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Saturday, 15 March 2014 12:03

Beyond Perception

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   Bonjour à tous!

Je suis très heureux d'être un jeune ambassadeur de Nouvelle-Zélande. Au cours des prochains mois, je concentrerai mon travail sur un domaine important.

My question is going to focus on perception and in a nutshell it is:

To what extent has the perception of New Zealand War efforts during World War One evolved over time the last hundred years?

I will particularly focus on recognition (In terms of acknowledgement and appreciation) shown towards soldiers in New Zealand during the war and post war. Secondly, I will evaluate how much New Zealand as a nation was recognized and acknowledged for its contribution? in France throughout and since the war. This section will mainly occur while we are in France. As I am focusing on any changes in perception in the area of recognition I will also look at the role technology has played in driving any changes and how it can be used in the future to continue to promote and sustain the legacy of World War One.

WHY IS THIS OF INTEREST

New Zealand is a small country with a self-promoted story that it has punched above its weight on the world stage. At the time of the First World War New Zealand was still very strongly connected with Great Britain and therefore Europe. (Our soldiers had even flocked to the Boer war a decade earlier in defence of the Empire). This connection has changed in the last 100 years as New Zealand has forged its own identity independent from the colonial past. At the same time, attitudes towards war and service have also changed. The nationalism and enthusiasm present as soldiers left for WW1 and perhaps even WW2 was all but gone by the time of the Vietnam war – replaced with protest and controversy. In recent conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan any role played by the New Zealand Military has closely scrutinised by politicians and the public alike.

Given these changes it seems appropriate at this anniversary of World War 1 to compare and contrast New Zealand and French perspectives and opinions of this event. There is such a large physical and cultural gap between our two countries – does this translate to how things were seen in the past and are seen now.?

In approaching this question it is important to remember the way the war was publicized. In our modern era, we have up to the minute updates on political conflicts, yet 100 years ago, the news from the battlefield to New Zealand was dramatically delayed and filtered. That is why I want to evaluate how soldiers were seen and recognized at the time in New Zealand itself in comparison to France where they were fighting and dying. I am also interested in the question of what soldiers were fighting for, so distant from home, without close contact. How were they continually motivated to fight through Le Quesnoy, the Somme and Messines? If a similar event happened in the modern era, what would be our motivation? I highly doubt with the increased sense of freedom of choice over the last 100 years that motivation to go to war would be the same. Thus my focus is on recognition and its impact on a sense of duty, connection and therefore motivation.

HOW I AM GOING TO APPROACH THIS TASK

At first I plan to explore the New Zealand Media’s reaction to the war and its battles through News Papers found at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. To supplement this I will interview the elder members of our community who grew up post war through the late 1920’s and 1930’s. What were they told happened? How is that different from what we know now? I will also look at letters from soldiers throughout my blog to compare what is being stated in newspapers in New Zealand and newspapers in France. Once I am in France, I will investigate the local population’s knowledge of New Zealand – and the impact of the War here as well as what life in France was like for the average naïve New Zealand soldier far from home. To conclude my study I will look at the role technology has played in creating greater connection between the current generations and the ‘true’ war stories as we now see them. I will also look at how we can use technology to promote the legacy of World War One through New Zealand Youth.

As a kick start I would like to share this article written in the New Zealand Herald discussing New Zealand’s role in the allied capture of Le Quesnoy. It offers a brief example of what I will be evaluating in blogs to come.

Merci à bientôt

Josh

Read 1852 times Last modified on Saturday, 15 March 2014 12:11

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