Dawn waits lower than the horizon. In dark knots folk find themselves drawn to the cenotaph, to find a space on the wet pressed grass behind the cordoned official area. A civic protocol is observed with hushed murmured conversations in prayerful tones.
In this near silence we stand, though together, each alone with the thoughts that have brought us here. Thoughts of war, of peace of sacrifice, of pain, of suffering, of lost loved ones. Spotlights shine on the gold inscriptions glistening on the cenotaph base in the misty rain. Writ large we read on the column’s base plinth.
The Great War 1914 1918
And immediately below on the same block is added
It was “The Great War, the war to end all wars” yet the inscription reveals a scant 21 years pass before another war is great enough to warrant an addition.
Are these not then “The Great Wars?”
We know them as such, World War 1 and World War 2, but through which world’s did they wreak their havoc?
WW1 laid waste to a fading World, a Eurocentric world, bringing down the old, ushering in a new order. WW2 challenged the emerging new order and the contest for power in the East. For both wars the nation’s plea is chiselled into the cenotaph base,
Lest We Forget
“Lest we forget”, the words rattle in my brain. “Lest?” I find myself silently repeating, “Lest, what exactly does that mean?”
Is it “in case” or ” just in case” or ” be careful not to forget.”
Does it mean that this monument stands here in case we forget?
But what about when we repeat “Lest we forget” at the local Returned Serviceman’s League, when the whirr of the pokies dulls, along with the lights at 9pm.
Are we as affected by “lest” as we are by that other Aussie four letter word? That word which has an even lower level of common usage?
Yes good old “girt*” as in “….. girt* by sea”.
Somehow girt has coped a bum rap. We wince we sing it, I know I do, mumbling my way through it as Australia Advances Fair.
My guess is Olympic athletes are coached in girtness, in case of an unexpected press conference question after a track and field performance. Shot put and hammer throwers may have mistaken it for girth by sea.
But, back to Lest We Forget. I decide that “Lest we forget ” is a simple pledge to remember. It’s not a directive such as “Don’t Forget,” or else.
It could’ve been a a bylaw, ” For Forgetting – Penalty £10.”
Inscribed below it,
The Korean War The Malaysian insurgency The Indonesian counterinsurgency The Vietnam war Peace keeping operations
And on the right side face of the rectangular base
The Gulf War Afghanistan Iraq
I am struck that the serious wars need to be referred to as “THE so and so war.”
Perhaps as public commitment to warring has waned war titles are downgraded?
Dawn eases it’s way into the night. The bugle’s cascading notes strain emotions, tears well in my eyes.
The room is full of vidioettes, those who await a six digit connection to several remote sites by videoconference. There’s a buzz in the room while the remote is sourced, mute is on. Space for wall flowers at the room’s periphery is tight, for those seeking the outer limits of obscurity. Table hugging job grade climbers seek prime locations at the laminated board table edge. These are prime spots in the “look at me” status stakes. Those surer of their status hover mid distance tween table and wall, knowing their interruptions can always be sustained by a table hugger unmuting the mic for them before they speak.
I nearly slumber. The previous meeting minutes are skimmed, while I shuffle an untidy sheaf of papers which I know don’t contain the minutes. It appears though I’m better prepared than those who’ve chosen to go to the meeting paperless and tablet less. Impressions count. Then the call is made,
“Who’s gonna move the minutes?”
Most of the wall flowers have their tongues firmly stapled to the rooves of their mouths, but a Hobart table edger slips a digit up and says,
“I’ll move ’em!”
“So who’s gonna second them” comes the disembodied voice from Launceston again. Nothing happens, nothing. The video at North West judders, there’s pixilation from Burnie, slightly less than MCH and I look around. It’s quiet in Hobart.
“So who’s going to move them?” is asked again. After a pregnant pause a soft voice from the Launceston theatre is acknowledged as a seconder.
It goes on like this meandering through the action list items for which apparently no-one in any of the rooms is accountable. There are waffly self aggrandising minor updates on where the heck they’re going. At least the meeting form is being followed!
And onto a dissertation on “The Transition,” from the Launceston Revealer. Its long, torturous and rambley, covering old and new ground at the same depth, consistently shallow. It dawns on me that what she’s talking about convolutedly reverts us nearly right back to where we were just over two years ago. That the change was “nothing much to worry about” while ” we continued with business as usual” allowed us to watch as the change sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Ultimately the new brooms were closeted.
The same description is being used by the Launceston Revealer to describe this new change. I find myself wondering why senior people who had the means, leverage or gall, decamped to regions unknown only to re appear as the designers/reviewers of “The Transition”.
From the pit of my tummy something stirs. The lyrics sound the same, the melody vaguely familiar. Though there seems circularity and vague symmetry, some folk in fact did worry and were affected. Though in the first iteration the union got involved causing the process to drag and drag the fact that the implementers were naïve to Taswegian practices and mores, conspired to make the whole experience mind numbingly extended. The tricky mass meetings trying to ‘sell’ the idea were a massive waste of time for such a patently self evident need for change. An amalgamation of disparate sites into a cohesive whole wasn’t exactly rocket science. But then again this is health, nudge nudge, wink, wink, and it must be important hey.
So after a further meandering through the peaks of professional status and troughs of divisions at the 42nd Tasmanian parallel, a Hobartian dares query the Launceston Revealer.
” Will this Transition be subject to a change proposal for union consultation!”
After some more waffling, the Launceston Revealer’s response attempts to bat the issue right out into the long grass.
” Is there anyone down there, some senior manager who can take this query off line and explain this to Hobartian enquirer,” she hopes.
Its a little tense, then tenser, Hobart eyes formerly raised are now floor gazing, as its apparent there are no senior managers present. There’s plenty of wannabe acting managers and the otherwise disengaged, two of whom are already thumbing it on mobiles.
Eventually we hear,
” I’ll take it up with the enquirer,” a Hobartian says. Who it is, isn’t clear.
Sorted, phew, the Launceston Revealer goes on,
“Ok, then I’ll continue about the Transition for the rest of you,” she says, adding ,” if I’m allowed to.”
The muted tone of the slipper sinking in.
Do others hear it? Doubt it. Those who matter to me do.
I jot it down.
Editor’s note: Originally published in DidIreallyhearthat, a blog by theHobartChinaman
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