“Join the army, travel to exotic distant lands, meet exciting and unusual people . . . and kill them”

The Imagining Australia quartet look Anzac legend through the eyes of young Australians and see a new cosmopolitanism:

It is the tragedy of the event that moves young Australians. We weep for the memory of wasted young lives because in the Anzac spirit young Australians see themselves: the cosmopolitan spirit of curiosity, adventure, good humour and humility. Young Australians, who today so readily travel the world, sense in the Anzacs kindred forebears, possessing the same wanderlust and fearless passion to explore.

The new Anzac legend is about the mourning and celebration of young Australians – the type who we all know and recognise – whose lives were cut tragically short on the other side of the world, far from their families and loved ones, while indulging the unique Australian spirit of adventure and exploration.

This is why Anzac today remains an important part of Australia’s attempts to deal with national tragedies such as at Interlaken or at Bali.

What if young Australians really do read Gallipoli through the same frame as the Bali bombing?

The tourists caught in the Bali bombing had little interest in the politics that tore their lives apart. They went to Bali for fun. And in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald Michael Duffy says that the Anzacs went for the same reason:

… in general, for many men war has been fun. That’s why so many men – including large numbers of Australians in the world wars – have been prepared to join up so enthusiastically.

Duffy claims that men are attracted to the intensity and excitement of war – killing is fun. Retired infantry officer and psychologist Dave Grossman, disagrees. In his book On Killing he argues that "there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it." But perhaps war seemed like an adventure to the young recruits… before they arrived on the battlefield.

If Andrew Leigh and company are right then today’s young Australians don’t care what the fighting was for. They honor the Anzacs because they suffered and died even though they didn’t deserve to. Their deaths were tragic in the same way as the victims at Bali. They were innocents abroad who were only doing what their society expected of them. It wasn’t their job to get involved in the politics.

Perhaps this is why the activist left has been so hostile to the celebration of Anzac Day. The New Left’s big idea was that young people should not leave politics to an elite. The enemy was political apathy and a system which praised young men for killing each other without asking why. Over at John Quiggin’s blog at least one commentor sees nothing to celebrate.

The strangest thing about Anzac Day is the way the Gallipoli conflict is torn from its historical context. It no long has anything to do with defending the Empire or defeating the Germans. The enemy troops have now become fellow victims. They didn’t deserve to die either. It’s as if the whole episode was some sort of natural disaster that our diggers confronted with courage and stoicism. Maybe that’s all it means now. Sometimes terrible things happen. When they do we need to be brave. And when they don’t we should be grateful.

 

 

Postscript: I’m sorry I chose the title I did for this post. It offended people in a way I hadn’t intended (but ought to have anticipated). I apologize for that. It was an insensitive thing to post on Anzac day.

But since I’ve already posted it, I might as well take responsibility for what I said and explain why I picked that title.

I first saw a version of the slogan on the RAAF base at Williamstown. It was back in the days when they still flew Mirages. At the time I was schoolboy cadet in the Air Training Corps. Being a RAAF base the t-shirt slogan ended with the words "and bomb them."

I’d always assumed that it was a bit of military black humor (US military bases also had the t-shirts). There was a time when recruitment ads played up the attractions of travel and adventure in exotic locations. But in reality everyone knew that it wasn’t going to be like the WWII movies – all excitement and heroic self sacrifice. While anti-war protesters can pick and choose which wars to support and which to oppose, a serviceman or woman is asked to take a leap of faith. It’s an imperfect world and every nation needs a military force. So if you join up (and someone has to) you have to make a commitment to follow lawful orders whether you agree with them or not. You don’t know if you’ll have to fight. And if you do have to, you don’t know who you’ll fight or why. Maybe it has to be that way but it’s a terrible thing to ask from anybody.

And despite what Michael Duffy says, I imagine that killing another human being must be one of the most difficult things a person can ever be asked to do. I’m sure there are people who would risk their own life for the men they serve alongside but pull back from taking the life of an enemy. I can’t imagine what it must be like to come home from a conflict to have people tell you that what you did was wrong – that you killed for no reason. The men and women who return from a conflict are entitled to our respect no matter what we think of politics behind it.

Not everyone in the armed forces is going to be looking down the sights of rifle but the specter of killing is always there. When civilians like me watch the troops march by on Anzac Day, we like to think of the danger they faced. We imagine them being shot at, leaping over the trenches to be mowed down by machine-gun fire. We think of them, like Jesus, sacrificing themselves for us. What we don’t want to think about is that we don’t just ask these people to die for us – we also ask them to kill for us. And when we forget about this, we not only dismiss the terrible burden they are forced to bear, but we release ourselves of responsibility. A military can’t protect a country just by dying for it.

Obviously, coming from someone who hasn’t served the slogan in my post’s title is offensive. I think it’s offensive for two reasons. The first is that it implies that the men and women who join the armed forces do it just for the adventure and travel. It makes them sound like backpackers on a holiday – people who don’t understand the seriousness of what they’ve undertaken. As horrible as the Bali bombing was, it was something quite different to what the Anzacs signed up for. The second reason it’s offensive is that it suggests that men and women join up because they want to kill. That’s something I can’t accept. War isn’t some kind of extreme sport played for excitement. It’s a tragedy that happens when politics fails.

