I have little to add to these quoted comments below from Paul Norton’s Anzac Day post at LP, which focuses on the militaristic myth side of Anzac Day. As usual, there are some illiterates objecting to the use of the word “myth” as if the word means “untrue in its entirety”. The usage of “myth” when discussing recent history always, of course, nearly always refers to the meanings 2b and 2c below:
OED: myth (n.)
1. a. A traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces, which embodies and provides an explanation, aetiology, or justification for something such as the early history of a society, a religious belief or ritual, or a natural phenomenon.
Myth is strictly distinguished from allegory and legend by some scholars, but in general use it is often used interchangeably with these terms.
b. As a mass noun: such stories collectively or as a genre.
In later use coloured by sense 2a.
2. a. A widespread but untrue or erroneous story or belief; a widely held misconception; a misrepresentation of the truth. Also: something existing only in myth; a fictitious or imaginary person or thing.
b. A person or thing held in awe or generally referred to with near reverential admiration on the basis of popularly repeated stories (whether real or fictitious). Cf. LEGEND n. 8.
c. A popular conception of a person or thing which exaggerates or idealizes the truth.
Anyway, the quotes (my emphasis added):
I think the best lefty take would be not that the bravery of the soldiers shouldn’t be remembered, but that the stark lessons the calamity had for:
– our miserable one-sided relationship with ‘empire’
– the foolishness of following distant allies into conflicts with people we have no rational truck with
– the abject horror of war and need to use it only as a last, possible resort in situations of real, uncontested existential threat
etc etc do not appear to have been learned. Not one iota. And this in my view dishonours those awful deaths.
Freudenberg had written of Gallipoli that “in an almost theological sense Australian Britons had been born again into the baptism of fire at Anzac Cove”. Keating’s response was that:
“Without seeking to simplify the then bonds of empire and the implicit sense of obligation, or to diminish the bravery of our own men, we still go on as though the nation was born again or even, was redeemed there. An utter and complete nonsense. For these reasons I have never been to Gallipoli and I never will.”
The charachteristics displayd by the ANZACs at Gallipoli continue to define Australian Service Personel who are a reflection of Australian society – Mateship, humour in the face of adversity, courage, loyalty, dedication, a disdain for pomposity and fools, kicking the traces against authority, a fair go and a fair crack, professionalism, etc etc. This is worth remembering.
See I don’t think these things are:
a) necessarily demonstrated at ANZAC cove any more than anywhere else, and
b) particularly Australian traits at all.
This I think is the ‘myth’ that people are talking about, and at the risk of pissing you off more than I may have already (and I truly don’t intend to), the idea that these traits are especially Australian, and indeed that idea that Australians are special for anything strikes me as the other side of the racism coin.
My view is that ANZAC Day is about honouring the courage, spirit and mateship of our armed forces and that Remembrance Day is about reminding us that such stuff should never ever be squandered.
And never mind ANZAC Day, one of the most charged moments I’ve ever experienced has been in the Melbourne CBD as the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ticks over.
Everything stops. Trams, cars, cyclists, pedestrians. (Baffled visitors twitch and wonder if it is some flash mob thing). For one minute we think about time stopping for our ancestors who fought the two most terrible wars ever. No cheering or parades. Just an eerie and thought-provoking halt. When it happens, shivers go up my spine and no one can think of any songs to sing.
One of best things I can say about Australia is that we have no popular martial songs and that all our well-known military heros tend to be healers, not killers. Simpson and his bloody donkey, Weary Dunlop, etc.
This is in no way a reflection on the professional Australian military – but let’s face it, Australians can be good soldiers, are often great warriors but basically the whole military caste and tradition thing just doesn’t click with this country.
But risking your own arse to pull your mate out of a swamp of shell-stirred shit, blood and mud and then bullshitting to your cynical commanding officers about what happened is what this nation was really founded on.
(do go read the prize-winning high-schooler essay reproduced in the LP post)