Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: War, now and then

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  • Lilith __, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    Mr. C. O. Bell (Crown representative): Would you pray for victory for our side?—I would pray that God’s purpose should be fulfilled. As far as I understand it, it is his purpose that England should win

    Wow. Nice to know what God's purposes are.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Lilith __,

    Wow. Nice to know what God's purposes are.

    Now you sound like Janet Frame, tormenting her poor old Christadelphian mother :)

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    I remember Keith Duffield, a one man revolution in Chchch, he was a conscientious objector, with harrowing tales - but I can't find more than Murray Horton's uncharacteristically short obituary from 1979. - he was an inspiration to us all at the time (and beyond).
    I also found this link to a book on other NZ C.O.s We will not cease
    The whole book is readable through NZETC (NZ Electronic Text Centre)

    My dad fought (in tanks) in North Africa (captured and escaped in Egypt) and at Monte Cassino, He never talked about it at all in any depth, but I know that very few of his West Coast battalion made it back to NZ.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4196 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    We will not cease
    The whole book is readable through NZETC (NZ Electronic Text Centre)

    Thanks for that Ian. And good on Vic Uni for all the careful digitising.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Lilith __,

    NZETC /me.books is an excellent site…their work makes the much hoo-haa’d (byCLL & NZSA anyway) “Great NZ Books” site look puerile. Most established writers have shunned GNZB – so, CLL & NZSA’s latest ploy is to try and use an irrelevant law to digitise NZ works *without* authors’ permission, as a purported ‘service’ to the Foundation For The Blind.

    I have flatly & firmly denied them this (and I am visually-disabled.)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • John Madden, in reply to Lilith __,

    Pardon the late butting in, I too was up for that last draw but my birth date didn't come up. I was not so sanguine about the risk of ending up in Vietnam as a conscript as Joe appears to have been. This was shaping up to be the nightmare that my Dad endured and I thought I had escaped. Hadn't allowed for American stupidity and Muldoon insecurity. I was just out of the discipline of school and didn't have any intention of taking on another, I was growing my hair like almost every young bloke, the revolutionary optimism of the 60's was slow to fade and life beckoned. Not death and the art of death.
    But I appear to have aged fast. The constant wheeling out of the conscientious objector and the faint hint that this was real heroism begins to grate these days. I could never resolve whether it took more guts to go or not to go but bailing out was not braver. Having seen the occasional UK vet in a chair minus any limbs, I suspect they might swap 5 or 6 years in the can to get those pieces back. Maybe it is just too cosy liberal round here. And as for how long ago this stuff was, a bloke on BBC radio 4 this morning pointed out that the First World War was closer to the sixties than the sixties are to today. And maybe I'm closer to death now than I was ever going to be in 1969.

    United Kingdom • Since Mar 2012 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to John Madden,

    The constant wheeling out of the conscientious objector and the faint hint that this was real heroism begins to grate these days . . . Maybe it is just too cosy liberal round here.

    Care to point to an example of anyone specifically presenting that argument 'around here' John?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I found out a couple of years ago that there was a US policy of sending adult men with intellectual impairment to Vietnam. This is hinted at in the movie Forest Gump.

    And re WW2 conscientious objectors in NZ, has anyone mentioned the courageous wives of the COs as featured in Gaylene Preston's War stories my mother never told me?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Islander,

    If you're talking about WIPO clauses that the Foundation of the Blind and others might be citing, do you have more detail about what's happening locally? sounds interesting.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15711 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to John Madden,

    But I appear to have aged fast.

    Or morphed into a member of some other generation. I guess your balding now.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1149 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    I found out a couple of years ago that there was a US policy of sending adult men with intellectual impairment to Vietnam. This is hinted at in the movie Forest Gump.

    From the accounts I heard from the numerous US r&r guys in Sydney in the early 70s, most of those unfortunates probably wound up in the officer class.

    As for Forrest Gump: Intellectual disability porn.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Gaylene Preston’s War stories

    Even thinking about that film makes me teary-eyed.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Danielle,

    Stunning movie, and great oral history project. Her 'Home by Christmas' featuring her daughter Chelsea, is based on her father's story. Well worth watching too.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 1901 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to John Madden,

    The constant wheeling out of the conscientious objector and the faint hint that this was real heroism begins to grate these days. I could never resolve whether it took more guts to go or not to go but bailing out was not braver.

    You do know that in WW1 conscientious objectors were tortured on the front lines, and sometimes executed as an "example"? Yes, it was a long time ago, but if we go on remembering Gallipoli I think we have to go on remembering that, too.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Einstein said:

    I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

    and

    The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

    Thoughts?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lilith __,

    Wow. Nice to know what God's purposes are.

    I read that as being deliberately cagey. He was neither confirming nor denying whether he would pray for England, but saying that England, if they won, would thus be fulfilling God's Purpose (since not fulfilling it is basically impossible when you believe in an all-powerful and benevolent deity), so they'd probably be indirectly getting his prayers.

