Friday, April 22, 2016

War Suffering: Then and now.

The conversation the other day ahead of the Anzac Day Remembrance elicited some angst and disapproval in the Tavern.  An issue arose which continued for a while in the Oz room and I had to 'step in' to remind people of some perspectives. It was over the issue of  'Offical' phrases that elevate women's suffering position vis a vis that of men.

Officialdom has strange, distorting glasses.

I could well see the point being made by one chap, Mark Dent, and I agreed with him, but I do so not at the expense of the ladies.

The fact is that World War One, which is the keynote conflict remembered on Anzac Day, even though all wars fought by Oz soldiers are included,  did see some ladies killed in action. They were nurses. Fine gals. 

My good friend the Southern Gal has raised the flag for war nurses before, and well too.  The modern matter of encouraging - or rather demanding - front line combat roles for women pivots around the idea that women can do anything a man can, but don't

In WW1 Oz lost many a fine gal in the combat zones overseas.  46, so I understand.
Nearly 3,000 Australian women served as nurses during the First World War.
Most of these served in the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), although a dozen are also known to have served as Royal Australian Navy Nurses. The rest joined other Allied organisations such as the Red Cross (French, British and Australian), Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, Territorial Force Nursing Service, Lady Dudley’s Australian Voluntary Hospitals, Salvation Army Nurses and the New Zealand Army Nursing Service. 
Approximately forty women served as masseuses, twenty-nine of these in the AANS. Female doctors, whose services were refused by the Australian military, had been accepted in British army nursing since the war against the Boers, despite lingering reservations amongst some senior military officials about their suitability for active service. Twenty-three Australian women doctors made their own way to Europe to join organisations such as the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, the Endell Street Military Hospital, Royal Army Medical Corps and the French Red Cross, one of whom (Dr. Phoebe Chapple) became the first woman doctor to be awarded the British Military Medal. A further 120 Australian women are known to have served in the Voluntary Aid Detachments established by the Red Cross.
Australian women had a variety of motives for heading off to war, just as did the men who enlisted. Patriotism and a sense of duty featured strongly in their own explanations of why they signed on – a strong feeling that they needed to “do their bit” for their country and the Empire. Many also wanted to be close to their menfolk, whether relatives or friends. And like the men, most were excited by the opportunity that the war presented for travel, adventures and perhaps even romance.
Nurses embarked on the first convoy of ships that sailed to Egypt in November 1914 and, like their male comrades, saw their first action at Gallipoli in April of the following year. Confident of a quick campaign, the Allied command had made little provision for the wounded. For many hours after the landing on 25 April 1915, the wounded lay exposed on the narrow beaches, showered by enemy gunfire. Those who survived were laid out on transports and slowly towed away to safety. Throughout the Gallipoli campaign, the nurses waited to receive the wounded, stationed on hospital ships off the shore or in the hospital camps of Alexandria and Malta, and later on Lemnos Island.
One can only praise these fine women who did what we expect from women. They gave; they nurtured, they were kind and caring, indeed, loving and warm to men who needed their special female succour. 

It is what women are 'fit for' in wartime rather than lugging weaponry and bayonetting the enemy. But in comparing what men and women are 'fit for' we seem to see men as fit to be killed, maimed, suffer horribly, whereas we do not like the idea of woman getting the same 'opportunity'. We just do not see women as having a 'Warrior Spirit', although frankly the battlefields are littered with the bodies of men who do not now see a 'warrior spirit' as much of a recommendation.

The 3000 fine ladies were very likely exceeded in number by the 20+ year old women handing out White Feathers in the street to 14 year old boys.

Compare the 46 who died to the 60+ Thousand men.  The disparity is notable, and even though I do not wish to see or hear of more ladies in body bags, nor does Mark want to hear an 'inclusiveness' that becomes an insult.

Let us hear what Mark had to say. He alerted us to a different kind of war - one waged upon men. The modern one.
Lest We Forget
Every year I attend the ANZAC Day clash between Essendon Football Club and my beloved Collingwood, two traditional rivals playing in the Australian Football League. Aside from the adrenaline which pumps through my veins as I anticipate the spine tingling roar at the conclusion of our national anthem,  there is another  moment when I  must physically brace myself to contain the swirl of emotions which assail my body.  No-it isn’t in reaction to an outrageous umpiring error or a player’s costly mistake. This reaction comes long before the first bounce to commence the clash.
I know that the ANZAC Day ceremony will entail a tribute. This tribute will invariably call upon the one hundred thousand people gathered there to bow their heads as they recall the selfless sacrifice of our brave men and women.

