E-newsletter No.34, 26 April 2016

ISSN: 2202-5561 ©

New on the site

Honest History’s Alternative Guide to the Australian War Memorial: context and contestability

Across the sea to Ireland: Australians and the Easter Rising 1916: highlights reel

Rush delivery from Ankara: building the Ataturk Memorial in Canberra’s Anzac Parade, 1985

More on the Australian pilgrimages to Gallipoli, 1960 and 1965

Anzac Day Then and Now: Paddy Gourley reviews a collection edited by Tom Frame

Derek Abbott reviews The Gatekeepers of Australian Foreign Policy 1950-1966 by Adam Hughes Henry

Review note: a reasonably flexible Anzac Day package from DVA for little kids

Recently on Honest History: under our thumbnails

Centenary Watch

How many went along this year? Poppies everywhere but silence on Ataturk. Lone Pines entwined? Minister Tehan: fairly quiet on the Western District) Front. Washington Vietnam memorial appreciates Australian donation. Moreland and Gippsland. Chemicals of memory. Aotearoa New Zealand. New this time.


Realistic view. ‘A lot of people knew that the country could never be won, only destroyed, and they locked into that with breathtaking concentration, no quarter, laying down the seeds of the disease,
roundeye fever, until it reached plague proportions, taking one from every
family, a family from every hamlet, a hamlet from every province, until a million had died from it and millions more were left uncentered and lost in
their flight from it.’ Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977), Vietnam War memoir.

Both sides now. ‘I saw courage both in the Vietnam War
and in the struggle to stop it. I learned that patriotism includes protest,
not just military service.’ John Kerry, now US Secretary of State

Courage under fire. ‘A lot of what people called courage was only undifferentiated energy cut loose by the intensity of the moment, mind loss that sent the actor on an incredible run; if he survived it he had the chance later to decide whether he’d really been brave or just overcome with life, even ecstasy. A lot of people found the guts to just call it all off and refuse to ever go out anymore …’ Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977), Vietnam War memoir.

Body count. ‘In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one.’ HL Mencken 1880-1956

Lesson to us all? ‘Who else is still pulling off the whole hopey-changey thing, still surfing a wave of sunny progressive feeling
when the US and much of Europe are increasingly convulsed with rage against either poor migrants or privileged elites, or both? While Britons contemplate a supposedly “kinder, gentler politics” of the left that turns out to come garnished with vicious personal attacks and repulsively
antisemitic undercurrents, lucky old Canada gets a photogenic ex-snowboarding instructor calmly explaining why it’s not so mad to run a deficit.’ Gaby Hinsliff, Guardian Weekly, 8-14 April 2016.

Debatable. ‘The courage of a soldier is found to be the cheapest and most common quality of human nature.’ Edward Gibbon 1737-1794

Change and decay. ‘Modern liberal democracies are no less subject to political decay than other types of regimes. No modern society is likely ever to fully revert to a tribal one, but we see examples of “tribalism” all around us, from street gangs to the patronage cliques and influence peddling at the highest levels of modern politics.’ Francis Fukuyama, Political Order and Political Decay (2014)

Warning. ‘All enterprises that are entered into with indiscreet zeal may be pursued with great vigour at first, but are sure to collapse in the end.’ Tacitus 55-120 AD.

True enough. ‘There are no absolute truths when it comes to history. It is a process, a conversation, a constantly altering story … History, then, is no longer just one romanticised story – it becomes a series of competing narratives, brought to life by different groups whose experiences are diverse and often challenge the dominant story that a country seeks to tell itself about its history.’ Larissa Behrendt, Finding Eliza: Power and Colonial Storytelling (2016)

Subjectivity. ‘Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects.’ Herodotus 484-425 BC

Eschew stew. ‘Quite apart from a strong focus on Australian values, I believe the time has also come for root and branch renewal of the teaching of Australian history in our schools, both in terms of the numbers learning and the way it is taught … Too often, it is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of “themes” and “issues”. And too often, history, along with other subjects in the humanities, has succumbed to a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated.’ PM John Howard, National Press Club address (2006)