There has been increasing concern among peace people as the government's World War One (WWI) centenary programme has been unveiled, especially around the topics that are unlikely to be covered in the official programme. These include general issues around militarism, nationalism and national identity, and the privileging of military 'heroism' and 'sacrifice'; as well as specific issues such as how Maori, conscientious objectors, women, and returning soldiers were treated during and after WWI.
Although the WWI centenary begins in August 2014, the government's first major focus is going to be ANZAC Day 2015, the anniversary of the invasion at Gallipoli, and the opening of the $95+ million National War Memorial Park.
In the run-up to April 2015, references to "the Gallipoli campaign" as an important symbol of national identity are likely to be increasingly common, and likely to be largely unchallenged - but do we really want our national identity to be based in part on the invasion of a country on the other side of the world, which killed an estimated 87,000 people there as well as 56,633 of the invading troops?
The government 'New Zealand WW100' campaign asks "How are YOU going to remember?" Surely the more important question is "what are we going to remember?" Will it be based on a government-controlled narrative designed to construct a particular national identity, or will it include a diversity of narratives that provide a more accurate and realistic assessment of the horrors and complexities of "the war to end all wars", and of the responses to it - both at the time and now.
From late 2013, Peace Movement Aotearoa held a series of discussion meetings with peace and related groups and communities around the country to share common concerns about the government's centenary programme and to develop a range of alternatives to it, and consultation with our members and supporters is ongoing. If you have concerns about the government's centenary programme or are interested in being involved in alternatives to it, please contact Peace Movement Aotearoa with 'WWI anniversary discussion' in the subject line of your message.