So there you go… that’s it without the irony or cleverness. When we forget about the killing, we dishonor the men and women who served.

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Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

“….there is within most men an intense resistance to killing their fellow man. A resistance so strong that, in many circumstances, soldiers on the battlefield will die before they can overcome it.”

There’s nothing new here, with respect, Don. Everyone in the ADF knows it. That’s what the training and discipline are about: to enable men and women in combat to make and live with decisions that none of us out of uniform will ever have to make.

An officer has to decide if people are going to die, including his own people. If a platoon is cut off and surrounded, a good officer has to be able to say, ‘We’re not going to relieve them, we’re not going to send another three platoons, because they’d get killed as well. We have to let them die, even if they are our good friends.’ It has to be hell to live with that, but it’s what is called for from the professionals.

It’s tough to be a soldier. But they all know what to expect when they sign up. They are entitled to our respect and admiration. They’ve got mine. The title of your post just insults them.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

… and (here’s me getting steadily more and more enraged) these guys put their own lives on the line every time they go out there. Whether it’s in Iraq, hostage to a sniper’s bullet or a suicide bomber’s IED, or bringing stability back to the train-wreck that is the Solomon Islands, given over to criminal gangs, or in Cambodia, or Somalia – always doing the dirty work for us, just becuse the government of the day tells them to. And armchair arseholes have got the fucking nerve to pontificate about the morality of soldiering. It’s the soldiers that bleed and die. But they don’t complain; it goes with the territory, and they know that.

I don’t usually get this upset, but something about the title of this post really did it for me.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Dennis Glover wrote a great piece in the sadly subscribers only Fin Review. Feel free to email me for a copy at nicholas AT gruen DOT com DOT au. I was going to post on it, maybe I still will.

For a long time I’ve smelt a rat in expressions like ‘making the supreme sacrifice’. Glover does a good job of demystifying some of this. More later if I get the time.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Oh, fuck, what’s the use. You make the supreme sacrifice, Nicholas, and see what it feels like.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Like Kevin Donnelly, I’m going to depart Troppo. This is my day for burning bridges. It’s absolutely fucking outrageous to put up a post with this title on Anzac Day.

adrian
2022 years ago

Yes, the young go off to fight wars but who ever said they must have the maturity to debate and annunicate the politics thereof ? Their young with minds have barely graduated beyond the schoolyard. So of course they’re fearless and adventure seekers at that age. Who isn’t.

It’s argueable that no person truly matures till around 30, once they’re over the experimentation and direction-seeking of their twenties. So what. It’s the natural progression of human development. Yet you imply young soldiers should be equipped with wisdom, which only comes from years of adulthood.

” Perhaps this is why the activist left has been so hostile to the celebration of Anzac Day “.

Or perhaps it’s more to do with the activist Left being in the same boat as these young soldiers, i.e. immature. As evidenced by the post’s title – it’s not even undergraduate, it’s simply infantile.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Rob

Don’t get too carried away. There are numerous voices on Troppo, Don’s being one of them. I think his chosen title for this piece was a tad insensitive too. But Troppo rules give every contributor the right to say what they want, subject only to defamation, obscenity laws and so on (and a broad notion of civility).

There are other voices here taking a different view of Anzac Day. Take Scott’s post or Wendy’s, for instance, or a coupe of comments of mine. One of the main points of a group blog like Troppo is precisely that you get a variety of viewpoints on issues. By definition you’re not going to agree with all of them, so the fact of your disagreement with Don isn’t really a very good reason to depart in high dudgeon.

Mindy
Mindy
2022 years ago

Husband D has a problem with the army recruitment ads of a couple of years ago that showed soldiers rebuilding schools etc in Timor. Not because it wasn’t a good thing to do, but because it downplayed the real purpose of the army, which is to defend Australian interests and if necessary kill people. When Iraq came around and the idea that they might have to kill people occurred to some recruits there were a few saying “I signed up for rebuilding after the conflict, not being in it”.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mindy

Why are such ads misleading? Peacekeeping and rebuilding constitute the great majority of the activities of the Australian military over the last 20 years, and most probably will do so over the next 20 as well (I hope). That said, military forces by definition have the primary war-fighting role should a war actually occur. I’d be very surprised if this fact had escaped the attention of a significant number of military recruits, except perhaps a tiny number whose IQ makes them unsuitable for any occupation outside a sheltered workshop for the intellectually handicapped.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

Huh? what’s up with Rob? If he’s ‘outraged’ by Don’s title then he should be similarly outraged by Michael Duffy’s piece which I think Don’s title was merely a cheeky allusion to. So go on, Rob, burn your bridges with that RWDB Michael Duffy. I won’t hold my breath. And close the door on your way out.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

