‘Why my generation grew up thinking it was un-Australian to question Anzac‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 April 2015
Article from a young journalist, presaging presentation of her TV documentary Lest We Forget What? (Iview for limited time) She asks why the ‘plucky irreverence’ that Australians learn turns ‘to quivering submission when it comes to Australia’s remembrance of WWI? Why does it feel so wrong to question Anzac?’ She describes the distorted view of war she received as a child and the nagging feeling that there ‘had to be more to WWI than these cardboard heroes’.
The Anzac spirit has been co-opted to prop up our more recent war ambitions and hijacked by bigots and homophobes. You don’t have to listen to talkback radio or scroll through the comments on news articles for too long before you find sentiments like ‘my ancestors didn’t fight and die at Gallipoli for gays to marry and for Muslims to take our jobs’.
She experienced what she thought was grief at an unknown ancestor’s Gallipoli grave but Professor Joan Beaumont suggested to her ‘if what you feel is grief, we need another word to describe what the war widows and children felt in 1918’.
What my generation experiences as “grief” is not grief so much as a learnt nationalistic sentimentality based on myth far removed from the reality of that visceral, horrendous experience and the repercussions for those who lived through it.
Anzac has fused with our identity. It’s not going anywhere. But our selective collective amnesia needs to be challenged. If we are going to whisper “lest we forget” as we wave the next generation off to war we need to do so unclouded by myth. And if our national story is so fragile that it shatters at the slightest provocation it’s time to find a better one.
Editorialising, as we at Honest History do very rarely in these information posts, Kate Aubusson’s article is the best expression we have seen of a view that we believe is widely held among Australians (not just of Kate’s generation) and one that should be expressed more often – if not as eloquently as Kate does. (DS)