Daley, Paul: Anzackery, crowdsourcing and nationalism

Daley, Paul

Crowdsourcing is our latest weapon against nationalism and “Anzackery”‘, Guardian Australia, 29 December 2014

Daley quotes the coiner of the term ‘Anzackery’, Geoffrey Serle, writing in 1967, and goes on:

Anzackery. What a word …

Anzackery. Is there a better term today to challenge political leaders, officials, national institutions and journalists who perpetuate the absurd proposition that nationhood emerged not amid 60,000 years of continuous Indigenous settlement or even at federation, but with 8700 Australian deaths under a British flag at Gallipoli?

As “Anzac 100” crescendos to the commemoration of November 1918, Australian institutions will dedicate exhibits to the “spirit of Anzac”, the “fallen” (never the dead) and their “sacrifice”. Some will run counter to the national narrative, highlighting the domestic and battlefield scourge and gross inhumanity that is central to war. Most won’t.

Daley goes on to describe a project at the State Library of New South Wales, where members of the public can transcribe for posterity the diaries and letters (1200 of them) of servicemen from World War I. The ordinariness of the writing and the men and women who produced it

is what renders the library’s transcription phase so culturally valuable. For this is what the raw human material of war history looks like before it has been politically and culturally appropriated to serve contemporary nationalism …

And that is the point of these writings. You can touch them, online or personally, read them and transcribe them without the intermediacy of those who’d spin them, culturally or politically, through the prism of Serle’s Anzackery. They have intrinsic honesty that will be enriched for future generations by those who volunteer to transcribe them.

These are not the self-sacrificing heroes, the fallen, who comprise the spirit of so-called Anzac. No. They are everyday men and women (the good and the bad) whose writing exudes a modesty antithetic to all that nonsense.

The article includes a link to the State Library digitised material, where readers can assist with the project. There are 180 000 pages and the whole resource is included on the UNESCO Memory of the World register.

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