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Monday, April 20, 2015

What If They Hadn't Gone To War?

It's somewhat pointless asking the question 'but what if' because until such time as we manage to slip through the tapestry of time I fear we are only able to have an influence on the present and only a slight influence on the future at best.

However, as I drove around Sydney today to run my errands in the blustering wind and rain which thrashes and thrusts it's influence across Sydney today I was caught in one of those moments when sunlight is hazed by the droplets of rain falling from heavy grey clouds, the red traffic light diffused in the windshield and for reasons I don't question, in popped the thought of the Anzac soldiers that laid down their lives for Australia - then.

When I think of Anzacs I think immediately of the Ode Of Remembrance, red poppies, old timers, trenches, the movie Gallipoli and the The Last Post . However, today, almost 100 years on since Gallpoli, I was roused by a different kind of gratitude. I realised that in those men dying they freed up people like myself to pursue career paths that previously might have been completely inaccessible.

How we speak, what we wear, the jobs we have, the freedoms we take for granted have all got some lineage to do with WW1.

Until WW1 society was stuck in a reasonably strict hierarchy where there was not much fluidity in the labour market, people were never given much opportunity to rise in society, what you wore was dictated by your social position in society and most importantly, you rarely married up or down in society. You effectively stayed put all your life and were told what you should think and what God you ought to fear.

The end of WW1 brought about a massive wave of change which doesn't ripple in today's society, it swells it. We read whatever content we want to on the internet. We dress in whichever manner we wish to and form social tribes by what we cloak our bodies in. In fact, fashion for men changed forever as before WW1 there was a lot more use of vests, cuffs, pleats and double-breasted suits. In order to conserve fabrics used in production many of these standards were relaxed. Before WW1 it was de rigeur to wear white tie in the evening for a man in society and often he would dine in an all male club. It wasn't until the end of WW1 with all those men lost that the rigid glue which bonded society would be relaxed so that today there are very few places that someone can't go to - in fact, most clubs (which aren't really clubs anymore) , restaurants and hotels would be happy to take your money if you are willing to pay the price for the experience.

Until WW1 most men wore fob watches if they could afford one and checked their time by dipping their hands into their waist coats. Soldiers on the front line of WW1 preferred to have their watches on their wrists in order to synchronise the time before going over the top. That trend over time means that the vast majority of us today wear a wrist watch. Almost every company in the world from Rolex to Swatch owes a debt of gratitude to these men. So too this year will Apple.

And it doesn't end there either. You are able to wear black tie of an evening because standards regarding menswear relaxed after WW1 so that between WW1 and WW2 the dinner suit went through a Golden Era when production processes and a rising middle class meant set new standards in menswear. You are able to buy shirts with collars on them because the industrialisation processes that sprung from WW1 meant that with time the average man could afford a shirt (until then collars were very expensive things which were stored in their own boxes). You drive a car because of those same changes in industrialisation. The foods you eat, the planes you travel in, the way in which we communicate - so much of this has origins in WW1.

So, on the 25th April this year, or this Saturday, spare a thought for everything around you and ask whether or not, if they hadn't gone to war, would it still be there or in the same form as it appears today?

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