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May 1, 2017 | by  | in Editorial |
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Editors’ Letter

ANZAC day was observed last Tuesday. It’s a commemoration I (Tim) am unsure how to approach. Distant family, brothers of grandparents, passed in WW2. Even more distant, unknown members passed in WW1. I never met them, they’re ghosts, absences in the family photos, the lack of a rub on the head when we rarely gathered altogether.

All dead are absent. That’s what make death profound, it is absolute.

The act of commemoration is the acknowledgement of absence but too often it feels that stone memorials are an attempt to plug the gaps, and the narratives told on the day draw cohesion to bridge the void — the larger than life figurines at Te Papa fill the place of those who passed.

But to what purpose?

The loss of human life in war or national conflict is a tragedy that I (Laura) have no immediate personal connection with. I don’t know of any family members who have died in World War battles or during the Mau Movement. War movies do a great job of eliciting empathy. Watching a young white man be conscripted, leave his home, kiss his lover one last time, and face the horrors of death by gunshot or pneumonia is fucking heartbreaking. When they come back with PTSD, I feel the horrible lasting effects of war.

My annoyance with these movies however stems from a frustration with the disproportionate lacking of narratives about other wars, genocides, and loss of civilian lives of non-white people. Mainstream media mention wars and atrocities around the world, but without the nuance that I’ve seen the World Wars, and indeed the Gallipoli Campaign, be treated with.

In his column, VUWSA President Rory Lenihan-Ikin insists that to truly honour the lives lost, we must look at the wider picture and causes of war to find ways to ensure we don’t repeat history’s mistakes.

— Laura and Tim

***

“Who do we honour today? Do we honour Te Puea Herangi, leader of the anti-conscription movement in the Waikato in World War One? Do we honour Rua Kenana? Do we honour the Mau, Samoa’s independence fighters gunned down by New Zealand troops?

When will we acknowledge and proclaim that white supremacy and militarism is at the heart of the NZ capitalist settler state?

When will we wake up about the historical amnesia over New Zealand’s own land wars fought between 1863–64?”

— Te Ao Pritchard

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