100 years on, is there a conversation to be had?

“Though shall not grow old”.

How often have we heard these words in the poem written by English poet Robert Laurence Binyon? Now it’s the title of a new documentary, produced by Peter Jackson that is available through Netflix which I watched while all of the Extinction Rebellion nonsense was happening.

The film starts by showing young men rushing to recruitment offices to join up for what they saw as the “Great Adventure”. The film includes voice-overs from actual veterans of the war that were recorded before their passing. Most interestingly the film progresses from old black and white footage to newly restored colourized footage that gives you a vastly new perspective. This rams home the reality of who these men were and what they faced in the horrors that were the battlefields of World War One.

Another film I watched many years ago ensured I was always looking at old footage and photographs with a different perspective. When Robin Williams, in his role as teacher John Keating, walked his class down to the school foyer to look at photographs of past students to deliver his carpe diem speech, I was simply entranced.  I have never looked at old photographs in the same way since. I simply cannot help but look as hard and as deep into the eyes of those long-dead people in those images from our past. What conversations would I have with these men and women from past generations? What if I could bring those images to life? More importantly what if I could show them our modern society? What if I could show them the issues dominating our current times?

I was in this mindset when I was watching this film about our World One veterans or should I say, survivors. It nearly felt as though you could reach through the television and spark up a conversation with them, it nearly felt like you could bring them back through that television screen into today’s world. What would happen if you could do that?

These young men who survived four years in the same lice-infested uniform that they had to wear day after day throughout the war, living in rat-infested trenches, fighting in atrocious conditions, while watching all around them being killed or horrendously wounded. What would they think of our extinction rebellion friends blocking our roads? What would these soldiers who endured mud, disease, lice, rats and freezing winters think of a generation protesting about emissions while living lifestyles of luxury that simply ensure more of the emissions they are protesting? What would these young lads who sacrificed their lives fighting for their county think about our current generations demonizing the same country that they fought for and so many of their mates and comrades in arms died for?

Many of these men would not just fight the Germans in World War One but would go on to fight them again as NAZIS in World war two. What would they think of our current extinction rebellion types screaming NAZIS at anybody who disagrees with them? What would they think if they even witnessed Jews being called NAZIS by members of Extinction Rebellion?

What would this generation who built our nations, our economies and our democracies through the Industrial Revolution and all the associated technological developments of both World Wars think of this generation demonizing those achievements?

What would they think of today’s society that encourages its children to question their gender, their past, their forefathers, their parents and their future? What would they think of modern societies assault on the traditional family, the church and our institutions?

You can look into these men’s faces and in some instances their eyes and you will see a very different world, a very different society and very different people. I think they would be in awe at our modern technology, our mobile phones, our laptops, our aeroplanes, our cars, our buildings, our televisions etc, but I suspect once they really came to know us as we are now they would reject our society and opt for their simpler days. I know that if given the choice I would consider it.

Times may have been harsher, but men were men and women were; well women. Families were traditional and nothing was more important, marriages lasted and children knew who their real parents were. The unborn were a blessing and faith was prominent and nationalism was held in high esteem. Politicians, while not respected, were also not as loathed as they are now and our institutions, such as our courts, our universities, our police and our churches were held if not in high esteem, were held in a respected one.

If you worked hard you could build a life for you and your family, where sacrificing life’s comforts for your children was the norm. People got by with less but supported each other more and this was emphasised by what those generations had to survive and evolve from. World War One, the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, the great depression and of course World War Two. All of that occurred over a thirty-year period.

Would they look at our generation, see our extinction rebellion types and be disgusted? would they be ashamed? would they look at the rest of us and wonder why we sit back and allow this? After all, in their day civil disobedience like what we see from Extinction Rebellion would have been met with police charges, horses, batons, arrest and jail time. They would be thinking about what has changed. Our Australian boys no doubt would have got a laugh out of it, but they would also wonder why for example why were the Arabs that they had despised during their campaign in the middle east, were now walking what was once their streets demanding Islamic laws in our lands.

These modern times would have been confusing for them, back then they loved King and Empire now we question it, back then family and church were the bedrock of their lives, now both are under sustained attack, back then they had to cook their own meals, what would they have wondered about our processed fast food habits and microwave dinners? What would they have made of the Extinction Rebellion march in the nude through our city streets? what would they think of them blocking people from getting to their work, the hospitals, their sick relatives?

In their day they lived side by side, in trenches, in knee-deep mud among vermin, dead bodies of men and beasts. They saw their mates blown apart, shot, bayoneted and clubbed to death right next to them . It was horrific, it was disturbing but it brought them together, it bonded them so much that they put their petty differences aside so as to have the best chance to survive. To do so they needed their brother in arms next to them, no matter their race, religion or politics. You would think for those who survived that they would never want to revisit those times but watch the film, listen to their voices, look into their faces. I mean really listen, really look.

What surprised me was that these men would go back in a heartbeat despite these horrors.

Throughout the film, they credited the War and those times for moulding them into the men they were. Could this generation have lived through those times? could they have made the same sacrifices and commitments? I hope so, but I also have my doubts, maybe in these days and times of intense coverage and social media, where everybody who is carrying a phone is a potential journalist, we simply see the very worst of ourselves through a social media microscope and megaphone. Through this the nasty slurs are amplified, the hatred in peoples faces is magnified and the vile contempt glorified. Maybe due to this, normal people going about their daily lives, respecting others, respecting our country and it’s laws simply get lost in this tidal wave of information.

If our generation was tested as theirs was, could we have come through it in the same way they did? Could we have endured those thirty years of hell when we can’t even be united against bushfires? I am not sure, I certainly hope so. I have been fortunate in my life to have not had to have faced the wars and economic times my parents and grandparents endured. In many ways, I have lived a privileged life, not because of wealth but because of the times I have lived in, I owe that existence to people like my parents and grandparents, yet I witness many of my generation and today’s younger ones demonize them. In that life, that my parents bestowed upon me I have also been fortunate enough to have coached many young men in sports, in that time I have witnessed the same mateship that can be seen through our ANZAC veterans, I can still see the values of mateship, mutual respect, common determination and a willingness to not let down your brother, not a brother of blood but one of endeavour. This gives me hope.

The more I witness of those who degrade our society, our country and its achievements and even worse tear down our forefathers and what they stood for, the more I worry for our country and the future we will leave our next generations. Our values and ethics have definitely eroded, people call this progressive, I call it regressive.

Change can be a good thing, especially if it’s for purpose and advancement, change for change sake in most instances is a mistake and can be destructive.

As Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Society has been where we are heading, it was referred to as the dark and middle ages.  The renaissance that delivered us out of those times, a period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic “rebirth” was driven largely by those old white men derided in today’s society.

The extinction rebellion mob wants us to shut down our economies, to remove our freedoms, to dictate what we can and cannot eat, how we can and cannot travel, the products we can and cannot purchase and the power we can and cannot use. If successful, for the first time in hundreds of years western civilization will move backwards when there is no need for it to do so.

The honest quiet Australians rejected this movement at the last election, but with the indoctrination continuing among our schools, our universities and much of our mainstream media how long can this generation hold out?

If only we could bring that wonderful generation of 100 years ago back to wake us up to what is truly important. More than ever we need their courage, resilience and fortitude to overcome the challenges facing our modern society.