Francis, Adrienne: All commemoration is political

Francis, Adrienne

‘”All commemoration is political”: historians lead charge against Gallipoli “myth”‘, ABC News, 11 November 2013

Interviews Professor Joan Beaumont about commemoration fatigue and the way commemoration is used for political purposes.

The emphasis on Gallipoli and the Anzac legend [says Beaumont] has really been part of our political culture. It is not part of history. All commemoration tells us more about the present, than it does the past. All commemoration is inherently political.

The Anzac legend today serves particular purposes … One is to reinforce those values which court the Anzac legend such as endurance, sacrifice, mateship. Those values continue to be very important to Australian governments who are trying in a very materialistic and secular and individualistic society to still persuade Australians to be willing to volunteer for war or even to serve as police officers or fire fighters. They are willing to subordinate their individual needs and take risks for the interest of the collective.

She argued also that commemoration also helps deflect debate about the legitimacy of war.

This was very obvious during the Iraq intervention of 2003, when the then-prime minister John Howard made it difficult to criticise the war because it was suggested you would thereby be criticising those who chose to serve … Our tradition is very much about honouring the volunteer soldier. With that goes a silencing of debate about the reasons that those soldiers are being deployed, and that is a concern to a number of commentators.


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