Your exceedingly cynical editorial 'They died for this?' (November 13), some of it justified, some utterly preposterous, raises questions about how we might re-evaluate Armistice and Anzac 'commemorations' post-centenary.

Firstly though, is there anything wrong with ordinary 'remembrance' occupying part of two days each year? Is 100 years long enough for such singular 'respect' to endure, justified by "God, King and Country" and "to defend our freedom, our way of life"?

It's impossible to say this about Kiwis sacrificed in conflicts before World War I. In relation to our Land Wars, to make the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom and our way of life begs the question, which New Zealanders and whose way of life are we talking about?

I place myself in the category of people who hold multi-dimensional opinions and contradictory viewpoints simultaneously: a card-carrying pacifist who's fascinated by war.


In The Shock of the New, Robert Hughes wrote of World War I, " ... it was necessary for both sides to maintain, indeed even to inflate, the myth of sacrifice so that the whole affair would not be seen for what it was: a meaningless waste of millions of lives.

Logically, if the flower of youth had been cut down in Flanders [or Gallipoli], the survivors were not the flower: the dead were superior to the traumatised living."

Hughes raises the ghastly spectre of commemoration as some kind of collective, intergenerational 'survivor guilt'.

I understand that many WWI veterans wanted anything but monuments in every city, town and village. They wanted reading rooms, debating societies, health centres, schools and universities; whatever social facilities might prevent this depraved, miserable carnage ever happening again.

We got monuments instead. Why? Watch the 2014 YouTube 'Intelligence Squared' debate 'Britain should not have fought in WW1': The "for" and "against" arguments are spellbinding.

"Britain's decision to go to war with Germany was not taken in defence of 'poor little Belgium'," says Chris Trotter in No Left Turn, "but in the hope that, between them, France and Russia would destroy the British Empire's principal economic rival."

And, "In the very same year that Colonel Malone's men were dying on Chunuk Bair, their Prime Minister was concluding an agreement with the British government whereby it would commandeer every ton of butter and cheese New Zealand could produce ... Thus did New Zealand's political and economic elites elect to repay Britannia's imperial mortgage: in the butter and cheese of its dairy factories, and the blood of its sons."

As for your "quality by which New Zealanders might be judged", you conclude it "is no longer selfless courage" or "any sacrifice for the greater good". Honestly? Altruism has unquestionably "been succeeded by selfishness and greed" thanks to neoliberalism, the Rogered-nomics and Ruthanasia that I have no doubt whatsoever you supported at the time.


"What was once worth defending" has purposely been sacrificed, like soldier's lives, bastardising the idea of 'the common good' in order to embed a universal socio-economic cult of selfishness. Its character traits are not unlike a trench-bound Anzac soldier struggling moment-to-moment for his survival.

I take issue with you blaming the usual suspects for this, especially young people, poor parents and welfare beneficiaries. They're not doing this to us. We did it to them. If there was another war tomorrow and they enlisted, and died, would their Ode of Remembrance be "nor the years condemn"? Just because you and your ilk need to invent 'baddies' so you can imagine yourselves 'goodies' doesn't mean we all have to ascribe to such polarised nonsense.

So, if a society has emerged today that might democratically choose not to engage in another disastrous, politically perverse and meaningless conflict, would it still be "dysfunctional at almost every level"? Perhaps the best way we can honour those who gave their lives is to never do it again. Nor be doomed to repeat history because we didn't learn from its mistakes.