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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 12 (March 1, 1940)

The Far Horizon — Peace Next Time Must Be Built To Last

page 17

The Far Horizon
Peace Next Time Must Be Built To Last

Departure from Wellington of members of the First Echelon of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Departure from Wellington of members of the First Echelon of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

The stuff of victory is richly and variously woven. Purple thread of sacrifice; golden thread of love; silver lines of laughter; bluff, stout homespun of long and wearying toil. All these—and half a hundred more—are caught into the hurrying fabric as the seconds and the minutes fly like shuttles of a vast, eternal loom.

When the weave is finished it will have in it something of all of us. For modern war lays its blighting hand on whole nations. Time was when the Services fought, and the people at home did little except grumble. To-day it is more than ever true that the Services fight; but they are vastly expanded in personnel, and, recruited now from every stratum of the nation, have become citizen Services; moreover, they cannot prevail in their fight unless civil life be organised and all its efforts devoted to the common end.

Win this war we will. Not just because, as some people say, it is the British habit to win. We shall win because we must. Were we to lose, the sum of our loss would be beyond measure. The backbone of our democracy would be broken. We should be robbed of everything that enriches our mental and spiritual life: above all, that personal freedom—of conscience, of worship, of thought, of writing, of speech—for which our fathers and our fathers' fathers to countless generations have shed their blood. Since we all enjoy this liberty of the person and these riches of the spirit, it is fair that all should lend a hand in their defence.

This is a people's war for reasons other than that all the peoples of Europe are within range of the bombers. It is a struggle between those who believe the State exists to serve the people, and those who would make the people serfs of the State. It is being fought to save the people's heritage from an onslaught of brutal aggression. It is a war that overleaps frontiers, since we fight not for ourselves only, but for the people of Germany as well. It is a war, too, that nobody on our side wished to fight; yet a war which now we all must fight or be prepared to accept the consequences of abject surrender.

A scene on the wharf before embarkation on one of the large transports.

A scene on the wharf before embarkation on one of the large transports.

Our ideal in New Zealand through a hundred years, but especially in the last fifty, has been the progressive establishment of true social democracy. We have gone from one objective to the next in a series of unbroken advances, as opportunity and our means permitted. page 18 Whatever our delays or mistakes, our false economies or misplaced extravagances, we have never abandoned the intention of building an ever-better society. Nor must we abandon that intention now. This menace that confronts us must be challenged and beaten, not only to preserve liberties that otherwise would be destroyed, but also because, were it to beat us, our dream of a progressively happier future would become a horrible nightmare. Let us be on guard lest the alarms and excursions of the present—our preparations for war and the waging of war—should dim our hope of a future that will be free from war.

True to all that is finest in British history, young men are once more offering themselves gladly to the cause of justice and freedom. Many of them are the sons of men who made the same offer a generation ago. Theirs is a proud distinction. That the same need should have arisen twice in 25 years is a terrible indictment of human conduct.

People talk of equality of sacrifice. In war there is no equality of sacrifice. No other type of service, however wholehearted and selfless, can ever compare with that of the men who fight in the front line and the women who tend them closely behind it. Soldiers and sailors and airmen and nurses–these win wars. True, they cannot win without our help; but without their far nobler part, our small efforts at home would be fruitless. All do contribute to victory, but not equally.

On the other hand, civilians and soldiers alike will share in the security won by victory. And usually civilians more than soldiers are responsible for the peacemaking which follows victory. Civilians, therefore—ordinary stay-athome people like ourselves—must bear the blame for whatever went wrong between 1919 and 1939. We who are not privileged to play an active part in the winning of this war are nevertheless, through our several Governments and Parliaments, trustees for unborn millions of our race. If we make a peace that lasts, they will reap the benefit. If we make a shortsighted peace, or if we misuse the opportunities that peace will offer for the friendly adjustment of international differences—then the splendid sacrifices of our young men will have been made in vain. Posterity will turn and curse us.

War last September was inescapable; it was barely escaped a year earlier. Yet it need not have come. Had all men in all lands been true to the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations, it would never have come. The Versailles settlement was far from perfect, if only for the fact that it failed to take full account of the imperfections of human nature. But at least it did embody, in the Covenant of the League, a grand picture of the ultimate unity of mankind, and of a political system under which nations would be free to live and trade in unclouded peace.

Of our own experience within the last ten years, we know that times of peace are not necessarily times of unalloyed prosperity. Peace, nonetheless, is the normal state of nations, the only state in which civilisation can reach the full flower of its development. It is the assurance of continuing peace that will induce and establish prosperity. The economic upsets of the past quarter of a century have been part of the harvest of war. Once we cease sowing the international field with dragon's teeth, we can reasonably expect to gather the ample harvests of peace—rich in material comforts and spiritual contentment. Although we are at war primarily to save our freedom and our free institutions, we ask of destiny more than that: to be left in peace to develop our country, to harness the [gap — reason: illegible] sources of Nature, to build up the health and spirit of our people, to banish economic injustice, to broaden the outlook of our minds, to live our lives among our fellow-men as God intends we should.

Our war aims and our peace aims are one: By breaking the power of international tyranny to save ourselves from the threat of barbarian rule, and to free the people of Germany from its actuality. To secure the sovereignty of peoples in international as in national affairs. To lay the foundations of a durable peace by setting them firmly on the unalterable principles of justice and liberty. To keep faith with the men who fight: that they shall not return to struggle and penury; that their sons and daughters through all the future may be spared the plague of recurring war. To glimpse a vision splendid on the far horizon, and to hold it steadfastly in our hearts as we bend our backs to the tasks about us.