Some ‘right wingers’ around here are sanctimonous and irony deficient as to be almost insipid. Go on Adrian, where’s your post flaming Michael Duffy? i’m waiting for it.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Sanctimony is ideologically borderless, Jason.
As much as I enjoy debate, timing shouldn’t be underestimated. For some reason, I find the whole, utilising-Anzac-Day-to-foster-the-Gallipoli-is about-glorifying-killing meme to be intellectually on par with a 3 year old saying “bum” repeatedly to be controversial. It’s precisely because Anzac Day looms so large – and in incrediblty complex ways – in Australian consciousness that it’s detractors seize the bum-exposing moment. One of John Quiggin’s commenters offered this:” I won’t mark Anzac day, because whatever you would like it to be, it is not a means of remembering the horror of war, but of mythmaking. Last Anzac day, my flight to Sydney landed at 11 am. As I was walking through the terminal, an announcement was made: “We ask you all to stand in silence for one minute, in memory of those who fought for freedom and democracy in the First World War”

Mindy
Mindy
2022 years ago

Ken I don’t know why it has escaped their notice, but apparently it did. D works with a number of people connected to the defence forces both f/t and p/t and the gossip has filtered through. I too hope that the precedent of peacekeeping and rebuilding keeps going, but occassionally even as a peacekeeper you have to pick up a gun.

Jason Soon
Jason Soon
2022 years ago

Geoff
I didn’t see Don’s piece as fostering any meme. He was merely providing an overview of the debate surrounding Anzac symbolism and noting a revision in the way Australians see it. And again for the third time let me note Michael Duffy’s title ‘War is fun and a big picnic lest we forget’ which Don’s title was summarising and alluding to. Again I ask where is the confected outrage from Rob and Adrian?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I don’t know Jason. Maybe they’re not interested in taking your all-too-transparent bait :)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

“If Andrew Leigh and company are right then today’s young Australians don’t care what the fighting was for. They honor the Anzacs because they suffered and died even though they didn’t deserve to. Their deaths were tragic in the same way as the victims at Bali. They were innocents abroad who were only doing what their society expected of them. It wasn’t their job to get involved in the politics. …

Perhaps this is why the activist left has been so hostile to the celebration of Anzac Day. The New Left’s big idea was that young people should not leave politics to an elite. The enemy was political apathy and a system which praised young men for killing each other without asking why.”

It isn’t obvious to me what is wrong with today’s youth seeing Gallipoli in this way (assuming they do). Young men have always felt immortal and had a strong sense of adventure (in between feeling monumentally depressed and believing that everything bad is aimed personally at them). Identifying with the senseless slaughter of an earlier generation of youth, however stripped of historical context, surely can’t be a bad thing. We might wish that more of them had developed greater curiosity and analytical powers, but it has ever been thus and probably always will.

And the observation that the New Left traditionally bemoans the people’s lack of political consciousness says rather more about the New Left than it does about the people.

Moreover, what makes anyone think young Australians don’t know the context of Australia’s involvement in WWI i.e. battle for resources and territory between crumbling European colonial powers etc.? My daughter Rebecca is currently studying year 12 history, and she is taught this stuff in considerable detail. I assume the same is true of many if not most high school students (at least those who study history). Why assume they don’t understand the historical “big picture”? Is it merely because (apparently) young Australians are becoming more engaged with commemorating Anzac Day than was the case back in the immediate post-Vietnam War period? That they mostly don’t engage in long, agonised, academic soliloquies while commemorating, but commemorate with the spontaneity and optimism of youth?

Or is it because Don thinks they’ve failed to make the critical connection between the “Big Picture” back in 1915 and the Big Picture of 2005? That young Australians are being packed off to Iraq as we speak, to bolster the neocons’ imperial ambitions (at least as many on the left like to see it). But does the fact that most Australians are not (so far at least) joining forces with the left in a new moratorium campaign to demand withdrawal from Iraq mean that we’re all ignorant dupes who don’t understand historical context? Or might it be that many (like me) have doubts about the wisdom of the original invasion in view of the revealed lack of WMD, but still think it’s essential to see the peacekeeping and rebuilding task through to a conclusion in the interests of both the Iraqi people and the peace and security of the Middle East and the world at large? And that others have still different perspectives, which differ from both Don and myself, but are still grounded in their own appreciation of historical context? The fact that their judgments may differ from either Don’s or mine doesn’t indicate that they’re just ignorant dupes of the evil Howard/Bush neocons.

In any event, the current upsurge in popular patriotic and passionate feelings about Anzac Day has been evident for some years now, and certainly predates any evil Machiavellian/Howardian scheme to provide willing cannon fodder or whip up jingoism to enhance support for the ongoing Iraq involvement. I suggest it springs from a range of social factors (including those enunciated by Andrew Leigh et al) that can’t reasonably be seen as sinister.

And similarly with Don’s apparent bemoaning of modern Australians seeing Turkish troops at Gallipoli as “fellow victims”. Why is this a bad thing? Surely some 90 years later, when the historical context of those days has become a subject for the history books rather than one with vital contemporary relevance, the remaining message we should all take away is that in war most on both sides really ARE fellow victims.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I have a lot of good friends in the services, including some who did what they had to in East Timor and Somalia, so I saw red for a moment, I guess. I over-reacted. Apologies to Don.

