Remembering the Peace Makers: What the Armistice Commemorations Forgot

Those in the war industry and the business of commemorating the dead have little time for peace, even as they supposedly celebrate it. For them, peace is the enemy as much as armed opposing combatants, if not more so. Dr Brendan Nelson of the Australian War Memorial is every bit the propagandist in this regard, encased in armour of permanent reminder: Do not forget the sacrifice; do not forget the slaughter.  The issue is how war, not peace, is commemorated.

That theme was repeated, for the most part, in Paris on November 11.  US President Donald Trump spoke of “our sacred obligation to memorialise our fallen heroes.”  French President Emmanuel Macron marked the 100th anniversary of the Great War by having a dig at nationalism, calling it a “betrayal of patriotism” (is there a difference?).  The nationalists, he warned, were getting busy, these “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death”.  The intellectuals (and here, he alluded to Julien Benda’s 1927 classic, La trahison des clercs) were at risk of capitulating.

But Macron, rather slyly, was hoping that the French obsession with universal values would somehow render his message less parochial: to be French was to be an internationalist, not a tunnel-visioned, rabid nationalist.  The soldiers who perished in the Great War did so in the defence of France’s “universal values” in order to repudiate the “selfishness of nationals only looking after their own interests.”  Much room…

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