It’s a hundred years today since the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landing at Gallipoli in one of the most regrettable episodes of the First World War. Here’s what I read to mostly friends at the War Memorial on Thursday:
We have come here to remember the fallen of countries which have been, both before and since, friends. Less than a hundred years ago, my great-great-uncle died in the Kaiser’s army on the Western Front. It seems ironic that today we gather to honour our ancestors who died killing each other. And it seems odd, too, that after all this time we still find it hard to explain what the First World War was actually about. A clash of empires, yes. A fight for trade and trade routes. But why would so many people suddenly come forward to fight over things that people have, after all, fought over for millennia? What motivated men to come even from a country so far away from the rest of the world that we were never attacked or invaded?
In the eighteenth century, before Germany became a unified country, the leaders of one of the German states, Prussia, began to theorize how they could build a mighty empire. The conclusion they eventually reached was that they needed to have a totally controllable and biddable population, and that the way to achieve this was to take control of education away from the family and thus seize the minds of the following generations. Accordingly they constructed the world’s first system of compulsory state schooling, and over the next hundred years or so, reached their goal of a centrally controlled and steadily growing empire.
They might have conquered the world, had not other countries caught on to their idea and emulated it. The United States’ compulsory state school system was intentionally modeled on the Prussian system, and the other countries of the West followed suit. By the early twentieth century, all the major powers had succeeded in raising an entire generation on the ideals of the glories of war and the glory of their respective empires. That was the focus of their curriculum: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – it is sweet and pleasant to die for the fatherland. These things, for me, finally make complete sense of the bitterness of Wilfred Owen, the great poet of the First World War, in his most celebrated poem. Let me read it for you now.
(Read Dulce et Decorum Est)
That lie, intentionally taught to an entire generation, made possible the most far-reaching war the world had ever seen, and, a mere generation later, the most deadly conflict in human history. Today, the agenda has shifted, but the evil of compulsory state schooling contributes to making modern states more powerful than anything their distant ancestors could have dreamed of, as well as contributing to the unthinkable death toll of the abortion holocaust. My flowers today are for the half a million New Zealanders who have been slaughtered by their own country in their own mothers’ wombs, and I scatter their petals in the street, because these lost ones have no grave and no memorial.