A quieter year this year? Anzac Week news and reflections

These few links are taken at random from media coverage of what looks like being a quieter Anzac Day. Perhaps we are wrong. We’ll see. In any case, the quieter build-up has given some observers a chance to make some telling points.

News Limited papers have anticipated smaller crowds at Gallipoli due to terror threats, refugee issues and the government decision to wind back the Lone Pine component. In Brisbane also, former Senator Bill O’Chee tries to correct some Anzac myths though most of his ground has been well-traversed. He is critical of the FitzSimons take on our wars.

In Melbourne, Peter Wigg from the Medical Association for Prevention of War suggests we should have moved on from the selectively positive accounts of the Gallipoli campaign that were peddled soon after it occurred. He looks at traditional versions of Anzac Day and hopes for a new approach.

So the commemoration of ANZAC Day can have good and bad consequences. On the one hand, it can be a contribution to our public life, encouraging honest reflection and support of rational debate, encouraging pride in how we may be seen by others, and also in our capacity for independent thought and action in international affairs. On the other hand, it can be an exercise in propaganda, encouraging mindless support for our participation in controversial contemporary wars, merely appealing to the irrational and emotive in the gullible and uninformed among us.

Carolyn Holbrook, Monash academic and Honest History committee member, hopes the positive side of Anzac can include socialisation of relatively recent arrivals in this country. She suggests it can provide a means for marginalised groups to enter the Australian mainstream. Sydney academics Danielle Drozdzewski and Emma Waterton ask similar questions about the role of Anzac in a multicultural Australia and provoke a good number of responses.

The perennial historical questions of the Dardanelles campaign remain. Greg Lockhart in the Sydney Review of Books has a lengthy review of a book by Tom Curran in which the main player is Churchill, around whom circle Asquith, Fisher (Jackie not Andrew), Kitchener and others, some of whom probably had a better idea of what was going on than Churchill did. Somebody must have.

John Menadue has reposted on Pearls and Irritations a passionate and perceptive piece he first ran up in August 2014. It sums up as well as anything why we should have profound misgivings about commemorating World War I in the way we do.

Douglas Newton, distinguished author of two seminal books on the Great War, asks some important questions for Anzac Day 2016, including how do we reconcile our increasing inequality with the egalitarian ideals of the men of Anzac. Two more pieces came from Bruce Scates on censorship of remembrance and John Coyne on the devaluing of commemoration.

20 April 2016 and updated

 

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