On Bellona, the Remembering of War and the Democratic Process

On Monday morning I awoke at 5.30 AM with my mind firing like cracker night, jumped out of bed, and prepared for my usual day of trying to make my world understandable for you, my dear readers. This involved lighting the first of many cigarettes and stepping outside to have a pee on the front lawn.

While having said pee, the view from my pissing spot caught my eye and, entranced, I rushed back into the house to get my camera. There was a gorgeous silvery mist bathing the nearby football ground and a crispy crinkly frost over everything. The sun was just about to rise over Mount Ainslie. It was, forsooth, an exquisitely wonderful wintry morning and it deserved some exploration.

Setting off across said football field I saw ahead of me the War Memorial and was reminded of a conversation I’d had with a friend about a new memorial being constructed on the northern lawns. It is a memorial to the bomber commands who did such things as obliterate Dresden, suffering many losses themselves along the way.

So I changed course and meandered, taking photos as I went, towards this odd thing which, I am told, is supposed to represent the beams of light projected into the sky so that the bomber command could be seen and shot out of it. It’s a slightly controversial allusion apparently, but I find it poetic and deep.

I never made it to the memorial, though there is a glimpse of it in the background of one of my photos, because along the way I saw what, at first, struck me as a rather bizarre sight. Standing near a sculpture not far from the new memorial was a man in shorts and t-shirt. Not so bizarre you might think, but then you would be forgetting that it was a Canberra winter morning, and that it was something like minus four degrees in the shade and no time to be standing still anywhere outside in near nakedness.

He was, of course, merely paused in the act of jogging, and like most joggers was perhaps a little loopy, but also was inured against the cold by a good circulation system pumping lots of yummy warm blood all throughout his body, even to those extremities that in my body get an occasional feeble trickle of warmish blood every few hours or so (and I’m not talking about my penis here so put that thought away for good OK).

This gentleman, who had something of the appearance of an army man, kindly agreed to my request to pose for a photo, so I approached and, besides firing off a few shots on the borrowed Nikon, joined him in the contemplation of the statue that he was regarding with such interest.

Bellona, the Roman Goddess of war, as depicted by whoever created this monstrosity, is an incredibly ugly woman with execrable taste in headwear and the horror of her visage is only tempered by the inclusion, somewhat gratuitously one might say, of some absolutely magnificent knockers.

We began discussing war and memorials to war, me and this fellow, and I filled him in on some of my objections to this memorial which, despite being an excellent museum of its kind, and displaying an appropriate reverence and respect to the fallen and avoiding outright glorification of war fairly well, does not extend quite enough respect and reverence to the fallen of any other armies than our own and those of our allies, does not treat war itself as tragic and horrific, but only the participation of us and people like us in it so.

He agreed in a fashion, though he pointed out that the Attaturk Memorial on nearby Anzac Avenue (the which I may shortly pay a visit) was at least a genuflection in that direction, and I’ll agree that the friendship and reconciliation that is developing between Aussies and Turks (despite our boonerish behaviour at Gallipoli) is a wonderful heart warming thing and that memorial may represent a more all embracing style of remembering the victims of war.

From there we moved on to ‘the current situation’ and he disabused me of the notion that he might be a warrior type himself. He was in fact one version of a public servant or other, and, he continued, was thoroughly sick of Australia’s rush to join America’s adventurism in the Middle East, was horrified by the unbelievable stupidity and greed of the Australian electorate that they put their immediate financial prospects above all else in choosing a government, ignoring gross abuses of democratic process and bare-faced lies told to win them over.

Hurrah said I, and then another hurrah when this fellow, seemingly a middle-class and rather non-descript sort of fellow, who one might have taken to be just such an Australian as he’d described and decried, told me he had joined, just the day before, the Australian Greens Party because, so he said, he didn’t want to be one of those people who says ‘why do something like that, I can’t make any difference?’.

Well my dear fellow, I say again, good fucking on you. And good on all people like him, of whatever stripe, who are willing to engage in the democratic process as it is supposed to be done, not from the safety of one’s lounge room, but out on the street, in the shabby meeting halls and wherever else you can, and I aver, you CAN make a difference.

May there be legions more like him. May this country reverberate with the footsteps of people stepping out their door and walking into the embrace of the political discourse that may, just may, see us avert our course from what I believe is one of disaster and ruin.

Enough ranting says I, and goodbye said I to the man, because my morning poo announced its imminent arrival and I hastened home, having given him a hearty handshake and another warm hurrah sort of thing, stopping only to take this cropped image of a road sign on the way, a message from the god of peace to us all, thought I.

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