Davies, Geoff: Lest we also forget

Geoff Davies

Lest we also forget‘, Pearls and Irritations, 20 November 2018

Pungent and telling piece by an author and retired scientist. He enjoins us regarding a number of important events and issues, introducing each one with the words ‘lest we forget’.

Remember that the hackneyed phrase ‘Lest We Forget’ (in its hackneyed form often in capital letters) essentially means ‘Do not forget … or else’. See here for the flurry over Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s use of the phrase a couple of years ago.

Davies’ events and issues are:

  • the 1915 womens’ peace conference at The Hague, which sought ways to prevent the war continuing and which grew into the Womens’ International League for Peace and Freedom;
  • how the 1919 peace settlement paved the way for the next war;
  • how ‘the spirit of our soldiers was not magically formed on the beaches of Gallipoli, it was nurtured by the vigorous, optimistic and progressive young nation in which they had grown up’;
  • how the Great War crushed Australia’s spirit;
  • how the wounds of the survivors haunt us still;
  • how the soul of a nation is not found in a building – Director, Australian War Memorial, and Prime Minister Morrison take note – but in ‘our hearts and hopes’;
  • ‘that a nation’s soul cannot be defined by bloodletting, let alone be sponsored by corporate arms manufacturers’;
  • that war will not end war and that peace will only come through reaching out to our enemies to find common ground;
  • that a greater war was fought at home against Indigenous Australians.

Lest we forget [Davies concludes] that the descendants of the defeated survivors of that earlier [frontier] war have reached out to us [in the Uluru Statement from the Heart] and invited us to walk together to a better future. Were we, the non-indigenous of this land, to take up that invitation we might learn to grow beyond the timorous national adolescence we have been stuck in for a century.

If Davies’ piece moves us even slightly away from that ‘timorous national adolescence’ it will have performed sterling service. And that tired phrase ‘Lest We Forget’, uttered so often, and often so thoughtlessly, might have some resonance again, preferably without the capital letters.

David Stephens

20 November 2018


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