That’s right-the brave men and women.
Being something of a history buff I wonder if perhaps the details of our female battalions who dug in at the Somme and endured the freezing conditions, slept in the mud, blood and guts of their girlfriends and charged the enemy trenches with fixed bayonets had eluded me.

I never saw footage of limbless, blind, deaf, shell shocked, facially disfigured young girls being carried or wheeled off ships as they arrived home to resume their civilian lives. Perhaps the cameras weren’t operating that day.
Yet year after year we pay tribute and give equal standing to both the men and women. 
How is this gross misrepresentation of the facts allowed to go on unquestioned? 
Of course if one was stupid enough to raise the issue at a dining table the response would be as predictable as the effects of gravity. People would screech in indignant outrage: “Our women worked in the factories, nursed and cared for the wounded and suffered the grief of losing their husbands, brothers and sons!”

Hilary Clinton’s infamous line about women being the primary victims of war comes to mind.
'Primary' victims were the MEN, stoopid.
This from a charlatan who claimed to have come under fire in Bosnia - but did not of course.
If a women was ever harmed in war time, particularly in World War One, it was as a result of an unexpected accident or illness. No woman ever fought side by side with the men nor were they expected to fight. Yet, I repeat-they receive the same gratitude, respect and acknowledgement as the men. 
It is incomprehensible and makes a disgraceful mockery of the Remembrance Day ceremonies.

A handful of men suffer from breast cancer. Can you imagine the outcry we would hear from women if all of the breast cancer awareness campaigns spoke of the dreadful devastation of breast cancer wrought upon our women and men without any reference whatsoever to the enormous statistical discrepancy in which gender is most badly affected?  It doesn’t bear thinking about. 
There’s no need to wonder as it would never happen.

This issue of our media never being gender specific about issues negatively impacting upon men’s lives was brought to a head for me over this weekend when a full page article on suicide titled, You’re Not Alone appeared in the lift out section of the HeraldSun.

As I greedily scanned the paragraphs, hoping I would stumble across the sentence alerting the world to the fact that the terrible tragedy we call suicide disproportionately affects our men, I quickly realised my search was a futile one.
Over 75% of suicides are committed by a male. This of course doesn’t mean we should focus solely on males, but given the disparity in the figures one would think we would be thrown a crumb of sympathy, an empathic wink or a pat on the head. 
Nope…nothing. No mention of men as a gender throughout the entire article. In fact the personal focus was on women who had lost a male partner and how difficult life was for them as a consequence.

On the same day as this article appeared the murder of a little boy by his mentally unstable father was receiving wall to wall coverage. Each time the story was told the announcer reminded everyone that domestic violence was a scourge which overwhelmingly affected women although a small minority of men were also victims. Suddenly it seemed very important for the public to understand that this is an issue that harms women and that is where all of our attention should be focused.

This very deliberate censorship can be found in a number of other issues which overwhelmingly affect men. I have never watched, listened to or read a media story on death and disability in the workplace which states-men are the overwhelming victims of death and disability in the workplace. In fact when the Victorian Government ran a campaign on this issue a few years ago, all of the television, radio and print advertisements referred to the Deaths of Victorians in the Workplace.
Oh- and the dead are referred to as people or workers in all of the documentation. We would never refer to the female victims of domestic violence as "people" or "family members". We would be left in no doubt whatsoever that it was a woman who was slapped, pushed, beaten or verbally abused. Isn’t it funny how gender is of no consequence when males are dying?
When our media speak or write about our homeless-that is all we ever call them. We don’t mention the fact that 67% of our homeless roughing it on the streets are males or 75% taking shelter in boarding houses are males.  Can you imagine this percentage remaining a non issue if it were females wandering our streets and making up 70% of our homeless?
Why is this deliberate deception and censorship so prevalent in our media? One could be led to believe there is some kind of agreement in media circles that anything which could focus attention upon the hardship, loss, grief and injustice men endure is to be hidden, glossed over or ignored.

Some claim that more women are victims of family violence. Nevertheless a very substantial proportion of men are also affected. Understanding this, all domestic violence ads still focus exclusively upon women.

