Opinion: Mike O’Connor: This Anzac Day, Diggers would struggle to accept modern society they died to protect

30 Apr 2024

Diggers might struggle to accept what the society they died to protect has become, writes Mike O’Connor in the Courier Mail on 23 April 2024.

Here is an extract.

When my father returned from the jungles of New Guinea at the end of World War II, he and his army colleagues were sent to a camp in the RNA Showgrounds and told they were to sleep in the pig pens.

Dad was a sergeant, and his mates, thinking that this was not quite what they deserved after years of combat, looked to him for leadership.

”Bugger this,” he said.

“We’re going home”, so they shouldered their kit and marched out, inviting the guards on the gate to try to stop them if they dared.

We remember them, these heroes of yesterday, on Thursday, or at least those of us will who have a sufficient sense of national pride to feel gratitude for the selfless sacrifices that have been made to protect our freedom.

Duty, honour and country was their credo back then, and how quaintly old-fashioned these virtues now sound.

If my father and his mates were to rise from their graves and walk those same streets now, what would they think of the world that they’d found?

A government that would lend legitimacy to terrorists who rape and murder in the name of their god, affording them credence lest failure to do so would cost it seats and threaten its hold on government. Honour? Hardly.

These men would wonder, surely, at the actions of successive governments that have mumbled endlessly about an increase in threats to our sovereignty while overseeing a continued decline in our military strength and generating endless reports that promise unattainable remedies in the far and distant future.

They would see how the sense of duty that drove a common effort by all to defeat a common enemy has been replaced by selfishness, self-pity and victimhood.

They would shake their heads in disbelief on being told that a major grocery chain had decided not to sell Australia Day merchandise lest it offend the sensitivities of a minority group and that local councils shy away from acknowledging it for fear of upsetting a precious few and wonder why construction sites fly the flags of militant unions and a race-based minority, but never the flag that so many of their comrades died defending.

They would despair, surely, that the nation that once rallied behind them had fractured into tribal groups, each one peddling shameless self-interest while claiming to being oppressed and underprivileged.

How is it, they might ask each other, that we fought to protect our fellow citizens and a democratic nation in which all are equal before the law but now have a society in which radical religious leaders preach hate and genocide while the police, fearful of being accused as oppressors, stand by and do nothing.

If the war tocsins were to sound again, would these splintered groups that endlessly decry their lot or on settling in our country spread hatred and dissent and show scant respect for our traditions rally to the cause or run the other way? I wonder.

They might struggle to accept what the society they died to protect has become.

But these warriors, if asked, would say that they would do it all again, driven by the same values as before – honour, duty and country.