‘A time to question what we are told’
So loud were the beating of the war-drums at the outbreak of World War 1 that a soldier who survived the conflict wrote on hearing of the start of hostilities: ‘‘I was overcome with impetuous enthusiasm, and falling on my knees, wholeheartedly thanked Heaven that I had been granted the happiness to live at this time.’’
Following this year’s Anzac Day commemorations, many wonder if off-shore rumbles are actually the distant sound of the war-drums starting to beat again.
If that is the case, I doubt very much that many young New Zealanders will fall to their knees in enthusiasm to fight in whichever global hot-spot boils over.
With each passing Anzac Day, the number of attendees at the commemorations throughout our country increases, even as the number of people who served in conflicts overseas decreases.
I believe that is largely because people attend not just to give heartfelt thanks for what our forebears sacrificed for us, but to also recognise with gratitude that we have not been dragged into another global conflict in the last 70 years.
At the time of writing this column, my pick is that we will have seen an even greater turnout this year as we come together in common hope or prayer that this remains the case during these very uncertain times.
Although over 100 years have elapsed, there are many similarities between 1914 and today’s world.
There can be no doubt that sabres are rattling loudly, although of course sabres today are missiles with far more lethal pointy ends than those of old.
Then as now, there were world leaders who appeared bent on backing each other and themselves into a corner until a fight became inevitable.
Then as now, many of those leaders failed to see, or didn’t care about, the connection between their desires and the effect of their actions on innocent people.
Then as now, it is not those leaders who will face the guns and bombs of the enemy.
It is the young people of the nations they govern or rule.
What has changed significantly though is our ability, as members of the public blessed to live in a democratic and educated society, to be informed on what is happening.
The Internet offers an unparal- leled opportunity to find out what is happening around the world.
The trick is getting through the dross to find reliable, unbiased news sources.
Now, more than ever, is the time to question what we are being told.
To not accept what poses as news at face value.
As the saying goes, truth is the first victim in any war.
The young soldier I referred to at the start of the column wrote a more famous line some years after the end of the First World War.
He said ‘‘ Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it’’.
His name was Adolf Hitler. I have a feeling he would feel right at home in today’s ‘‘fake news’’ world.
❚ Tim Cadogan is mayor of Central Otago District Council.