Lake, Marilyn: We must fight free of Anzac

Marilyn Lake

We must fight free of Anzac, lest we forget our other stories‘, Age, 24 April 2009

Rehearses many of the arguments put in What’s Wrong with Anzac? Looks at the troubles of soldier settlers after World War I, the embedding of the Anzac myth through the work of the RSL, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Australian War Memorial, the difference between history and memory, the masculinity of Anzac and how it became our creation story, the juxtaposition of the Vietnam War and the play The One Day of the Year, feminist attitudes to war, the undervaluing of Federation in our history, the overshadowing by Anzac of the development of social policies before World War I, and other aspects.

ABC audio and transcript is here. The article provoked considerable vox pop comment. Lake says:

The Myth of Anzac with all its imperial, masculinist and militarist baggage has yet become our Creation Story. And it will remain so until the nation is re-born, until we have the audacity, boldness and courage to detach ourselves from the Mother Country, declare our Independence, inaugurate a Republic, draw up a new Constitution expunged of its race traces and that recognises the first wars of dispossession fought against Indigenous peoples, their heroic patriotism, here in this country, and their never-ceded sovereign status. In that way we can truly make history here in Australia …

When participation in foreign wars becomes the basis of national identity – which promoters of Anzac and some political leaders now advocate – this too requires the forgetting, or disavowal, or marginalising, of other national narratives, other formative Australian experiences, other values, different stories of the past, the exclusions as well as inclusions.

Amongst other things the Myth of Anzac requires us to forget:

  1. Gender and racial exclusions, the centrality of manhood, race and colonial anxiety to its begetting.

2. The long history of pacifism and anti-war movements: the historic opposition to militarist values in Australia.

3. Stories of national aspiration and identity based in civil and political society: the democratic social experiments and visions of social justice that once defined Australia.

4. That at Gallipoli we fought for empire not the nation. Symbolising our continuing colonial condition.





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