What I wouldn’t die for

Justine Toh reflects on how Anzac Day - when we honour soldiers' ultimate sacrifice - is an annual reminder of what she wouldn’t die for.

It’s not as though I want to make this day, of all days, about me. But Anzac Day, when we honour soldiers for “making the ultimate sacrifice”, as we say, is also an annual reminder of what I wouldn’t die for.

Would I sacrifice myself out of duty to my country? No, although that Ukrainian couple that got married the day Russia invaded and then jointly volunteered for the war effort makes a stirring, photogenic argument in favour of doing so. Still not signing up.

My friends? We’ve been through so much together and I love you and all. Still, maybe not that much.

My faith? We-ell. Yes, in theory. Is that controversial? I’m just paranoid that I’d cave at the last second.

The only thing I’d willingly die for, without reservations, is entirely unsurprising: my family.

Going out on a limb here, but I don’t think I’m unusual, faithless, sociopathic, or particularly self-absorbed. (Others may disagree.)

I think I’m a reflection, and a product, of an Australia made complacent by peace and prosperity. And a world that makes the love of self its highest aim.

Those military advertisers know it, too. The Australian Navy’s recent drive for recruits tempts them with the line: “live a story worth telling”. In the United States, “be all you can be” is the army’s slogan. The psychology of the pitch: this generation is all about self-interest.

Australia’s war veterans probably didn’t enlist for altogether selfless reasons. But those uniforms and medals scream “duty”, which seems so alien to me. Perhaps it shouldn’t.

The ranks of older veterans are thinning out. They take with them one more earthly education in self-sacrifice.