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Anzac Day.

Did they, I wonder, play God Save the Queen in the dawn service? Did people march, and salute, and say how brave people were? How admirable it was to waste ten thousand lives on nothing? Did someone say that it was here that the Australian legend began, or some shit like that, as if the blood split in another country could make a national identity any quicker than the blood spilt at home?

Did someone, some fucking retard, say they died for our freedom?

It's a shit day, always has been once you realise what it's about. Lest we forget, they say. Lest we forget what, exactly? Futility, anger, the way oridinary people get picked to live and die so that a small group of people can get some reward. Maybe it'd be different if the things we grew up with as a kids were true. If there was evil, if governments did do things because of the right reasons--but morality is a slippery, fucked up thing, and right is never as simple as you might think, and for every injustice that people get up against, there's hundreds going on that people don't do a thing for it. Flip on the TV right now and you can watch Robert Mugabe in Zimbawbe cling to power through violence and rigging an election, but the international community does, as it has for years in relation to that particular stain of humanity, nothing. Is it because it's difficult? The Western world--the British, in particular--have a bad history with Zimbawbe, and any intervention on their part would be seen as a colonial power reasserting itself, and could, in Mugabe's fevered brain, be seen to prove his point. Or perhaps it's some other shit: perhaps it's because Zimbabwe gives you nothing and is full of unimportant black people. Maybe if it had oil. Maybe if it could support an industry. Maybe if Mugabe had pissed the right people off. Whatever it is, I'm just using it as an example of some kind of thing going on in the world where the reports of people being beaten for voting the wrong way, for people suffering for years, for everything we're all suppose to be against, is quietly accepted.

Maybe Anzac Day isn't comparable, but I surf my friends list and I see a lot of Lest We Forget, I flip on the TV and it's the same thing, and this day here, this is sacred bullshit in this country, and maybe I'm just feeling cynical, maybe I just got up a little more jaded than usual, but this whole day we got here, where once people had a memorial so that such a waste of life ought never take place again, it strikes me that this is not what we're doing these days, and that instead what happens is a glorification of war, of the men who were in it, and the way they died, for such dumb and pointless reasons, and this only reinforces our support for the dumb and pointless wars we're currently in, and will be in later.

Comments

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ex_hestia
Apr. 25th, 2008 02:50 am (UTC)
The resurgence in the popularity of ANZAC Day in recent years has taken social sciences by surprise too. Anthropology lecturers at LTU have been taking a different angle on it. Hopefully I'll remember and explain this right.

The legend of Gallipoli has a distinctly Irish flavour to it in being a celebration of a loss by us, the underdogs. It is not your country until your people have spilt their blood for it.

On the calender it falls not too long after Easter which is another celebration of blood sacrifice and martyrdom by the underdog indicating a superior spiritual strength. The problem with Easter though is that most of us aren't church goers any more and all its imagery is from a pagan celebration of spring and new life while we are going into winter.

The inverse of these two very sober blood sacrifice observances precedes Lent in the form of the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. This pattern is also seen in the festivals of European countries.

Australians are mostly secular and give short shrift to the rituals of grief in general. IMHO the lack of adequate mourning rituals provided by our voracious consumer culture is the biggest factor in ANZAC Day drawing much larger crowds and becoming increasingly more sanctified. As a secular ritual it is inclusive and there are very few chances for Australians to feel that commonality of experience with others.

Since Australia is mostly a nation of migrants and exiles diaspora has a lot to do with it too - mourning the loss of a homeland and trying to make the new one into a place just as good.
benpeek
Apr. 25th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
that doesn't really gel with me, i don't think. especially the final part about migrants--ANZAC day is a predominantly white celebration, i find, and one of its obvious flaws until recent was that as a nation it celebrated dying in another country, but saw the same country refuse to acknowledge the dying done by indigenous people here.

but, who knows. perhaps you're right. if i was to put it down to something, however, i think i'd come out on the side of the almost untouchable quality for critique that the military has. it's a social bad to say that the military has done something wrong, or to disrepsect the lives lost while in combat, and i think this day is part of that, myself.

probably wrong, tho.
ex_hestia
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:01 am (UTC)
Sorry, I should have said this first. I'm pointing out the non-rational motivations. In a secular society that values reason over unreason these impulses tend to be forced to the unconscious and then expressed in ritual with an emotional power that rationality cannot fully explain.

