An unAustralian Anzac day

It always seemed to me that it was hard to think of anything more Australian than having a long weekend for Anzac Day, or not putting one’s hand on one’s heart during the playing of the national anthem.  But it’s all changing and not only are the odd hands going on hearts, but Anzac Day is being more and more comprehensively pomposified.

There was much harumphing about the fact that we’d ensured that if the day fell on a weekday other than Monday or Friday we weren’t going to celebrate it on a day that would make for a long weekend.  No siree.  We were gonna have it on the day.  Anyway next year the day falls on a Saturday raising delicate issues of optimal pomposity.

The RSL is very pleased it seems that we won’t be having a long weekend on that day.

Major General Bill Cruise, the RSL’s national secretary, says Australia’s servicemen and women should be honoured on April 25, regardless of the day of the week it falls on.

“No matter what day of the week it is observed, that is the day we stop and commemorate,” he said.

“There is no particular reason why another day should be set aside as a public holiday.”

Major General Cruise said observing a three-day weekend for commemorations undermines the reverence of Anzac Day.

Whatever.

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Chris Lloyd
12 years ago

Twenty years or so back, it looked like Anzac day was going to fade into irrelevance as the last diggers shuffled of their mortals. The ceremony was, for me and my generation, irrevocably linked with Vietnam, Henry Bolte and conscription. Moreover, others more articulate than I have pointed out the irony of our national day commemorating a military whipping in the service of others. So it deserved to be dropped.

I suspect that its slow resurrection was partly driven by nostalgia for tradition but also by our fading memories of balloted conscription in the 1960s. So I was rather expecting that the unpopularity of our war in Iraq would translate into a new public mood that was not so receptive to marching blokes wearing medals. Alas I was wrong.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
12 years ago

I am feverishly writing an essay for a competition on whether Australia should have a Bill of Rights. I am quite disposed to the idea, but I am buggered if these so-called “indigenous Australians” will get even a mention. Can someone provide one corker of a rebuttal to my poosition and one agreement!?

Michael S.
Michael S.
12 years ago

Let’s have a compromise…

The original landing happened on a Thursday, so we could make the last Thursday of April every year ANZAC day. Then the following Friday would be a Melbourne-cup Monday style unoffical holiday.

I couldn’t think of a more Australian solution.

Also because it would always be on a Thursday Colluingwood and Essendon would always have the day to themselves.

pedro
pedro
12 years ago

Having read a few books about Australians at war, one is invariably struck by the reverence of the typical digger. They’d be rolling over in their graves.

derrida derider
derrida derider
12 years ago

For me Anzac Day has long been irreversibly spoiled by the Tory warmongers’ appropriation of it. John Howard’s attempt to wrap himself in the flag by having a National Day of Worship of the sainted diggers was the last straw, adding to ‘orrible memories of school marching and flag saluting, bigoted jingoism, extensive public drunkenness and of course Vietnam and conscription (I’m older than most here).

If we want to remember the victims of war the eleventh day of the eleventh month is a much more appropriate way.

tim quilty
tim quilty
12 years ago

Actually I’m guessing pretty much many of the previous comentators are falling into the vietnam era age group. “The damn youth, getting all patriotic, wouldn’t have happened in my day, hurumph…”

I’d say the revival of patriotism started with the movie Gallipoli and then that mini-series ANZACs in the early 80s. I’m pretty sure they were big influences on me anyway. Of course, it’s not quite the broom-up-the-arse version of patriotism that the RSL seem to go on with, (at least I’m with you part of the way on that, why the RSL insists on electing former senior, pompous officers to lead them is beyond me), but it certainly aint the nihilistic anti-patriotism of the 70s & 80s latte left. (Yeah, that would be you…)

I’m guessing you guys also sneer at those proles in the suburbs who have the bad taste to fly an Australian flag outside their houses. So common, darling. I hate to be sounding like John Greenfield, but its particularly reading posts & comments like this that show he isn’t completely barking in the dark.

