11 o’clock in the morning on 11th November 1918. The end of World War One.
This moment is still remembered around the world 96 years later with a minute’s silence, the laying of wreaths of poppies, military processions, services to commemorate the dead and the sounding of the Last Post on the bugle. In Ypres, in Belgium, a service is held every night at the Menin Gate memorial. The service has been held every night since the memorial opened in 1927.
In Australia and New Zealand, those who died in war are remembered on Anzac Day with services, dawn parades and commemorations. Next year, Anzac Day will be exactly 100 years since Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Estimates suggest that over 37 million people – soldiers and others – died as a result of World War One. 37 000 000 people. Or about the population of New Zealand nine times over.
In countless wars, conflicts and battles all over the world in the hundred years since World War One, countless soldiers, medics, men, women and children have died – and are still dying.
That’s why we wear poppies.
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There is another point of view:
Turn on the news. Flick open the internet. Find a newspaper. Everywhere you look you will find a news story about war: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Russia. And those are just the ones we hear about. There are plenty of others that go unreported in all corners of the world. We are used to seeing it.
And movies, computer games, books, cartoons, TV shows. All of these have violence and weapons. We watch this kind of stuff most days and are used to seeing it.
We are now one hundred years on from World War One and while we should be remembering those soldiers who fought, it’s time to move on and think about more important issues closer to home: the environment, people in New Zealand having enough food, jobs, houses, schools.
New Zealand is a peaceful country and we shouldn’t be involved in conflict around the world. By having poppies, Anzac Day and remembrance services, it only encourages us to get tangled up in world issues that have nothing to do with us.
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But I think that most of us know that war is not the answer. Fighting over something should always be a last resort. The heartache and upset that war brings – and still brings – is devastating to all involved in it. War wrecks families, terrifies people, destroys countries and spills blood. We all know that.
Do we need a poppy to remind us?
Article written by Ben Egerton
[colored_box color=”green”]This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:[/colored_box]
[colored_box color=”yellow”]Critical Thinking Challenges:
1) Do we really need to wear a poppy and have a national day of remembrance to remind us how terrible war is?
2) Do you think that movies, TV, the internet and computer games make us so used to violence that war no longer shocks or upsets us?
[colored_box color=”green”]Practical Tasks:
1) Find out if there is or was someone in your family who went to war to fight – either for New Zealand or for another country. Do you have photographs? Letters? Information about where your relative was posted or which wars they fought in? Piece together some information and present it to your class as a story, poem, fact file or information piece.
2) Art or poetry often produces the most emotional responses to war. The Canadian poet John McCrae wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’ about the poppies – and it’s where the tradition comes from. Many other poets have written descriptive and powerful poems about war. Go online or to the library and see if you can find poems by Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Mike Subritzky. Check out warpoetry.co.uk for some others.
[colored_box color=”red”]Have Your Say: