the sacrifice so many made “for us”. Once I overheard someone ask, did they really die for us? Those early Diggers could not have imagined who “us” have become. We are no longer just white settlers from their motherland, Great Britain or native aboriginals.
Forty two years on, I find myself still working on this solemn day. But, this time, I have the luxury of time and quietness to reflect and be thankful of the sacrifices so many fallen Diggers made. Did their deaths make a difference? Is the world a safer, better place? Many were just out of their teens, many died without having really lived. Would they agree with the reasons why they died, if they were here for me to ask them? In the US alone, the cost of war is $32 million per hour, since 2001. The true cost is immeasurable. How do we value loss of lives and destruction of property (especially of historical significance), opportunity costs, lost contributions in art, music, inventions, etc etc. Historians write about the causes of wars and they reason why those conflicts were necessary . Urghhlings are those who still incite us to go to war. In wars, there is no art. The ugly truth about wars is that the cost is unjustifiable.
Lest we forget.