Maybe, just maybe, Howard and the conservatives didn’t create this mood, just tapped into it. In any case, sneering condemnation won’t make it go away. Your attitude pisses me off, and I’m quite sure I’m not alone on this.

tim quilty
tim quilty
12 years ago

Well, I have been known to pontificate against the yoof adopting americanisms myself, and you’ll never catch me putting my hand over my heart. But you will find me attending a dawn service on Anzac day, along with plenty of others who don’t see the day as just a good excuse for a long weekend. Although later I probably will be going to the pub.

Mostly I’m irritated at those who, lacking a sense of patriotism themselves, look down on those who have it. And I’d suggest that, despite the best efforts of the “Would to Godders”, (who have been there from the start, and are as much a part of the Australian tradition as any other element), the Australians will always have an irreverence to their commemoration that sets them apart from the Yanks or others. And IMHO, anyone who doesn’t understand why it’s particularly apropriate that we commemorate “a military whipping in the service of others” doesn’t really understand our particular Australian version of patriotism at all, anyway.

Nabakov
Nabakov
12 years ago

To take Nicholas’ point a step a further, how exactly do you define patriotism these days?

Is it an annual hand over heart moment at some public gathering? is it a table-thumping moment in some drunken pub? is it a warm inner glow while watching Gallipoli while half cut on Bundy? is it bailing out in a foreign land, a fellow national you may not like at all personally? is it looking up at the Southern Cross while lying stoned on Trinity Beach at midnight? Is it my country right or wrong or fuck those bastards in Canberra? Is it blind love or uncontrolled lust?

Everything I find wonderful about Australia cannot be quantified or qualified by just symbols. On the other hand, everything I dislike about certain Australians and local attitudes usually involves a lotta symbolism.

Perhaps worth noting here that those that most loudly proclaim themselves patriots are often those most willing to damn and condemn their elected representatives.

Patriotism may be the last refuge of the scoundrel but it’s also too often the first berth of those pissed off that they just don’t seem matter anymore in their own lives.

There’s always something bigger than you. The trick to an ulcer and hate-free life is being big enough to accept you’ll always be a small part of something bigger. Patriotism turns toxic when people demand their personal contribution and/or beliefs be recognised now.

Hughie
Hughie
12 years ago

Anzac Day has always been a special day for me. It’s my birthday and in each of my 32 years thus far, it’s been a public holiday. Drinks always begin early – “I’m doin’ it for the Diggers.”

Chris Lloyd
12 years ago

Anyone who doesnt understand why its particularly appropriate that we commemorate a military whipping in the service of others doesnt really understand our particular Australian version of patriotism at all.

I think I understand it Tim – I just reject it. I also see a link between that attitude and our leming-like conga-line march into Iraq. Viewed that way, our commemorating a military whipping in the service of others is indeed particularly appropriate. That being said: a large number of marching diggers these days are from WW2 which is the only war we have ever been involved in about which we can be proud.

Nick, re comment #2, where you said If youre anti-war what could be wrong with commemorating our great inaugural military disaster. I do not detect even a whiff of anti-war sentiment in the Anzac commemoration. It could be an opportunity for public lectures on the history of our foreign policy failures, but afaik, it isnt.

Chris Lloyd
12 years ago

I wasnt really suggesting that Anzac day be used to make anti-war political points Nick. You are quite right that it could not be done in a way that is true to what most people would take to be the central commemoration of Anzac Day.

We hear phrases such as senseless waste on Anzac day. Imagine that I handed out leaflets along Swanston Street pointing out the lack of sense of these wars and the fact that the deaths of the soldiers was indeed a waste and for nothing.. I would be lucky if I wasnt attacked!

It would upset plenty of people if anti-war campaigners used Anzac day to push their ideology. I would be quite happy to see millions of people be seriously upset if it would mean they reconsidered their view of what constitutes our national interest – but alas it would not. It would be counter-productive.

Overall, I agree with dd: Remembrance day is quite sufficient for honouring the dead. But it seems I am in a minority. Even my kids disagree with me :(