I recently visited the Auckland War Memorial Museum which sits atop the Auckland Domain (one of the many volcanic craters in the city). It is a beautiful edifice with a genuinely lovely space where those who served in battle are commemorated. As I was on my own and in no rush to move along, I had time to ponder something…namely the words on the war memorial which stands outside the museum (shown above).
Both of my grandfathers fought in WW2 and thankfully survived (else I wouldn’t be here!), and it is interesting that one of them never talked about his experiences in Africa, while the other wrote about his time in the Merchant Navy in his memoirs (but never really delved into aspects of this in detail) including how he was torpedoed several times! I get the impression that perhaps they were glad to survive and would rather have forgotten the harsh realities of war in the main. To them, and to others like them, we owe a debt of thanks that Hitler was not able to succeed.
It occurred to me, however, that those three words – “The Glorious Dead” – raise a lot of questions…
- Where is the glory in death exactly?
- Is giving up your life heroic?
- Would anyone sign up to be a soldier if it wasn’t a celebrated choice?
- Isn’t war a savage experience which demonstrates the very worst qualities that the blood-thirsty human race has to offer?
- Are there genuine acts of selfless kindness during war which should be celebrated the most?
- Should we remember the reasons we stepped into war time and time again so as to avoid it in future instead of continually making the same mistakes?
- What if those who would commit a nation to war had to serve on the frontline?
- Is a neutral country truly neutral or do they benefit from the suffering around them?
- Does it take many lives lost to make it horrific or is just one enough?
- Will rich countries ever stop trying to take advantage of poor ones?
- In a time when the media bombards you with information, who is to be believed? Is it your own side or the opponent? It seems rather naive to assume that you are being fed the truth and not propaganda at times.
- Will our society ever be able to ostracise those individuals who would abuse power?
- Can religion serve as a medium of good instead of being twisted to evil ends?
- Can we ever justifiably call ourselves civilised by working together as one rather than against each other?
On an associated note, I was recently in Stratford in Taranaki and saw their Hall of Remembrance. Everyone who had died in WW1 or WW2 had their photograph and a note about where and how they died…far more poignant than a list of names which you usually see and really emphasises the horror, especially in a small rural town. Congratulations to the town on this remarkable insight. May these people’s sacrifice be remembered.
I don’t have the answers and I don’t expect it will change in my lifetime. But here is hoping that maybe one day we can achieve enlightenment and perhaps celebrate those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for showing us the way to be the glorious living.