War commemorations discussed

The audience listens as University of Otago history professor Tom Brooking speaks about how World War 1 should be remembered at a panel discussion in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.The importance of commemorating war in a way which prevents conflict rather than glorifying it was discussed by a panel at University of Otago yesterday.

The discussion entitled ''How should New Zealanders remember World War 1?'' comes as the world marks 100 years since the start of the conflict.

A common theme from the panel was that emphasis should be put on commemorating the horror and massive cost of war, as opposed to glorifying it and celebrating WW1 as the birth of a nation.

Tom Brooking.
Tom Brooking.
Prof Richard Jackson, of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said WW1 and other wars should be commemorated in a way to prevent future conflict from occurring.

The way in which Anzac Day was ''depoliticised'', leaving little room for dissenting opinions, was disturbing, Prof Jackson said.

Commemorations could ''rewrite sometimes unjust wars'' ''sanitise'' war and make conflict more likely.

War should instead be remembered as a ''tragedy'' and commemorations should ''break down enmity between people'' rather than reinforcing it.

Gender studies Associate Prof Annabel Cooper said the importance of WW1 in the forming of New Zealand nationhood was overrated.

There was also a lack of emphasis put on the importance of the New Zealand Wars, she said.

Prof Brooking said the way we commemorate war was ''something we need to get right'' and it was important to recognise WW1, unlike WW2, was a ''dubious'' war.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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