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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Last Post ceremony streamed online is great, but why stop there?

I think Brendan Nelson is doing a great job at the Australian War Memorial, that mathematically privileged structure adorning the nation's capital, Canberra. There are things afoot. Each day, at 5pm, a Last Post ceremony will take place, and each day a different dead soldier will be commemorated. The ceremonies will be streamed live on the internet. It's open mourning via gov 2.0 with lashings of paper poppies and bugles on tap.

But why stop there? There's more to talk about, surely. After all, not all of the soldiers we sent overseas to fight in war were killed, as I mentioned a couple of days ago right here. Some soldiers return to a life of mental anguish, alcoholism, drug abuse, penury, and social dysfunction. But we shouldn't forget about them! So for these loyal, brave returned servicemen and -women I suggest creating a new

Australian Memorial for Embarrassing Family Members

At the new memorial, all those unfortunates who couldn't manage to get their lives together, or who suicided, can be publicly commemorated, and a daily ceremony involving booze, smack and tobacco, can be streamed live on the internet to millions of curious Australians, many of whom also have suffered due to the toll of war on their close relatives including fathers, uncles and grandfathers. The memorial can also commemorate members of bikie gangs who were once soldiers, and who entered into those fraternities seeking the comfort and solace of the kind of close comradeship that only such organisations can provide.

Don't stop there! There must be plenty of people whose sad fates are linked to specific causes, such as the

Australian Poor Memorial

A structure with this name can reliably be used to celebrate all those Australians who died as a result of poverty, in the short or long term. Here also suicides can be remembered. And all those people whose lives degenerated into a spiraling cycle of crime and incarceration, and who passed away at a relatively young age, their bodies wracked by substance abuse, poor nutrition, and exposure to the elements - many of these people sleep rough, as we know - can be remembered fondly at such a shrine, especially if it is accompanied by tasteful landscaped gardens, gravel walks, and sandstone porticoes.

Australian Dumb Memorial

What about all those young people who lose their lives every year because they drive their cars too fast, and don't take care when they are on the roads? How can we commemorate those lives? Many such people already have small shrines, of course; just drive on any road and sooner or later you will come across a small, white cross by the roadside, one garlanded with wreathes of fresh or dried flowers. But they're not the only ones who would qualify. There are so many stupid deaths in Australia these days, some even involving young men who die as a result of being king-hit outside the local pub. There are glassings, youths who train-surf, children of parents who reject vaccination, and many others. Let's not forget all these valued members of our diverse community.

And there might also be the Australian Sick Memorial for victims of sex crimes, the Australian Greed Memorial for those who die as a result of corporate cupidity, and the Australian Bad Gene Memorial for those who die because of untreatable diseases.

There are so many groups of people who die each year for specific reasons and that can be meaningfully addressed by a caring and prudent government. If we need to have graphic warnings on cigarette packets, why not curb alcohol sales so that fewer people are hospitalised with life-threatening ailments on Friday and Saturday nights? Surely, in these cases, a small, tasteful ceremony at the Australian Dumb Memorial would help raise the profile of stupidity? I'm all for streaming Last Post ceremonies online, but I just don't think that the government is going far enough. If we want to draw attention to grievous injustices and deleterious social ills, then we can't rely on the bloody media. We need to use positive action, in the pattern of the ex-Opposition leader, Brendan Nelson, and make way for the new frontier of digital grief. More ceremonies, not fewer, and put them online all day, twenty-four-seven. Let's get serious about grief. I'm ready to bawl.

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