Pause, stop and remember

2014-07-24 00:00

OUR daily lives and the world around us today consist of continuous hustle and bustle. It’s a busy world. Children, cars, work, deadlines, meetings — it never stops. Stress levels keep heading upwards, blood pressure remains high, heart attacks are more frequent and, sadly, family life suffers.

Unfortunately, that’s how the world moves and continues to move; always something more to do, another target to reach, another deal to seal.

But regardless of how the world is evolving and turning, not many people give a thought to the privilege of being able to have such a world.

Much, if not all, is taken for granted. For many, everything is as it should be —

no thought is given to the struggles, the lives lost and sacrificed to bring about a decent world for the rest of us to enjoy.

Yes, there have been political struggles which continue and give people work to do, but it’s worth looking beyond that. We should appreciate the freedom we have to go to school, work, church, sports events — the luxury we have of being able to do those things.

It’s so normal to do this that we forget how the world was turned upside down to achieve the “perfect” world that greets us daily.

This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, the “war to change all wars”. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn enough from it and did it all again 25 years later.

But that first war is what makes us cringe when we look back through the pages of history.

Today, most people don’t have time for history. It’s ancient, it’s past so who cares? The fact is, it shaped our world.

Boys in their teens, not men, suddenly had a gun or rifle thrust in their hands and were told to play soldiers — for real. They left home, not knowing if they would return, living in trenches, suffering disease, witnessing death, losing friends and being shot at.

It was basic and brutal. Barbed wire, mud, rain, explosions, charges of hope into no-man’s land and prayers of grace, asking to be spared.

Those who returned had left as boys and came home as men, aged way beyond their years. They never forgot. They always wondered why they had been spared and others were so cruelly cut down in the prime of their lives.

And so war goes on. Even today. Yet not many pause to remember and understand what those who had to fight went through. In the skies, on the oceans, in the prisoner-of-war camps, the gamble for freedom.

No one cares these days, but there are those who are aware. There’s no prize for saluting the British folk in this regard. Years, centuries down the line, they still remember.

A visit to the Anglo-Boer War and Anglo-Zulu War battlefields in northern KwaZulu-Natal tells a story. At the memorials and graves, there are wreaths and poppies placed there by recent visitors who have remembered. They are either ardent historians, had relatives who fought in the battle, or belong to the regiments involved. They honour the fallen, paying respect to their supreme sacrifice.

Many visitors to these battle sites want to re-enact part of what went on. Spioenkop has people wanting to follow the route, in the dark, that was taken by the British soldiers on January 23, 1900.

Clambering over rocks, rough ground and avoiding the aloes is worth the effort. It brings reality to the fore. It makes people remember.

In modern times, Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club, has the famous Kop End. It is named after the hill where the battle was fought and the many men from Liverpool who died there.

Armistice Day sees hundreds of veterans and others remember those who gave their lives in world conflict.

Former soldiers stand proud in their blazers, berets and medals, remembering. Time does stand still for a moment when thought is given to what happened in the past.

The wearing of poppies conveys a message. It’s not about collecting money or shaking a tin. It’s just remembering, appreciating, giving thanks for the lives given so we can enjoy the world we live in today. It’s not boring history. It’s fact. It happened. Let’s remember.

Stop, pause and appreciate that “they gave their today for our tomorrow”.

• David Knowles is a sports reporter at The Witness.

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