    It was a good answer to a stupid question.

    Having seen the occasional UK vet in a chair minus any limbs, I suspect they might swap 5 or 6 years in the can to get those pieces back. Maybe it is just too cosy liberal round here.

    In hindsight, that's probably true, but that doesn't detract from the valor of actual objectors. It's not the way a coward would dodge the draft - there were far easier ones. Join an essential industry. Leave the country. Shoot yourself in the leg. Act insane. Sign up early in some non-combatant capacity, like catering. Go AWOL, or desert outright. Hide out in the bush. Disobey orders that involve actually going into combat, hiding behind incompetence.

    the faint hint that this was real heroism begins to grate these days.

    I think your real objection is the suggestion that fighting wasn't heroism? If so, it's a straw man, although there may be some people who would think that, no one has actually said it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to BenWilson,

    Wow. Nice to know what God’s purposes are.

    I read that as being deliberately cagey. He was neither confirming nor denying whether he would pray for England

    I think it's a wonderful answer. The answer they were probably expecting was, "Yes, I will pray for England." But he answered in his own independent way.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lilith __,

    Thoughts?

    I think it's twisting the term "pacifism" to include designing nuclear weapons that end up getting used to kill vast numbers of civilians, and threaten rival superpowers. Why bother to do that? You don't need to be conflicted about believing that violence is justified in order to secure peace, it's one of the oldest ideas about violence, practically its only justification, outside of seeking spoils.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think it's twisting the term "pacifism" to include designing nuclear weapons that end up getting used to kill vast numbers of civilians, and threaten rival superpowers.

    In principle certainly. Still there are plenty of accounts of the rejoicing among the enlisted that greeted the news of the nuclear attacks on Japan. Suddenly the prospect of an endless struggle to take the 'home islands' evaporated. Even after the fall of Germany there were supposed to have been widespread rumours of Japan being prepared for a century of war. In civilian NZ, VJ day seemed to feature as an even bigger celebration than the earlier VE (Victory Empire) event.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    VE (Victory Empire) event

    Victory in Europe.

    Victory over Japan in the Pacific was obviously what concerned NZ's security and sovereignty directly.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    It was a horribly practical decision.

    Victory over Japan in the Pacific was obviously what concerned NZ's security and sovereignty directly.

    It also meant the "real" end to the war, so of course it was celebrated massively. It meant troops coming home, and extraordinary amounts of sex.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to BenWilson,

    I think it’s twisting the term “pacifism” to include designing nuclear weapons that end up getting used to kill vast numbers of civilians

    OK Einstein was never involved in designing the bomb. What he did do was publicise German bomb-making efforts and urged the US to develop their own. This he said he later regretted.

    But leaving his biography aside and just looking at his words:

    I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

    I think it’s an interesting point that if a few people refuse military service they are vilified, but if a lot of people refuse, the military action can’t go ahead. According to this, National Service was abandoned in NZ in 1972 because of lobbying and civil disobedience.

    Non-violent resistance can be a powerful force for change, that’s been successful in many times and places. Last year’s Egyptian uprising is a good example.

    The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

    An example of united and non-violent action in wartime was the rescue of the Danish Jews during WW2. Civilians at all levels of Danish society acted co-operatively to alert, protect, and smuggle the Jews out of Denmark to Sweden. Consequently, very few Danish Jews were caught or killed by the Nazis.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Lilith __,

    National Service was abandoned in NZ in 1972 because of lobbying and civil disobedience.

    Although I wasn't in NZ then, I believe that more than anything it reflected an overwhelming popular will. While it could be a major practical disruption to be called up in those last years of national service, more than anything it was an invasive nuisance. Unlike Australia and the US you weren't at risk of being sent into combat, or of winding up in a military prison for non-compliance. With a large baby boom population to draw on the range of birthdates drawn in the selection ballots became progressively smaller, decreasing your chances of being selected. Also by the late 60s the increasingly professionalised military was widely rumoured to regard conscripts as an anachronistic nuisance.

    The main lobby group behind reinstating and maintaining national service was the RSA. Despite its supposedly representing the interests of returned servicemen, through much of its history it was a very militaristic organisation. It was the RSA that vehemently opposed sculptor William Trethewey's involvement in Christchurch's Citizens' War Memorial on the grounds that he wasn't a returned soldier. As it eventuated, the sentiment of the sculpture group is overwhelmingly pacifist .

    These days the RSA's website features the experience of pacifist Archibald Baxter as a bona fide part of NZ's war record.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3291 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    These days the RSA’s website features the experience of pacifist Archibald Baxter as a bona fide part of NZ’s war record.

    This Salient feature was particularly affecting. Damn we sucked.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4196 posts Report Reply

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