July 09, 2005 | Graham

In the war on terror we are all footsoldiers

Last time an event like the London bombing occurred I deliberately left this page blank in what I thought might be the blogger’s version of half-mast. This time I just didn’t post. It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s that I cared enough that if I didn’t have anything significant, or sympathetic, to say, then I should just do something else, out of respect.
The Queen had something significant to say. Speaking today, the day before the anniversary of the ending of World War II, she said words to the effect of “Carry on”. (No-one seems to have put online what I heard her say on radio this morning, so “carry on” will have to be the synposis.) No introspection. No self-pity. No deviation.
That’s all we can do. Wars used to be fought mostly at arm’s length. Now the frontline is behind us. Britain was the first to experience the modern retreating frontline in World War II. The young Princess Elizabeth knew about it as she drove ambulances in a London devastated by the Blitzkrieg. In comparison to the Blitzkrieg, this strike is pitiful. For Elizabeth, carrying-on must be, if not easy, getting habitual.
Violence is a part of life. Today, walking along my favourite beach in Forster with my youngest son we saw numbers of toad fish. They were all washed up and dead. Who knows why they died? There would have been more than 50 of them, but I doubt whether any toad fish news bulletins covered the incident. We’re the only animal that knows, or cares, when we die. That’s our fate, and our curse.
It seems to me that the British have got their response to the terrorists’ bombs just right. They have just carried on, almost as though it had never happened. How disempowering for the terrorists. You launch a co-ordinated attack, no doubt meant to be devastating, and 24 hours later it’s almost as though it never happened.
The other night at dinner someone asked me how I identified myself. “British” was my response. Not British, in the sense of being something other than Australian, but British in the sense of Australian culture being essentially British. In some ways it was a bold claim to make. I’m no Anglophile, I’m not infatuated with the United Kingdom, but that’s how one can easily be represented saying things like that. Rather, I recognise that my intellectual and moral heritage is basically British.
Tonight I think that while it might be a “bold claim” I hope it is one that I can personally demonstrate if I have to. London has shown us exactly the right way to deal with terrorism. Life is a numbers game, and Australia’s number will come up. When it does, I’d like to think that our behaviour will be British.

Posted by Graham at 6:13 pm | Comments (4) |


  1. It’s hard to know what to say when something like this happens.
    I can’t say I identify with the British as you seem to, but I can empathise with your observations about the development of Australian society and culture.

    Comment by Guy — July 10, 2005 @ 7:14 pm

  2. An off topic rant in sincerity tags:
    The media love it when people die in a country like Britain in a terrorist attack. They really take a good deal of pleasure in it. You can see it in the newspapers, on the TV and online at ninemsn. The beat ups and the hype and the acres of coverage.
    I believe that news and current affairs journalists should stay impassive and unbiased. By that I don’t mean that they should give equal coverage to terrorists as to victims. I just think a little humility and no high horses would be a good idea.
    Also it is hypocritical and racist to give so much coverage to a certain event because it took place in a particular country where terrorism is not all that common in recent times. Why does this attack get so much more coverage than the Madrid bombings. They were more spectacular for a number of reasons and more significant.
    What about terrorism in Iraq? That gets F.A. What about countries where there are human rights abuses everyday? What about countries in civil war?
    What about comparisons to the carnage of WWII?
    It is all lies and hypocrisy to sell papers, make money, in a sick and perverse way. The hypocrisy is self evident, the lies are through ommission, the culture of racism and hypocrisy and through not being upfront about the values inherent in the coverage and the institution.

    Comment by Benno — July 11, 2005 @ 10:21 am

  3. Guy,
    When you look at Australian institutions and the pragmatic, empirical view of life that Australians like to think we have, it’s a bit hard to see how you could see us as anything other than British. They are certainly not European institutions and habits of thought.

    Comment by Graham Young — July 11, 2005 @ 11:10 am

  4. Graham,
    Great post. Almost as ghastly as the behaviour of the terrorists themselves is the conduct of the “political body snatchers” on either side of this debate who rush to claim the dead from such atrocities as their own, for use to push their particular line on the “global war on terror”.

    Comment by Wayne — July 11, 2005 @ 11:46 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.