Can you believe the roast the quartermaster did on those coffee beans?

The ancient Greek historian Plutarch tells a story of a Spartan mother whose five sons have gone off to war and waits anxiously for news of their fate outside the city.

She asks an approaching servant how fares the battle.

"Your five sons are slain," he replies.

"Vile slave, was that what I asked thee?"

"We have won the victory," he responds and the mother rushes to a temple to thank the gods for her peoples' good fortune.

"That is a citizen," wrote Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1762, recounting this tale in his book Emile.

It makes me wonder whether he or Plutarch would even recognise the soft-bellied citizens of modern Greece or Australia?

Many in this country consider it twee or naive to assume we owe our nation anything other than income tax (at the lowest possible rate) and to stand and shut up for 15 seconds while the ode is recited at the RSL.

Duty, however? Thrift? Your life? I mean, really ... what's Australia done for me lately?

As we endure the never-ending election campaign, try to imagine Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott popping up on the 6pm news and delivering John F. Kennedy's famous line: "Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country."

Huh? WTF? You want something from me?

Imagine how that'd go down with the majority of today's citizens ... sorry, voters.

There are a lot of dirty words in politics but one all parties will be steering away from like it's Clive Palmer's bum crack this election, is "sacrifice".

People don't want hear it. We want cheap bread, cheap milk, cheap petrol, free health care, free wi-fi, free-to-air footy, low unemployment, low interest rates, no traffic jams, cold beer and unmetered beach parking ... otherwise I'm voting for the other lot.

The idea we might owe our country something in return for all that? You serious? The notion we might owe future Australians a debt for our luxurious present? Are you having sex with trees, you leftie weirdo?

We're a country that can complain about the hot weather and the Carbon Tax in the same breath with not a smidge of irony.

There's a saying, "tough times make tough people", but if you swap it round, does the opposite apply? Do good times - and let's not kid ourselves, these are good times - produce soft people?

The American political commentator Dan Carlin poses this scenario in one of his fabulous Hardcore History podcasts, asking listeners to imagine being at war with a country very similar to their own: Same size, population, GDP, even the same military and equipment.

"There's only one difference between this country and us ... the other country is made up of our grandparents," says Carlin.

And not your gramps in a wheelchair: in their prime, fighting wars and surviving depressions and washing their undies in the sink.

As you bow your head for the Ode this Anzac Day, ask yourself whether you would have been capable of doing the things our Diggers did, or absorbing the horrors they had to?

It's easy to look at modern sportspeople's improved performances, our elevated corporate efficiency and output, technological and medical breakthroughs - and tell ourselves we're improving as a race; we're faster, better and stronger.

However, if there's a constant in history, it's the softer and more indulgent a society becomes, the closer it moves to collapse or conquest by a harder, nastier, more dutiful power.

Voltaire said: "History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up."

I wonder what sound your eight pairs of designer sneakers make on those steps?

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