Alomes, Stephen: Our national folly: war romance and the Australian national imaginary

Alomes, Stephen

Our national folly: war romance and the Australian national imaginary‘, Anne-Marie Hede & Ruth Rentchsler, ed., Reflections on ANZAC Day: From One Millennium to the Next, Heidelberg Press, Heidelberg, Vic., 2010, pp. 89-105 (text made available by the author, who holds copyright)

This article covers many points made elsewhere on the Honest History site. The author has held positions at RMIT and Deakin Universities and has published a number of books and articles on aspects of Australian society.

Anzac Day and the underlying national war myth deserve respect [the author says]. In the 21st century, both need to be supplanted. They involve a potent combination of admirable traditions and a national folly: the de facto celebration of war, something only possible in a country which has never been invaded nor had a major war fought on its soil. Indigenous Australians, for good reason, challenge that “fact”.

The author canvasses aspects of Australia’s war experience and our romanticisation of it, noting how few war deaths Australia has suffered compared with other countries, though recognising that war death and injury traumas in Australia are no less devastating on individuals here than they are anywhere else. He concludes by suggesting we need to replace Anzac Day with a ‘Peace Day’, perhaps 16 August, the anniversary of the end of World War II.

At the same time we need to rein in the excess of politicised commemoration and the monstrous socialisation of children into Anzac rather than the teaching of the true history of war in the 20th century as well as Australian history rather than merely imbibing national myths. We need a new approach to history and to the responsibilities of global citizenship, one which supplants well-meaning rhetoric, propaganda and media images which feed an out of date national myth.

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