Shouldn’t forging a nation from blood and sacrifice be against the law?
by Lyndon Hood
A court. The judge is squinting over his spectacles at the figure in the dock. It seems somehow indistinct, or distasteful. He has the sense he has lost track of something important.
PROSECUTION: Your honour, these facts are not in dispute: during the time in question, on the defendant’s watch as it were, there was killing of humans by humans on a scale that had up until that time been unimaginable.
The mechanised destruction of human life that this case is concerned with occurred on the Gallipoli peninsula. As is the way, one of the sets of people doing the killing didn’t manage to achieve what the people who sent them there hoped would be achieved. This case concerns the place those people came from and the effects this killing, and in particular the being killed, had.
JUDGE: Being killed?
PROSECUTION: Or maimed, your honour. More maiming than death, in fact.
JUDGE: And there was no appeal?
PROSECUTION: The defendant’s decision is final, your honour.
Your honour, the prosecution contends that by the defendant’s actions a people came together. Perhaps this was in recognition of an enormous shared sacrifice. Perhaps just because ….if being a loyal outpost of the homeland just gets your kids killed and maimed, it might be time to consider a better plan.
And that death and destruction are remembered – under this alarmingly credible facsimile of a nation spirit – at best commemorated as one might remember the victims of some great natural disaster, forgetting the human cause of this industrial killing machine. At worst, your honour, there appears to some kind of nostalgia. A great deal of the ‘heroic sacrifice’, not so much of the ‘death on an utterly inhuman scale’.
Justice requires that someone be found responsible for this deception, and the defendant is, famously, guilty of the deed.
JUDGE: Humour me for a moment – the defendant is charged with all the killing?
PROSECUTION: No, your honour.
JUDGE: Why on earth not?
PROSECUTION: People seem to take it for granted, your honour. The defendant is charged with forgery.
JUDGE: … A little more detail if you please, counsel.
PROSECUTION: The defending is charged with forging a nation. The prosecution contends that, at or about the second decade of the twentieth century, the defendant forged a nation from blood and sacrifice. Not so much the way an ironmonger forges a nail or a steel works forges a gun; more in the sense a schoolboy forges a sick note.
JUDGE: And the nation in question?
PROSECUTION: Exhibit A, your honour.
JUDGE: Is… is that not a genuine nation?
PROSECUTION: Oh no, your honour. As I said, time has shown it’s not even coherent. And if you hold it up to the light one can see clearly: sending its young men off to die defending democracy one decade, then turning round and cancelling local elections on the grounds it would be ‘too risky’. Surely that wouldn’t happen in an actual country.
JUDGE: Well. Counsel for the defence?
DEFENCE: Your honour, as the court has heard, my client is simply in the business of killing people, maiming people, and destroying livelihoods and property. During the time of the charges there was a quite staggering amount of this to oversee and my client simply did nothing else. The defence agrees the national image before the court is quite unrealistic but it simply must have been forged by someone else. Your honour, the prime reason my client is credited with this forgery is a number of far more guilty candidates seeking to cover their tracks.
JUDGE: I suppose you have someone in mind?
DEFENCE: One or two, your honour.
JUDGE: One of those trials.
DEFENCE: Your honour?
JUDGE: Carry on, don’t mind me.
DEFENCE: Your honour, let us not forget the ancient question: who benefits? My client has continued in his trade regardless of the presence or absence of ceremony. Yet any number of commercial enterprises seem determined to associate themselves with the whole killing-as-nation-building business.
JUDGE: I thought that was frowned upon?
DEFENCE: Only in some cases, your honour. Supermarkets, for example, get into trouble, though it should be noted they are really bad at it. Banks, on the other hand, seem to manage just fine. Apparently having global capital associated with world war makes sense in a way that retail doesn’t.
JUDGE: Are you saying there’s a real link?
DEFENCE: I’m saying there’s a forged one, your honour.
And let us not forget the politicians. Let’s not forget all the ones who are happy to try for a vote or two fanning the flame of an annual outbreak of national fervour.
Most of all, let us not forget the ones who claim to have learned the lessons of war but really think the lesson is that people will concentrate on the heroic sacrifices – rather than whether there might have been an option with fewer heroic sacrifices and more living and intact human bodies. Or whether it might have been better to avoid the whole business entirely. The ones who think the lesson is there’s nothing like an information crackdown to help people look on the bright side. The ones who think it’s okay to commemorate the heroic sacrifice and or pointless slaughter of our young men by sending another round of our soldiers off to another Middle-Eastern battlefield. The ones who think it’s a good idea to chip in to war without giving actual, true reasons, without any realistic idea how it will help and without even convincing Parliament that it’s a good idea: we won’t forget that.
We will not forget them. When the sun is high, and in the middle of the night: we will remember them.
The judge, attempting to assess the demeanour of the defendant, feels a twisting sense of failed perspective – as if the figure is actually very, very distant and unimaginably large.
JUDGE: Does the defendant wish to make a statement?
The defendant does. There is a brief, shrill whistling before an artillery shell crashes through the roof of the courtroom. After a long few seconds, explodes.