Thoughts on ANZAC Day 2014

24124_112943942068838_2324443_nA collection of reflections on the idea of ANZAC Day across the 2014 ANZAC Day weekend.

I have no direct relatives who fought in wars. One grandfather was too young for WWII, the other was too sickly. So maybe I don’t ‘get it’.

I have great sympathy for all those who have died fighting other people’s wars, and their families, and the people who they killed, and their families. These aren’t sacrifices in my book, they are tragedies.

I try to respect all these people every day by attempting to play a part in bringing about a society and world where waging war is not something we do.

To me ANZAC day is a day of empire, where former soldiers and their families are further exploited by governments for their own ends.

Just like Valentine’s Day is a corporate holiday, ANZAC Day to me seems a nationalist one. We don’t need a special day to show love for our partners, we should be building that love every day.

And we should be working towards peace and freedom and a better society every day – surely that’s a better way to honour the fallen than to have a parade and a service on one day and then forget about it for a year.

I suppose there’s a difference between how days are traditionally used and how they might be reframed and made use of by governments. I can clearly remember, for example, that when John Howard became Prime Minister he placed special emphasis on both ANZAC Day and Australia Day – in my view to suit that government’s nationalist and imperialist agenda.

It’s a shame that governments (and corporations, like when we’re talking about Christmas and Valentine’s Day) take advantage of people’s desire to do something positive – reflect on the inhumanity of war, the loss of life, the importance of peace, or the express love for someone or spend time with family – and exploit people to their own ends.

Not a reason not to observe these things and days, but an imperative to do so consciously.

Just as many people use Valentine’s Day to express genuine love, or those who use Christmas to spend time with family, many people do use ANZAC Day to reflect on peace. Absolutely. People tend to do that in different ways. It’s what everyone in this discussion is doing it seems.

In my view, pointing out how corporate, religious or government institutions exploit these ‘holidays’ is not mocking those people, it’s shining a light on how people are being mocked and used.

It’s interesting reading the official ANZAC Day address from the Australian War Memorial. Plenty of light/dark metaphors, plenty of mentions of sacrifice and Australian soldiers, mentions of ‘blood,’ and ‘enemy.’

A lot of what happens on ANZAC Day seems to connect soldiers with ‘ordinary’ people – which is good, because they are and we shouldn’t forget that, ever, or the values they believed they were fighting for.

But this seems to occur within ANZAC Day by a distancing from the elites who continue to give the orders and send these soldiers to warzones, and by making an Other of the soldiers – also ‘ordinary’ people – and their loved ones, who they fought against.

Not so good in my estimation.

Poem cartoon by Leunig in ‘the Age’ – 24 April 2014. Pretty much sums it up.

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