ANZAC Address from Hamish Petersen
Duty in Youth
Over the years of the first World War, the College, along with the whole of the country, farewelled a number of students and other young men, all very much in their youth, to the ANZAC and other New Zealand Armed forces. It is this idea that really strikes me about the ANZAC effort - and maybe it is because I'm not native to New Zealand or Australia, that I am not quite as passionate about the patriotism or brotherhood involved in the ANZAC idea as someone born and bred here may be - rather - it is this idea that all these 'youths turned soldiers' felt in the core of their being and as a collective mass of individuals.
That feeling of having Duty in Youth.
The idea is that as young people - (not impact-less children nor accountable adults quite yet) - young people, we feel a duty to our society. For these boys that duty was presented to them; War. For many of them it was not a choice and they were conscripted but for the younger ones it was an even bigger decision. Many of the younger boys illegally signed up to the war effort by lying about their ages or identities.
Because they felt they owed it either their own, past or to future generations something positive that would come out of fighting off the opposition. Not just that even, they didn’t just think "oh i might do this because it might be good for us or someone sometime." No. From what I can glean from people's accounts of the war it was a real compulsion. it was a culture that yes, this could be an incredible adventure and we can finally see the world like we always wanted to but also, I must contribute to my world and my society. I must give.
This is an idea that I think as a modern audience we all struggle with. We live in a consumer's world where we can take and take and indulge in a glut of opportunity and never 'Need' to give back or give on to others. There seems to no longer be a culture or mindset where we give as much or more than we take so that the rest of our life and every generation thereafter is better off than we are now. This has been a focus for me over the past 6 months or so. I have tried to create and contribute to my society -to varrying degrees of success- because I feel I am nearing that time when I exit the little microcosmic dreamworld of high school and I'm, going to find myself a real part of the real world every soon. But - I know that everyone who identifies themselves as a New Zealander can say that the ANZAC troops contributed to their world in a way that had real, lasting impact. It was a duty that they felt to their country or to their parents or the children they wanted to have just as I want to be able to write poetry or do 'something' that has an impact on even just one person. It is a really inspiring compulsion that I see in all the ANZAC soldiers who each individually had come to their own conclusion that "I must contribute to my world". And they were feeling this sense of service when they were our age and even younger. Rear Admiral John Foster McKenzie, CB. CBE. was one of those boys from St Andrews but he joined the forces legitimately through a small group selected as special entry cadets from the NZ High school cadets program. From the age of 17 -or earlier you could say- his life was devoted solely to service to his country and community. It was not until 1977 that his official role in the NZ armed forces ended when he retired after almost 40 years professionally serving his country. Although his duty was not in the first world war and the original ANZAC force in Gallipoli, he was part of the tradition created in Galipoli with the Batallions that served under the abbreviation, ANZAC and that tradition of implicit or innate need to service.
I see and hear about a mentality in people 13, 14, years old lately - where there is a rising drug, alcohol and party culture. As positive as I think parties can be in the sense of creating community or giving us relaxation and relieving stress, the culture that has existed for some time now and is growing is one where we drink and get intoxicated through a number of other media for no greater means than the act of being intoxicated. To me this is self indulgent and escapist in that when we get ourselves annebriated in whatever manner, we are serving our own selfish and frivolous needs while also escaping from our problems and the world we live in. I do not mean that everybody is like this but that kind of mentality is on the rise. The kids that went and served in Gallipoli very well may have been involved in a party culture with similar issues and that is very likely BUT they felt a sense of social consciousness strongly enough to go off to Turkey to serve their society. On a large scale that society was the commonwealth; the British empire and the allied forces but on a personal level they were giving of themselves back to their closest friends, their parents, their sisters and their brothers. And they were remembered for it.
We, as a generation with more oppourtunity than ever before, we are in a sort of vaccum state where we can escape from our world and care only about ourselves. Sooner or later this little bubble will be broken and everything that we were running away from or not facing with confront us whether we are ready or not.
What must be done is to take example from these boys.
If I have now woken some of you up by making you stick up your hands then I will take this chance to point something out. That you don’t need to go to war and die with the union jack and southern cross draped over you body.
No. that's not what I'm saying.
All I want people to want to do is be involved in the world that has set you all up for success.
Make Art. Coach a little kids’ sports team. Volunteer somewhere, set up music gigs, I don’t really care what it is just so long as you consciously try to become part of your world!
Just like the people that we remember today;
Share and make a real, lasting, positive impact on Your World.