‘The nation-state, killing and death‘, Library of Social Science Guest Newsletter, 7 October 2015
The author examines some paradoxes and hypocrisies in how nations, even ‘modern’ nations, rationalise their involvement with war.
Despite the fact that graphic images of war are easily located and displayed— and are legitimate historic artifacts—real death and killing must be erased from official war remembrance. Death becomes a passive event visited on soldiers by an unknown, alien force; the daily acts of deliberate killing soldiers carry out are best left to implication.
There can be exceptions. The sacrifice of “our” soldiers can sometimes be shown, but in the controlled and sanitized manner of a ritual military funeral remembrance—with flag draped coffins, proud comrades, grieving families, and pontificating politicians. Any unfortunate loss of “innocent” (civilians) must be set against the more important picture of our losses and our noble mission …
To celebrate its “birth,” the nation state must turn away from the political context and daily reality of killing and dying at Gallipoli—for the benefit of the accepted nationalist ritual of sacrifice. But we also must ignore the genocide of over a million Armenians; to do otherwise would deny the Australian nation state its ritual ‘hajj’ to the sacred sands of Gallipoli.