Views of the past, with an eye to our future

‘We are all people of one world, and if we remember nothing else, let us remember that we belong to each other.’ author unknown

It is September 11 and many people will be thinking about terrorism and war. Most of my readers know I remain completely opposed to all violence and I still believe there is never a justification for killing and maiming other humans – we are all one tribe.

I just realized that my new book, compiled this morning. inadvertently looks at the loss of war. This book includes old postcards of Egypt from my small collection, gathered because I like to see how the places I am familiar with looked to visitors 100 years earlier.

Among those images was a postcard booklet of Cairo, sent back to Australia by a young soldier who was stationed there in 1914 on his way to WWI. It is heartbreaking to read how enthusiastic he and his mates are to get to the Front. When he ends his note saying they are having “The time of our life” in Cairo, I wonder if these were also some of their last days of life. My grandfather sailed for the war in Europe, via Cairo, a year later.
Fortunately he survived and returned to Australia, but too many others did not.

Today my hope is that the children and grandchildren of next century will not look back at postcards of our time and wonder if the sender died at war or hear replayed phone messages like those left by people before their deaths on September 11, and feel the sadness I feel for that young soldier and his comrades and all others killed senselessly – the sadness that so many people had their lives cut short and the lives of their families and friends irreparably damaged.

After a decade, looking at images of September 11 continues to stir feelings of horror and waste. After nearly a century, looking at images like these of Cairo can be a pleasure, but it should also remind us there were lessons to be learnt from the past, and make us ask ourselves what we, humanity, have learnt.

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