Dominic
Dominic
2022 years ago

As a member of the “Australian Youth” I suppose I have a few things to say…

1st, ‘the public’ these days is more educated than at any time in the past and is more poltically aware and involved. Its the very fact that people are aware of the complexities of issues that occasionally prevents us from taking the anti-Vietnam war type black and white actions. The idea that people are politically ignorant or disinterested presupposes ones own superiority. At the age of 24 I can see clearly that I know more than I did at the age of 23, and much more than I did at the age of 18. The obvious conclusion is that I will know yet more at the age of 25 and so on. I can’t, then, know everything and it would be irrational to ‘assume’ that I am significantly more (or less) informed, intelligent or active than any other individual until I know more about them.

2nd, I share Ken’s views on Iraq. I was against the war because I could see it was completely bogus. It came out of no where and was so obviously an exploitation of the prevailing climate of political will to take military action against “terrorism” to pursue what was a mixture of personal (family) business, personal (economic/oil lobby) politics and to ride the wave of high poll support (as I repeatedly said in every conversation I had about it at the time). Bush pursued an aggressive/belligerant foreign policy form the outset (initially focused against China, but S11 changed that to a more feasable advasary) and this was a continuation of that. Howard could see advantages in supporting the US unconditionally in creating favourable negotiating terms at the US/AUS FTA. Having said all that, I never actally marched against the war or spoke out against it even in private conversation because I believed that Saddam was a murderous dictator who had been and continued to brutalise the Iraqi people, deprive them of the basic freedom to express their personality and was active in creating animosity between the Islamic and Western worlds. My “arm chair cost-benefit analysis” was that lots of peple were going to die for a bogus reason, but that is still better than even more people dying over an extended period of time and enduring ongoing suffering because no one cares enough to do anything about it.

3rd, I’m in favour of our troops being in Iraq now, because they are on a peace making mission. In economics you don’t count sunk costs in your future decision making. Its the same here, we sholdn’t be considering how they got there when we think about wheather they should stay. We should only be thinking about the consequences of leaving compared to the consequences of staying. The answer? Stay.

and finally, my view on ANZAC day. I refuse to take part in it. I personally mourn the deaths of people in conflict every day when I read about them in the media, but John Quiggen’s quoted commentator expressed my sentiment exactly. The celebration is about myth making and regardless of its intent or our wishes, it fosters nationalism which is the reverse side of the xenaphobia coin. People who take part in the celebration frequently talk about a strong sense of feeling Australian, about pride in their military forces etc. These are not sentiments I think should be encouraged. Military forces should be respected to the extent they are used to make peace and viewed with horror to the extent they are used to cause suffering. At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own actions, and the person pulling the trigger has to make that decision weighing up all their options.

My apologies to anyone who is hurt by my views, but they are formed with consideration only for the global consequences of various paths of action and all I can offer more than that is my sympathy for the people who pay high personal costs. The best consequences for society usually involve the fewest high personal costs, but there are almost always some people who can’t be compensated.

ab
ab
2022 years ago

It’s not that young Australians don’t care, it’s just that we don’t have clue what the fighting was for, particularly in Gallipoli’s case. While everyone seems to grasp the ‘Australia went to war because Britain went to war’ concept, the underlying causes of WWI are simply a mystery to most young Australians. There’s no moral foundation to stand on when assessing the whole affair – the catastrophic losses are not foremost thought of as ‘in a good cause’, so the emphasis is placed on courage in a futile and senseless campaign.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Dominic,

What “myth” are we trying to make in Anzac?

mark
2022 years ago

ab, I don’t think even war historians know what WWI was for. It seems to me to have been a case of six countries deciding that endless games of scissor-paper-rock were insufficient to divide up the land between them, and it was time to see if German could really cover French, if Russian could really smash German, and so on. Idiot diplomats making deals with each other… “if we get an excuse, we’ll gang up on Serbia/Austria/insert country, orright?”

Then Archduke Ferdinand gets shot. You could hear the equivalent shouts of “Remember the Maine!” almost before it happened.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Let’s get rid of the word “myth”, just for a moment. Replace it with the neutral term “story”.

We are watching a quite extraordinary focus on the Gallipoli story over the last ten or fifteen years. I suggest it began quietly, with more attendances at Anzac Cove on the day. Chris Master was in very early with two films on the matter. But now it has spread to a large amount of coverage in the press, a heap on ABC television.

Six years ago I watched the progress of a film about one aspect of the Gallipoli story as it tried to get funding through the broadcasters – and didn’t get a nibble. The ABC has ignored the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade, but rushed to get a ninety minute documentary ready for the 60th anniversary of Gallipoli. That is one indication of the prevailing framework.

It is pretty odd that the Gallipoli story is such a focus. The Western Front was more brutal, while WW2 has its own extraordinary narratives. Kokoda being the obvious one. Even Al Bundy, is his otherwise dismisssive comment, manages to raise the question of Maroubra Force.

