‘Anzac Day and why we need to question “myths” of war‘, Crikey, 24 April 2012
Anzac-based nationalism from the Labor Government is related to the commitment to the Afghanistan war and specifically to Labor’s need to show its defence policy credentials. Australia has a history of undertaking wars ‘as a confected nation-building exercise’, going back to World War I. He also notes the television premiere of a docu-drama about the Beaconsfield mine disaster was intertwined with Anzac themes.
Now, in a country that has raised the postmodern problem of meaningless, decultured, post-religious existence to a world-standard level, we are disinterring Anzac — the politicians to shield themselves in the shrouds of young men, more naive, and possibly more simply decent, than professional politicians that have been playing the angles since they joined the ALP club in O-week, and a public desperate for some meaning — hence its lacing into Beaconsfield, an inept piece of drama, unwilling to explore the most interesting thing about the event, the bizarre media-political circus that erupted round the rescue, the deep-cut of elite cynicism that the disaster exposed.
The whole meaning drought has created the most distinctive recent phenomenon — people wearing the medals of long-dead relatives, men who, in many cases, they never knew, and whose views of those medals they have no sure knowledge of. The mere fact that the medals were kept indicates no certain view of them — naive patriotism and adventurism turned to revulsion and anti-war sentiment after the conflict, as people began to understand what they had been let in for.
Today, we should retain the same circumspection. It is a day for a dwindling number of soldiers to remember fallen comrades. To deny anyone that right would be less than human. To pile on it for other reasons — and to underwrite the wars of the future with the pointless ones of the past — is a travesty of what remains genuine at the heart of the day. Don’t march with someone else’s medals. They’re not yours, you didn’t earn them, and you might not feel so good about them if you had. Unpopular as it may be, we need to keep questioning the “ecstatic myths” of war in the hope that by doing so we may actually save some — Australian, Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian — lives to come, not those that have been.