ANZAC Day is fundamentally a death ritual which has been able to expand to include other elements.

I get that ANZAC Day is mostly a "white" thing but that's not to say that those of British or northern European decent have ever really felt comfortable with Australia as a homeland. Compare "our" connection to the land with that of the indigenous people and very "other" they still appear to most Australians. My mother's generation still used to talk of "going home" to England. We have no royalty with a long mythological history of loyalty to the land under _our_ feet, but "we" come from cultures in which young men sacrifice blood for the motherland thereby proving themselves worthy of keeping her. She will then repay this with natural abundance.

Back in WWI the motherland was Great Britain, but somehow this allegiance has been successfully transfered to Australia. I think my lecturer put this down to the strong Irish element that was well acquainted to the disloyalty that British hierarchy habitually showed towards non-Brits and by extension, colonials.

benpeek
Apr. 28th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
yeah, i get the whole thing. it's a valid argument--australians have always searched for a national identity, and what it means to me aus, you know? so that anzac day could feed into that doesn't surprise me at all.
ex_hestia
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
as a nation it celebrated dying in another country, but saw the same country refuse to acknowledge the dying done by indigenous people here.

When you add it up like that it really does boil down to an insulting display of disloyalty to _this_ land and the indigenous people. It's a valid point.

To me this hypocrisy you point out is the clue that ANZAC Day has less to do with reason than unreason since, despite the various opposing perspectives on it, the day has become more and more popular each year. So that makes me think that there's more going on with this than politics and war glamour.
catsparx
Apr. 25th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)
Anzac day used to make me really angry -- especially when I was at school, because although we were told repeatedly that we were commemorating loss rather than glorifying war, I really couldn't see it that way at all. I think that particularly in the past, young men were tricked and bullied into going to 'fight for their country'. How terrifying something like conscription must have been. That the government could make you go to another country and kill people against your will. Older friends tell me there were no such things as conscientious objectors back in WWI & II. The culture did not permit it. If you didn't go to war you were a coward & thats all there was to it. Rob was in the draft for Vietnam but thankfully didn't get called up. When I think of soldiers from those wars, I think of guys like you and Rob & how I imagine you'd react if you had to fight, not faceless macho types in matching uniforms.

So these days, on Anzac day, I do spare a thought for soldiers and battlefield nurses & everyone else whose life got fucked up by the enforcement of war. I feel so very sorry for them all.
benpeek
Apr. 28th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
yeah, there's that. and it's quite true--but i just don't see that that's how people view the day now.

of course, if it'd been me picked in a draft, i would've been one of those dodgers, white feathers in the mail type.
sonanova
Apr. 25th, 2008 11:34 am (UTC)
It's kind of like a back to back Memorial Day and 4th of July here, what with a little Columbus Day sprinkled in, although the last part is not so true as it was when we actually celebrated C-Day. You know, in the days before "injuns" was people - oh, you know, about 20 years ago or so...
benpeek
Apr. 28th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)
yeah, kinda sad when you can see the same practices world wide, huh?
frogworth
Apr. 27th, 2008 11:31 am (UTC)
Yeah, not really into ANZAC Day. Just another day when the post doesn't come... But if really was a day to commemorate the horrific and utter pointlessness of war, well that'd be something I guess...

And here's the new Herd video, for The King Is Dead, featuring yr hmbl commenter on cello. (Not featuring, more like backgrounding, but that's as it should be!)
benpeek
Apr. 28th, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
thanks. linked.
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