There’s a lot of foundations stories we should be telling, but Anzac Cove is the one we focus on.

What makes it even odder is the downplaying of Armistice Day, which after all celebrated the coming of peace for everyone on both sides. To my mind, that is the moment worth blowtorching into our history.

So the attention to Gallipoli is something which is asking for an explanation.

Dominic
Dominic
2022 years ago

Geoff,

I’m kind of suprised that this choice of word would be the first part of a not brief post to attract a response, but I concede that since I had taken the word from your earlier post, I didn’t spend a great deal of time deciding if it was precisely the most suitable to get my meaning accross. Thanks for the opportunity to elaborate :)

Think of Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities” and then take a particular slant of a historical event (the original ANZAC day) as a tool to promote nationalist sentiment, pride etc. I guess the myth that we create is that I have something intrinsicly in common with ‘Australians’ that I don’t have with non-‘Australians’.

There is no single thing (apart from various trivial facts such as geographic location and administrative procedures) that I have in common with all Australians. Frankly, I have much more in common with, and identify much more strongly with many of my friends from other countries such as Indonesia, China, Veitnam, Bhutan, Austria, Germany, Japan, Laos, England, Brazil, USA, Cambodia, Thailand, France, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mozambique and South Africa than I do with almost everyone who lives in the same street as I do. This is because Australia is inherently multicultural anyway, so shared identity is created in ways other than nationalistic sentiment. So the ‘myth’ I’m talking about is simply the ‘myth’ of nationalism.

Hope thats a bit clearer.

boynton
2022 years ago

According to Jonathan King on the 7.30 report last night Gallipoli has overtaken the other contenders because it got in first…

“KERRY O’BRIEN: But is that why Gallipoli rises above all other Australian campaigns? There were many more Australian lives lost on the Western Front, many other tales of Australian heroism, but we’ve chosen above all to honour a military disaster. Why?

JONATHAN KING: It’s extraordinary, I agree with you and I can only understand it by thinking that it got in first. I mean, Bean was a great propagandist, in a way. All his articles were censored by the Herald, so he had to keep telling the story and Ashmead Bartlett the English writer helped him and others and Phillip Schuller, with the photographs and the writings and it was just hard to dislodge that first great achievement. A lot of people haven’t even heard of the Somme. It’s unbelievable…”
http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2005/s1353095.htm

This puzzle was also discussed on Lateline, with Les Carlyon.

Meanwhile, a doco on the history and meaning of Anzac Day would be a good one to pitch/watch?

Dominic
Dominic
2022 years ago

“Meanwhile, a doco on the history and meaning of Anzac Day would be a good one to pitch/watch?”

Thanks for the question idea boynton. And here’s the question: I’m looking to prepare a document on what it means to ‘be Australian’ to different people (obviously I’d go beyond my fairly atypical outlook) and I’d love to hear from people who think they have clear ideas about this issue, or if you know good resources I can get online.

I’m doing this to help a group of young professionals travelling overseas think about what Australia is, what it means to be Australian, what issues confront us etc. They will undoubtedly be confronted with these questions next year and if they haven’t considered them it will look quite dopey.

Feel free to email me or else post here and share with everyone. Cheers and thanks for your help.

adrian
2022 years ago

Jason, my ‘confected outrage’ has been asleep – I’m a shift worker. Sure, I concede the title of this post which upset me was paraphrasing Duffy’s thought provoking piece. But in doing so, why chose such an offensive, belittling and infantile title ? Rather than simply propose, ‘Is War Fun ?’.

The title chosen smacks of the pathetic mindset of outraged old Lefties, who can’t countenance the fact today’s youth largely ignores them. Hence no moratorium marches.

Therein lay Ken’s dilemma of hosting guest writers with no editoralising. Sure, it may be progressive to do so, but I suggest it will untimately drive away those readers who are a little more objective in their rationale. Leaving Troppo with simply a cheer squad singing from the same song sheet. Boring.

But then Ken paints himself into a corner using such emotive and unsubstantiated terms like, ‘neocons’ imperial ambitions’ and ‘evil Machiavellian/Howardian scheme’. Maybe this is to be his lot – not to be taken seriously.

harry
harry
2022 years ago

I suppose one of the biggest myths from Anzac Day is the whole “Birth of our Nation.”
And the fact that Attaturk and his friends were at Gallipoli and later gave birth to a new Turkey also cements this myth.
It is true that 1915 was the first time ‘the country’ went to war. (Various states sent troops to the Boer war but not Australia per se).
I don’t knwo when the idea of the brith of the nation took root, but I’d wager it was in the waning years of empire, or quite possibly, after WW2. Please enlighten me.

You have to wonder at this idea that a nation is born in bloodshed. Certainly bloody episodes see nations completely changed eg French and Russian revolutions; and there is a particular European sentiment for heroic military deeds eg the Polish flag being a white cloth used to wrap the body of their fallen hero and the red being his blood.

