Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lest we forget: the mythology of war...

Yes, hold onto your hats chickadees, I'm about to be blasphemous...

Was watching the ANZAC Day coverage yesterday - well, the short version shown on the 6 o'clock news anyway - and apparently the crowd at the Melbourne Memorial was huge and comprised mainly of young people honouring their grandfathers and great grandfathers (and a few grandmothers and great grandmothers as well). The news crews interviewed a handful of these young people as to why they were there and as if indoctrinated by some sort of undercover agents (I shouldn't have watched The Manchurian Candidate last week), they unanimously came out with, "Well, if they [the ANZACs] hadn't gone to war, we wouldn't be here now." Tears of thankfulness glistened and even I felt some remnant of Aussie pride at how these soldiers had saved Australia from peril...

But then, they crossed to Turkey, and to France as well, and told the tale of how tens of thousands of Australian servicemen and women had died in the course of a couple of bloody, ill-managed battles, and it dawned on me... These men and women WERE NOT defending Australia. In fact, MANY of the battles Aussie servicemen and women have fought in over the past 100 years were NOT in defense of Australia at all. The first world war wasn't even a battle over territories, but over treaties and European infighting.

My FIL actually defended Australia, in Darwin, in the second world war, and had he died, then DAVE wouldn't be here now. In fact, BECAUSE of the many thousands of Aussies who gave their lives to fight other people's wars, many thousands of Australians ARE NOT here!

Had the ANZACs NOT gone to war, I'm guessing all the young people who thanked them for their lives on the news yesterday would still be here, but a few thousand more young Aussies would be here as well, because all the young men and women who died over the years in battles that were not in defense of Australia would have lived to have children and see their grandchildren and great grandchildren born.

So, let's not forget that while these servicemen and women showed amazing selflessness offering up their lives in defense of people living in other countries, in other parts of the world, the mythology of war can be a mind-numbing machine that creates placebo pride and forgives the sins of politicians and warmongers across this globe...

3 comments:

Leah said...

I wholeheartedly agree!! DN upset me this week when she started talking about the ANZACs, how they were killing bad people, it almost made my brain implode. I explained they weren't bad people, just people from different countries the government disagreed with. I think before we teach children to honour soldiers we need to teach children to abhor war, but then our government is still war mongering so that isn't going to happen.

The thing that stumps me with Gallipoli is we were invading and we got massacred and I don't even think most people realise this! Like you say, I don't think the majority have any idea why we were involved. It's very supportive of the status quo to have people associate national pride and gratitude with war to allow it to continue in modern times.

I think the best way to honour such loss and sacrifice is for it to never happen again.

Clel said...

Oooh, yes. I find it quite amazing that Kaje's grandad was a British war vet, and my grandad was a British POW. Growing up in Aus I was aware that my family was on 'the other side' for most of the war, so the whole ANZAC thing never resonated. I find it all horrifically tragic. Gallipoli - a foreign place that most soliders wouldn't be able to pinpoint on a map, in a country they probably had never heard of. Too tragic.

HipbubbyMama said...

I agree too. I find myself uncomfortable with the whole ANZAC day thing. On one hand, I do think it's good to be mindful of the horror of war, and respect those who have fought in wars-what I don't like is the nationalism- AND the hypocisy. Australian & NZ soldiers died for "King and Country"; for England really-ANZAC soldiers were fed up to war like a dog's breakfast LOL Gallipoli is the worst reminder of this. Australia is STILL fighting other countries' wars-Iraq is America's 'oil war'. Do we never learn?

Teenagers and the failing parent...