Tuesday, 16 July 2013

No, you are not a "Kokoda Track Survivor"

Mr Rudd - and you never will be.
That term has to be reserved for the men who walked the track in 1942. They were Australian soldiers and natives of Papua-New Guinea - the men who walked it under incredibly difficult war time conditions. They did it without the support afforded to those who now walk the route as a tourist adventure of sorts.
Yes, I know it is a hard walk and you have to be fit to do it even if you have the support. Nevertheless Mr Rudd you went off with the best equipment money could buy. You were catered for along the way. The year you walked the track, 2006, it was peace time. There were no Japanese soldiers waiting to capture or, worse, kill you. That ninety-six kilometre path along the Owen-Stanley Ranges might contain some rough terrain but you had time to appreciate the beauty of the country around you. Yes, you did it in daylight didn't you Mr Rudd.
I don't know how long you took but I imagine you went at a leisurely pace, and that can mean as many as twelve days for some people. I might, although it would be extraordinarily difficult for me, even manage to do it myself in twelve days.
It would not make me a Kokoda Track Survivor Mr Rudd. Even if I managed to climb to the very top of Mount Bellamy, all two thousand one hundred and ninety metres of it, I would not be a Kokoda Track Survivor.
In your position Mr Rudd you must have met men who did walk that track in 1942. No, they probably have not told you what it was like. They would not have told you about the heat, their thirst, their lack of food, their rotting boots, their injuries and the malaria and dysentery which killed so many of them. They will not have told you, because there are no words for such things, of the compassion shown by the local people even though there was often no common spoken language between them. (Yes, I did note your own use of a few words of Pidgin the other day and I understood it. I hope the locals did not find it too patronising.) 
I wonder Mr Rudd if you have ever been told of the enduring nightmares of some of those who did return. No, they never forgot. Some of them managed to repress their memories during the day and perhaps for weeks at a time at night. But memories keep coming back. They surface when you least expect them. They are waiting there to capture you over and over again. You have to live with those memories until you die - and your family has to live with them too.
So, no Mr Rudd you are not a Kokoda Track Survivor. You are merely someone who has walked the track in peacetime. There is nothing very special about having done so. Thousands of people do it every year.
I know people who have done it both ways. They don't claim to be survivors.


Anonymous said...

You put your thoughts down much more politely than I would have.

Anonymous said...

I am still furious - and so are a lot of others up here in Canberra, Chris

cathyc said...

Hawke aside, Rudd is the only Labour leader I can think of who makes my skin crawl.

I missed this. One of the joys of being in a place where the big news stories are to do with chocolate.