Honest History and the deep North

Peter Sellick writes in Online Opinion mainly about Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and what it says about how people behave during wars. Along the way, Sellick mentions Honest History’s role in presenting an alternative view of the Anzac centenary.

Sellick’s closing questions are really crucial:

Is the sacrifice of young men in war to be compared to the sacrifice of Christ? More to the point, is that sacrifice understood as displacing the sacrifice of Christ? If so, what form does salvation take? Is that the same as nation building?

There is no salvation in war, even in victorious war, let alone a defeat. In the novel, Nakamura and Dorrigo Evans are not saved; their lives are destroyed. This is the reality that our sentimentality masks; broken bodies, broken minds, shared guilt. The use of dead soldiers to build an image of national character can only establish a hegemony that ties us to a myth of sacrifice. This is not good news, civil religion never is.

Some aspects of the piece are related to the points raised by Doug Hynd on Anzac Day and Christianity. See also Andrew Hamilton. Ken Inglis first addressed the ‘civic religion’ aspects of Anzac in 1965.

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