David Tiley makes a good point as to why Armistice day doesn’t warrant the same attention here. Certainly we have made Anzac day our own and you’d be forgiven for not knowing that ~20000 British and Irish died on the peninsula, so firmly have we nationalised it. But Australian troops played an extremely important role in bring the war to an end. The 2nd Division under Monash were the ones who broke the Hindenburg line (and made all the attacks to get to that point) in 1918, eskewing trench warfare for mobile, objective based multi-phase actions. You would have thought that _this_ would be something worth commemorating.

Nobody celebrates their 24th birthday as they do their 21st. Maybe Australia simply need a 21st, so to speak?

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

And badges Dominic. Don’t forget name badges for your young professionals so they know who they are and be easily reclaimed at Lost Property.

“They will undoubtedly be confronted with these questions next year and if they haven’t considered them it will look quite dopey.”

Whadday mean “will”? It already sounds quite dopey. From what I’ve seen of young Aus professionals abroad, you’d be lucky if they kept to their own beds, let alone on message about “what Australia means to me.” Unless it’s one of these gloomy Young UN/Christian Business Ambassadors Forum kinda junkets.

harry
harry
2022 years ago

I think the title is fine.
The way some people go on about Anzac Day you’d think they were *glad* those guys died so that they had something to pin their Australian-ness to!
Have you seen the propaganda from the day?
“Join the sportsman’s 1000” Most of them appealed directly to the sense of adventure coupled with the peer pressure of ‘your mates have joined up, how about you?’
It all speaks of unsophisticated innocence with no forewarning of the horrors they actually encountered: just like the title.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

I think some people are being a little harsh on the title of this post. Isn’t Don’s title just referencing the bumper sticker on the 4WD of Labor candidate Dr. Ivan Molloy at the last election (who Mark Latham accidentally referred to as Ivan Milat). I don’t see Don asserting this statement as factual, more using it as a jump-off point to explore people’s connections to the story of the Anzacs. And in considering the story. trying to gauge the motivations of many people who volunteer for armed combat.

Kent
2022 years ago

“what makes anyone think young Australians don’t know the context of Australia’s involvement in WWI i.e. battle for resources and territory between crumbling European colonial powers etc.?”

As a 20yr old recently out of high school, I’m not filled with optimism. Some of my friends (and a good proportion of my yr 12 history class would) have difficulty distinguishing between WWI and WWII, let alone knowing when they happened, what happened in them, or why they happened. And they’re intelligent, reasonable, and perfectly normal people.

FWIW David, I ignore Anzac Day and instead observe the moment of silence on Armistice/Remembrance Day, to remember all soldiers and all wars, as a human being, and not as an Australian.

Graham
2022 years ago

I think I preferred it when Anzac Day was about venting about the incompetence of the British army hierarchy.

Anyway, harry above, amongst others, makes the important point that where Australian troops really made their mark was at the end of the war. (Actually another of Chris Masters’ docos covers this.) We also lost a lot more on the Western Front than at Gallipoli, one of them being my great-great-uncle at Passchendaele.

The simplest explanation I can come up with is that, before the war, Australians saw themselves as being one with Britain, afterwards, they may not have been quite so sure.

The title seems to be picked purely to rile those who identify themselves, without reservation, as “right”. It seems to have worked.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I was angry with the title – OK, overly so, and I’ve apologised to Don – because if you have a problem with what the ADF is tasked to do, then take it up with the government, not the troops. If ADF members kill people is foreign climes it’s because the democratically elected government of Australia ordered them to do it. Don’t like it? Change the government, or force a change in its policies: don’t demonise the troops as wanton killers. The latter is what the title said to me. Maybe I’m over-sensitive.

It’s a simple reality that soldiers kill people sometimes. A soldier that can’t do it – and ‘resists’ even to the battlefield, as the psych that Don quoted claims – is a bad soldier and a lethal hazard to his comrades. He should have bowed out long before he got there.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

I like Domenic’s idea. It is an ingenuous notion which reminds me a bit of that old Jean Rouch documentary ‘Chronique d’un

observa
observa
2022 years ago

Gallipoli was a lay down misere for the national psyche, summed up by the Smith’s Weekly cartoon-‘Stop laughing this is bloody serious!’

Don’t you just love the story about the last blokes leaving Gallipoli smashing up rum containers so the Muslim Johnny Turks couldn’t get their hands on them. The water was brown with the stuff while the blokes were having quite a tipple themselves and finally they had to be ordered into the boats. Bloody priceless!

Dominic
Dominic
2022 years ago

Touche Nabakov, but I don’t think they’ll need badges, I found repetition was enough to get them to remember their names. I’m not sure about the keeping to their own beds point though, celebecy isn’t really the goal and it doesn’t seem to be a precondition for articulating “Australian culture”.

Thanks David. As for the context, most simply when your asked a question like “what’s Australia like?” or something else suitibly vague, it helps to have some kind of preconcidered answer.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Gallipification is a Proper noun.

now I’m being summoned to watch something about Hari Krishnas

saint
2022 years ago

I have a theory as to why we have mythologized Gallipoli a lot in the past 10 years especially – no more so than under Howard. You would probably think it naive and unoriginal.

