ANZAC silence: why we don’t talk about inter-generational trauma

red-poppies-anzac-day

On the 25th of April every year, Australians and New Zealanders gather to remember those lost in the world wars. It is a solemn commemoration. Red poppies adorn lapels, heads are bowed, wreaths are ceremonially placed, trumpets sound and shots are fired. Tribute is paid to those who died and those who survived. Some of these ancestors had no choice; they were conscripted. Duty was compulsory, and it is far easier to tell stories about just wars than to consider the political power-struggles over territory and resources that are always involved. Realities are always more complicated.

Some criticise the glorification of war and the narrative of historic bravery, courage and justice, but what we don’t tend to talk about is that our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers (as well as the women who are hardly ever mentioned) often returned from war traumatised, with PTSD, unable to function emotionally. We don’t talk about how many of them became violent alcoholics and raised generations of boys (and girls) to be tough, rather than to feel.

With no tools for processing difficult emotions and healing from trauma, what else can we expect but a society where violence is normalised? We sweep our vulnerability and emotional scars under the rug. Our shared cultural legacy lurks in the dark, painfully silent. We loved these people who hurt us. They didn’t know any different – any other way. We internalise their trauma and take to our own children with that same painful tension. The trauma is obvious, despite the silence.

Sure, not everyone who went to war came back traumatised, but this is more than just a private issue. Almost everyone countries who fought these wars has is a descendant of someone who was badly affected. These personal wounds are political. Violence is not a private matter, it is a deeply social concern… So why don’t we talk about it? Perhaps it is more respectful, or just easier, to glorify these heroes – just as we omit many speckled realities from funeral eulogies. But when will we get the chance to actually deal with it? When we’re drunk and prone to outbursts? Maybe this is just humanity. Maybe we have always had wars and resulting traumas to deal with, but isn’t it time to start to talk about it?

It is hard to talk about sensitive things. It is easier to create perfect fictions of heroes than see their failings, weakness, vulnerability and the suffering they caused. But maybe if we stop just seeing the dark stuff as personal, we can really start to deal with it – and begin to heal this inter-generational trauma. We are living in a society where everyone has felt the after-shocks of this trauma, and what we do know about violence is that it tends to create vicious cycles – unless we can break out of them. Awareness is the first step.

Poor People are Dangerous


*WARNING: Generalisations are employed here for effect. I am aware of them. They are not the point.

If you watch the news, in any part of the world, you will see poor people*, usually with dark skin. They will will wear hoodies and low-slung pants. They will appear, mug-shots, wanted by police. They will walk around the court room and stand behind the glass, heads bowed, charged with violent crimes that we cringe to hear the details of. They will gesticulate to the press. They will wear patches that make them look dangerous, they may not even attempt to display middle-class manners. The news doesn’t usually have to tell us: These are poor people. They are dangerous.

Poor people are dangerous because the laws that protect more-privileged people, do not protect them. The laws that give power to more-privileged people, don’t give power to them. In fact, they tend to do the opposite. For this reason, poor people don’t have any good reason not to break those laws.

Poor people are dangerous because they are human beings who ARE All dangerous when cornered with no other options but to be dangerous. And, because everyone else already judges THEM, they have no good reputation to protect*, no security to protect, no bank balance, no job to begin with, nothing to lose*.

Poor people are dangerous, because they’re suffering, because they’re vulnerable and desperate, struggling under the weight of inter-generational trauma and multi-level policy failure, because the experience of living with trauma is of constant psychological pressure, pain and fragmentation. (Interestingly, people who have never experienced this kind of powerlessness, pressure and lack of options, often find it hard to imagine why poor people don’t “just get a job”. These people are sometimes known as “dipshits”.)

Poor people are dangerous because they reflect pieces of us we cannot bear, because it is easier to project everything we don’t like about ourselves and our human nature onto someone else and judge them, than it is to recognise that we are all capable of atrocious things and a combination of circumstance and will have negotiated where we are now, but if the balance of circumstance tips too far, our will might not be enough.

The poorer and more traumatised people are, the more dangerous they become. They lose the luxury of morals. At this point, they can be called “Criminals”. The way society views criminals is as follows: criminals do not deserve to be treated like human beings. They are scary. they must be locked up (to keep us safe) and punished (because that’s what God did in the Old Testament).

Poor people are dangerous because they make “bad choices”, that outsiders assume are just things they shouldn’t do. They gamble, drink and take drugs, the are violent, they abuse children, or so the news tells us. Every one of these bad choices are related to trauma, often intergenerational. Don’t believe me? Look at the RESEARCH.

There is only one way to solve this problem: WE MUST ERADICATE ALL POOR PEOPLE, by stopping them from being poor; by providing healing and developing therapeutic programmes, by funding mental health services, by reducing inequality and supporting community-based organisations and grass-roots solutions, but most of all, by providing many many possibilities and options.

*Yes, these are generalisations. No, I’m not talking about all poor people, so don’t be offended if I’m not talking about you.