‘Talking point: it’s also brave to stand for peace‘, Mercury (Hobart) , 28 February 2015
Discusses Australian conscientious objection during World War I, as set out in an exhibition in Hobart.
As Henry Reynolds told his audience at the exhibition opening, it was not easy to be a dissenter during wartime when such a stand was equated with treason and cowardice …
In Australia, there is a powerful agenda to propagate the myth of war as our defining national experience, even though virtually all the conflicts listed on the Cenotaph in Hobart are for wars fought outside Australia. Gallipoli has been used to create this tradition, but it is an interesting contrast to the European experience, where the real horrors of the conflict were to come later with trench warfare on the Western Front, which is perhaps the reason that those countries now put much less emphasis on commemorating the conflict than Australia has.
In Henry Reynolds’ words: “In Europe, the horror of war was realised, but Gallipoli was early enough to focus on heroism … it was a war which Europe never really recovered from” …
By focusing on heroism and sacrifice, we are distracted from asking about why young men (and now young women too) are sent by our political masters to die in foreign wars, and the consensus between the two major parties in Federal Parliament is used to effectively silence dissent.
On conscientious objection, see also Oliver & Summers, an ABC radio program and Hochschild.