Every now and then in recent years I have heard Bush and a couple of his cronies talk about America not being about race or ethnicity but about a shared culture. And that’s what defines and makes Americans Americans. Then a few months back I saw news footage of Howard visiting some mosque and in a 10 second grab from his speech, there he was speaking awkwardly spouting much the same: we share a common culture.

Now not being as erudite or educated as most Troppo readers, I never really know what people mean by culture. And what the hell a shared culture means. Not the stuff that keeps me awake at night.

And then I also remember reading an article where one of the ways the PNG administration (I think??) was trying to unify PNG was by trying to set up a national football team of some. Sort of rally around the masses.

And then reading this years Anzac posts it kind of clicked. OK Bean etc may have contributed to the myth. But all this posturing that Howard does at Gallipoli (as opposed to V day etc) and sports matches and other such events is not just part of normal PM duty (otherwise why not attend the others) but a rather deliberate policy for wanting to define us knowing full well that in a multicultural Australia each of us may have different symbols, stories and praxis which may define us – often drawing from our different ancestry. But he and others like him are deliberately to some degree, choosing the symbols (eg Gallipoli, the Wallabies, wattle), telling *us* the story (it was about courage…blah blah) instead of letting us listen to the stories of those who where there (it was hell) and identifying the praxis (that is so unaustralian).

It’s a manufactured identity. (But certainly one that still centres around the Anglo-Celtic and the Judeo-Christian…don’t let any of those other nasties in)

OK I’m in a straitjacket but am I mad to think this?

saint
2022 years ago

P.S. Excuse the klutzy grammar. No booze. Just tired.

rossco
rossco
2022 years ago

I think too much is made of the notion of Australians embracing Anzac Day. Even if there were 1 million actively participating in Anzac Day events ie dawn service, marches, reunions (and I doubt there were that many) that would mean 19 million were just enjoying the holiday.The media play it up as there are plenty of human interest angles and photo opportunities but not too many of us really understand or care about the historical context – it is just a case of our boys were over there dying in tragic circumstances.
I acknowledge interest in Anzac Day has increased in recent years. I believe it was the celebration of the 75th anniversary which sparked this rekindling of interest: taking old diggers back for one last visit tugging at the emotions. Not sure if the level of interest will be maintained once the Vietnam vets get on a bit – the youngest of them will now be well into their 50s so give it another 20 years.
Just another thing on Anzac Day. I think it is a bit rich for the Australian government to be telling Turkey how and where to build the access road to Anzac Cove.

observa
observa
2022 years ago

No saint it isn’t a manufactured identity and no rossco, I don’t think Anzac Day will die off. After all it reached its nadir after Vietnam and could have easily fizzed out into another long weekend like the Queen’s Birthday.

IMO Gallipoli was the perfect focus for a national trait that is recognised internationally, particularly in business. Australians are very good in a crisis, perhaps because they don’t take themselves or things too seriously in general. Laid back generally cuts it in a crisis while all about are losing their heads. Gallipoli was a strategic disaster made for the laconic solution of getting out with your arse largely intact. Perhaps also here, tailor made for those that face fire, drought and flooding rains. You dont ‘win’ against these either, but rather survive and make the best of a bad lot, knowing full well the situation will improve with time. A certain fatalistic optimism is inevitable. Get stuck in and she’ll be right mate!

Of course there were two main threats when it might not be right. The threat from Japan in WW2, when we realised for the first time the umbilical cord to the Mother country was pretty stretched. Enter the Yanks to bail us out and also to offer long term comfort throughout the period of the Cold War threat. Where we had been only too happy to front up to help mum with the chores, we quickly changed to helping dad out in Korea and Vietnam, although the latter showed us that dad could make mistakes too. All part of growing up, which is what we did by floating the dollar and embracing a chilly globalised world, when we were worried we might become poor white trash. GW1 was a no brainer in such an environment. With UN approval everyone could be a good guy and at the same time try out some of the new hardware and software among friends.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall things were looking up as far as any realistic direct threat to Aus went. By the time the possibility of joining in GW2 raised its spectre, a globalised country had quietly achieved the status of the largest power in the southern hemisphere. For the first time in our history we could choose to throw in our lot with a COW or not. For the first time we had the choice of a Canada, although with French Quebec their hands were probably tied domestically. Howard chose to sign up for Iraq and at the same time flex our medium power status in ET and the Solomons.

With the exercise of that power, Australia had accepted the obligations that necessarily accompany it. ie generous tsunami/earthquake relief in the region, as well as the reinforcing of Iraq, once it was clear ET and the Solomons were not problematic. Howard hasn’t manufactured this identity, but is simply a man for his times. The parallel rise in the observance of Anzac Day is the expression of a greater awareness by all Australians, that our military will be increasingly engaged in the roles expected of a medium world power. Isolationism and neutrality were clearly rejected by Australians at the last election.

saint
2022 years ago

Thanks observa.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Saint’s point about Howard seeking to manufacture symbols and a unifying culture is certainly correct IMO. But that doesn’t negate the proposition (which observa puts eloquently) that the upsurge in interest in Anzac Day is also spontaneous and ‘natural’ i.e. its early stages predated the Howard government.

