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Better active evil than passive good?

By Robert Mclean - posted Thursday, 22 November 2012

Opportunity, and reason, were cause to recently visit Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

Entering from the nearby St Kilda Rd a sign alerted me to the reason for my visit, a temporary exhibition entitled “Peace”.

The overall energy of the exhibition warranted curiosity, but particular interest arose from that fact and that included in the display was the print, “Journeys and Destinations” by Melbourne artist Benjamin McKeon and his counterpart, and friend, Nathalia’s Bill Kelly.


Bill and Ben’s collaborative print represented Australia at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights International Print Portfolio.

This print, one of about 50 pieces of artwork and photographs, was inspired by the human right: “Everyone has the right to the liberty and security of person” and one of the limited edition prints sits in the collection of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) library, Switzerland.

Being at the height of the remembrance “season”, the shrine was alive with people from guides and advisors through to a seemingly ceaseless steam of school groups and others obviously eager to see the shrine and experience the sense the wonderment it invoked.

Interestingly, the “war” section of the shrine captured the interest of most, while the “Peace” exhibit languished almost unnoticed in one corner of the main entrance area.

The drama of conflict appeals to, and seems to ignite, human emotions, while peace, the reason for the shrine appears to escape the understanding and interest of most, and so the idea that today we can live peaceably appears well down the hierarchy of importance.

Remembrance is obviously a key reason for the shrine, emphasized by its exquisite placement on high ground just south of the city making it obvious and ensuring the reality of conflicts to which Australia has been a party are constantly considered.


The idea that we acknowledge those who died or suffered to preserve the life we presently enjoy warrants applause, but as we do that, it is important we escape the violent and quarrelsome paradigm promoted by the military/industrial complex.

Just last week a climatologist told an Echuca conference considering an indigenous response to climate change that a world-wide effort to mitigate that unfolding difficulty would cost some $30-40 billion a year, which is considered by most to be too costly.

However, confusingly and in what was a stark contrast, he pointed out, that the world spends about $780 billion each year of military machinations, not including the death or injury to thousands of people, the damage to property or the accumulating injury to the earth’s atmosphere.

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