There Will Be Consequences

Written by:
6 June 2024
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In this article, John Roskam contextualises and disseminates the IPA’s research on national defence, and its role in the Australian way of life.

Attack yourself and you’ll soon have no one to defend yourself

6 June was the anniversary of both D-Day, and of one of the greatest speeches ever delivered by ‘The Great Communicator’. Forty years after the Normandy landings, Ronald Reagan stood at Pointe du Hoc to speak of what was worth dying for. At that very spot on D-Day, 200 US Army Rangers climbed a thirty-five-metre-tall cliff to take out of action German guns firing on Allied soldiers.

The world has changed a lot in forty years. In Reagan’s thirteen-minute speech he mentioned God six times, prayer five times, and twice quoted the Bible and God’s promise to Joshua: ‘I will not fail thee nor forsake thee’. He said those who fought ‘felt in their hearts, though they couldn’t know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4a.m. in Kansas, they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia, they were ringing the Liberty Bell’.

Something else helped the men of D-Day: their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer he told them, ‘Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we’re about to do.’

Reagan did not need to tell those listening what happened to Colonel Robert Wolverton, 29 years of age, because they all would have known. He was killed in Normandy a few hours later.

Would any Australian politician today say what Reagan said to the veterans of Normandy that day?

‘You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it is the most deeply honourable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.’

That is the exact opposite of what, in 2024, young Australians are encouraged to think about their country. When Laura Tingle claimed Australia ‘is a racist country’, she was merely repeating the accepted wisdom of the country’s elite. University academics now tell us that to dare show allegiance or loyalty to such a place is to suffer from ‘aggressive nationalism’.

In 2018, Harper Nielsen, a nine-year-old schoolgirl in Brisbane, refused to stand for the national anthem because, according to her, ‘It says Advance Australia Fair and when it was originally written it meant advance Australia for white skin people [sic]’. Nielsen made news around the world. She was Australia’s own Greta Thunberg. Gwenda Tavan, an academic at La Trobe University, took the opportunity to complain about shrill demands by politicians and sections of the media for unquestioning displays of loyalty to ‘nationalist’ symbols and institutions including the flag, the national anthem and contentious national days like Australia Day and Anzac Day.

Demands for unquestioning loyalty and conformity in the name of national unity and pride can undermine much-vaunted liberal traditions of freedom of speech, thought and association.

‘Unquestioning’ loyalty to Australia isn’t necessary. Some loyalty to Australia, some unity and some pride in the country is enough. Those ‘liberal traditions of freedom of speech, thought, and association’ Tavan mentions are, of course, products of Western civilisation. But under the national curriculum, practically the only thing young Australians are taught about Western civilisation is that the West had slavery. Only in countries with the political traditions of the West can their national flags be burned, and can nine-year-olds refuse to stand for the national anthem.

When the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said last week that if he is re-elected, the Conservative party would introduce compulsory national service, his announcement was greeted with the derision it deserved.

It wasn’t just that the Tories have had fourteen years in government to implement such a scheme, and with the party on the verge of electoral annihilation it declares at one minute to midnight that it thinks national service is a good idea.

Sunak’s announcement revealed the utter cultural and ideological fog and confusion of the UK Conservatives. National service is supposedly for ‘your country’ but for years now young people have been told there’s no such thing. There might be something like a ‘global community’ but to talk of ‘your country’, or ‘the nation’ smacks of the ‘nationalism’ that critics like Tavan complain about. When young Australians are asked, ‘Would you stay and fight?’ many would have no idea what they’d be fighting for. A racist country? An illegitimate colonial power? To fight for your country requires a measure of self-esteem. The self-esteem of young males is the very thing teachers are now trying to eradicate. Efforts at eliminating displays of ‘toxic masculinity’ are well on the way to abolishing masculinity itself.

The British writer, Mary Harrington, has elegantly captured the cynicism young people in the UK are entitled to feel about the compulsory national service policy.

‘The general sentiment [among young people] is outrage: the Tories locked them in their homes for two years, stunting education and proliferating psychiatric distress. They mortgaged young people’s futures to pay for a fleeting (and, in the end, largely illusory) sense of safety for their elders, leaving behind a legacy of zero growth, crippled businesses, and swingeing taxes to service stratospheric borrowing…. National service both presumes a nation and also a sense of belonging and futurity, such that “service” feels like paying it forward.’

A poll taken by the Institute of Public Affairs in 2022 asked, ‘If Australia was in the same position as Ukraine is now, would you stay and fight, or leave the country?’ Of those in the survey aged 18 to 24, 40 per cent said they would leave the country, 28 per cent were unsure, and 32 per cent said they would stay and fight.

If you spend enough time attacking a country, its culture and its history, eventually there will be consequences.

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