Rossco also has a point. Despite the upsurge in interest, the overwhelming majority of Australians mostly treat Anzac Day as just a holiday. Certainly jen and I weren’t tempted to attend the Dawn Service or watch any Anzac activities on TV, although we did think and debate and blog about it, and jen’s daughter Jessica went to the dawn service because she was at a sleepover at a friend’s place and that family took her.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’d argue that Anzac rose to prominence because it’s original chroniclers – Bean, Keith Murdoch – limned it’s significance as a specific Australian/New Zealand blood sacrifice at the hands of inept and decaying Imperial leadership. This was not the case on the Somme or at Passchendaele where our integration in the broader allied cause allowed less differentiation. Armistice Day was associated early on as the “imperial” remembrance day; Anzac Day was “ours.”

The NZ CDF returned to this theme in his speech at Anzac Cove the other day.

For as long as I’ve been alive the notion that Anzac Day is not about glorifying war has been hammered repeatedly. The interviews with old diggers that used to characterise media coverage of Anzac were always along the lines of “war’s a terrible business – avoid it” War – at least in the Anzac context – is however about recognising mateship, survivability, indomitability; a certain blokey-yet-vulnerable insouciance in the face of adversity. The standout ‘hero’ of Gallipoli is a rough diamond named Simpson, a shady character who made it his business to lead a ‘medical’ donkey up and down a track, under fire, with wounded on it’s back. No blood-curdling, up guards and at em stuff in that.

In terms of Anzac and national identity, I think Anzac simply added to the emergent mix rather than initiating it but it was certainly significant in reinforcing it. Has Howard been the Keeper of this flame? Absolutely. So has Helen Clark, so was PJK whose speeches at Kokoda and the interment of the Unknown were a kind of lyrical apogeee of the flame-keeping art. Interestingly though, no pollie has ever been able to “own” Anzac. Rather, the reverse.

I’m kind of interested that Dominic, at 23, sees Australianess as an intrinsically negative thing, apparently not available to people whose origins lie elsewhere. And I’m not at all surprised that such a view would shape his perceptions of Anzac the way they have.

blank
blank
2022 years ago

“Frankly, I have much more in common with, and identify much more strongly with many of my friends from other countries such as Indonesia, China, Veitnam, Bhutan, Austria, Germany, Japan, Laos, England, Brazil, USA, Cambodia, Thailand, France, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Mozambique and South Africa than I do with almost everyone who lives in the same street as I do.”

Frankly, Dominic, I think you are having a lend of yourself.

India has 10 official languages, South Africa 11. Around 40 languages are spoken in Mozambique. There are more than 180 languages spoken in Brazil.
You must be the world’s greatest polyglot if you can identify with all these.

I suppose the truth is that you identify with a clique of English speakers (of diverse ethnic background) who share your outlook and education.

The best way to find out what being Australian means is to live and work elsewhere.

“Geographical location” and “administrative procedures” are far from trivial.

Just sightseeing in the Middle Kingdom, or visting some English speaking friends in Bhutan won’t do. Almost by definition, competent speakers of English in nearly every country you mentioned are members of the elite.

You’ll soon find that you are a foreigner in other “geographical locations” – assuming that you can get the necessary permission to live and work elsewhere, and a paying job.

jen
jen
2022 years ago

Now not being as erudite or educated as most Troppo readers,

well certainly not as erudite or educated as me. hey, Saint, the secret is, (and now it’s out)that this lot know tremendous amounts about what they are saying. I’ve noticed over the past year or so that SOME of them say the same thing over and ovedr and over again. Now I don’t mind this because being an amoeba I can’t hold more than one thought in my head at any one time, but, thismlot used to INTIMIDATE me with their bags of knowledge about stuff that I now realise I have never been more than glancingly interested in. I am however, exceedingly grateful to them and you for discussing all this about Popes and ANZACs and culture, Lefty loons and RWDB and etc because I can say I am now more truly a rounded and more participatory non-participant in the decision making world around me.
I need another drink.
And I love you too parish.

Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Ken – Keating did a fair bit to manufacture symbolism and interest in Anzac Day and other markers of past wars, as I recall.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

It is interesting that ANZAC day is the day where we remember a battle that was a total failure where Oz Officers reached the heights of the british in sending stupid orders and where even if it had been a success it would have proved desultory in strategic terms.
On the other hand as Harry has pointed out We have a proud record of Monash , the finest general in WW1, directing OZ tropps to breach the Hindenburg line.
Yet this event is forgotten.
Amazing

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Homer, read the comments. A lot of people have spent a lot of time explaining why Anzac might have the particular resonance it does.

John Monash was indeed a great bloke.

PeterW
PeterW
2022 years ago

To me ANZAC Day is an important symbol of Australia’s `coming of age’. Not in the sense of “heroism”