Men are not referred to at all, other than as perpetrators of course.
Imagine a suicide campaign with the same resources behind it as the Domestic Violence Industry has. This suicide awareness campaign would involve huge billboards, advertisements on television and a barrage of print articles in our major papers. Women would not be referred to in any way whatsoever. They would simply not exist as victims in the world of suicide. When outraged women ask why we are not concerned about female suicide they would be informed that less women kill themselves and for different reasons. Perhaps we could suggest that if they are so concerned about the plight of women who kill themselves they could start up their own movement to bring awareness to the problem.  Our focus just happens to be upon the men. That would surely soothe their indignation.
I would like this revised version of the pre-match ANZAC Day tribute to be read during the pre-match ceremony. It would go some way to addressing the rather absurd, insulting, inaccurate and somewhat deceitful insinuation that women have sacrificed as much as men throughout the many wars we have  endured.
Ladies and gentleman, could we please be upstanding as we pause and offer a minute’s silence in tribute to the courage and sacrifice of tens of thousands of young Australian men and boys who died so that we might live in a peaceful, free society. Others gave great support to our soldiers and we acknowledge the tireless work of the many nurses who took care of our men and gave them comfort in a time of need.
Personally, I agree with all he said there. But there are some who would be as disrespectful of women as our society is disrespectful of men. They would take the truth of the matter and use it as a weapon.

Two wrongs do not make a right.



  1. There is so much disparagement of males and masculinity and society have become so numbed intonaccepting it, and expecting it to be so. Even the author's final paragraph starts with that well-worn phrase "Ladies and gentleman" without any of us wondering why females are addressed ahead of males but even more, why are females accorded a presumption of higher social status than men. That's what we have come to expect: 'ladies first' despite decades of insistence on equality and continuing clamour for ever greater female privilege.

    1. "Ladies and Gentlemen" should only be used on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with "Gentlemen and Ladies" used on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sunday, address the Great Supplier as it is His day.

    2. What's wrong with "Lords and Ladies", or "Gentlewomen and Gentlemen"? Why should women be the only ones to be accorded an honoury title?

    3. You ask a Knight & King? Those 'titles' are minor. Drink up sir and turn your attention to more pressing matters, such as your round.

  2. Considered in the light of: Protector, hunter (Male) and Nurturer (Female). Both suffered in different ways during WWI/WW2.

    The wars to end all wars resulted in the sickening death of so many men. And the sadness of the women who loved them.

    The titles Ladies and Gentlemen takes us back to a more chivalrous era when a lady was a noble woman of virtue and a gentleman was wealthy due to his inheritance. Nowadays it is just phrase that is used without thinking about it…

    I have to confess that I like the introduction ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’ because to me that statement conveys a mutual respect :-)

    1. The 20C saw carnage on a scale unprecedented in history. Worldwide the number of the dead, military and civilian, male and female and children, Ladies, Gentlemen, Lords, Knights and Kings were 37 million. The figure is barely imaginable.

      Virtue was almost virtually eradicated. Chivalry went under a hail of bombs and bullets. Mutual respect too. From the blood soaked ashes, they grew again. The Power of God is not limited.

  3. I heard a wonderful rendition of an Irish song called "The Green fields of France" in a local pub a few weeks ago. It is a song about a young man from Ireland who joined the British army and was killed in the "great" war and is now buried on the banks of the Somme. A visiting couple, She from England and he from Australia, took the microphone and gave an equally powerful rendition of a song called "Waltzing Matilda."

    1. Song can be a watering of the spirit; a water that brings life back. The red poppy of Flanders is symbolic. War is a terrible illness; a fever. The blood of humanity is invaded and the immune system has its work cut out.

  4. This ANZAC Day I have lost count of the number of times I have heard the cumbersome phrase "servicemen and WOMEN" uttered in the media (with the emphasis on 'women'), even when referring to the original ANZACs who were overwhelmingly men. There are other neutral and much less awkward phrases such as "military personnel" that could be used but of course despite this being a neutral term, it doesn't specifically mention WOMEN, and we can't have that in this era of forced 'equality' when women must be patronised and made to feel 'included' while men's role is played down. Referring to 'men' alone in a positive way seems to be something that the media tries to avoid.

    It is shameful that ANZAC Day is being used as a Trojan Horse for the foisting of this propaganda upon a gullible public.


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..