“Aussies Don’t Fight” – a dissenting opinion of ANZAC Day

Yesterday in Melbourne was the commemoration of ANZAC day, which Neil’s already covered. It’s officially an Australian holiday when we “remember the sacrifice of those who died in war”, but I’d like to approach it from a different aspect.

I’m afraid that for me, ANZAC Day doesn’t inspire a great deal of pride in my country. In fact, its role as a sacred cow only highlights the problems with our culture. It could be a worthwhile day of remembrance, but as it currently stands, ANZAC Day is an event that desperately needs some disruption and dissent. Allow me to explain.

“ANZAC day” is something that can be taken in different ways. Officially, we’re remembering “a sacrifice” made on “our” behalf, but the landing at Gallipoli on the 25th of April is not as straightforward as that. First of all, it was a horrific failure (and many have commented on the tendency of Australian culture to be aware of our nation’s defeats rather than concentrating solely on our successes). Secondly, it was an invasion of another country – part of a strategic ploy during a war that Australia entered largely just because Britain entered – and not the most noble venture in many people’s minds. Thirdly, World War I – the “last war” – saw many “conscientious objectors”; many who decided not to fight on ethical grounds, and many who tried to pressure them into it (e.g. white feathers were sent to those who didn’t enlist; the white feathers of a chicken, implying that pacifism was cowardly).

ANZAC Day is not always seen as a recognition or a commemoration of a “sacrifice”; to many, it is not a proud day. It is a day to spare a thought for the madness of the entire venture, for those people who were killed, and for those people who were transformed into killers – but from this perspective, it is not a time to “give thanks” for any “sacrifice”.

But in Australian culture, it really has become a time to switch off your brain, and to be quiet if you have any negative memories or feelings toward some aspect of the Armed Forces. The pacifist interpretation of ANZAC Day has been drowned out in the media, and the RSL has successfully kept pacifists and conscientious objectors out of the ANZAC day marches in the past, as well as those who fought on the other side.

And you definitely can’t make any associations that might upset the diggers; as this article relates, the RSL is outraged at an advertisement for a gay ANZAC party being advertised with a topless man wearing a the distinctive ADF slouch hat. To associate the army with homosexuality? Thats “an insulting abuse of liberty”. “It’s insulting to the diggers and it’s just plain wrong.” Beyond the clear homophobia being expressed, the fact that the Peel decided to take down that poster really illustrates a key point; ANZAC Day is one of those things in Australian culture where it’s really not acceptable to step outside the conservative line. And this is why ANZAC Day fails to arouse any patriotic feeling in me.

Following this ANZAC Day, I’d like to honour and salute the five girls in Bathurst, New South Wales, who spray-painted peace symbols and the slogans “Aussies Don’t Fight” and “Anzac Murderers” on the local shrine. Not to mention Peace Action Wellington, who disrupted the ANZAC celebrations in New Zealand. And the person who designed the poster for the Peel’s gay ANZAC celebrations, for being capable of a sense of humour where a few media-commanding diggers are deficient.

7 Comments so far

  1. Not Needed (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

    Honour and saluting vandals eh?

    Maybe it if it was on your dead relative’s memorial instead…

  2. Neil (unregistered) on April 26th, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

    Protest, make signs whatever you want, but do not desecrate local shrines. Its illegal and it disrespectful to the everyone including the diggers.

    Whether you agree or disagree with the handling of global conflicts (Iraq, Gallipoli), it should be separate to ANZAC day. The holiday is honouring the people who have fought in previous wars. These were people who went there for crap pay and for love of country. These people were just doing their jobs.

    As an example, I don’t yell at tram drivers or train drivers because of late trains. It’s not their fault, they are just doing their jobs. On the other hand, if the Connex Upper level management was standing there, that’s another story.

  3. Ben Howard (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 10:42 am

    Anzac Day is to remember soldiers who did make sacrifices on our behalf. And Celebrate the values that ANZAC soldiers displayed during their service.

    Fisrtly in the times of WW1 most Australians had close bonds still with Great Britain, the media at first painted a romantic idea of becoming a soldier and fighting in Europe. When countries invade and occupy other nations it is a brave and noble thing to help protect those countries. In WW2 the japanese got as far as bombing Darwin, and sending submarines into Sydney Harbour. Our own Country was under attack.

    Vietnam is a different story, and most of our participation in wars since then. Most of these wars I do not believe we should be involved in. However, the soldiers cannot choose the wars they are sent into. That is in the hand of the Governments, they are to blame.
    I think that it is a noble occupation to be a soldier, they will be the ones putting their lifes on the line when a invader comes into our country. They have to be trained to not question orders, that is how armies function properly. An Army cannot work if half of them say “no thanks not this one”. I do not have a problem with objectors, they would have found it tough in those days as well. Every anzac i’ve ever heard on Anzac day is an objector to the wars as well, they also believe they were a blight on the human race. They and there familes for generations have been Physically and emotionally scarred from these wars. ANZACS would agree there is nothing noble in killing other people.

    It is Parliament house that should be Vandalised, i find it disgusting to have ANZACS put down in anyway. Every ANZAC performed there duty, what they were asked.

    I think personally anyone who has such an extremist view as to War is bad and therefore everyon involved is bad are not thinking. A balanced opinion is what is called for. Yes War is the worst thing i can imagine and i find it repulsive. However Letting someone like Hitler rampage through Europe and stand back and not do anything would have been more of a crime.

    You might also find that you also would find it hard to have a sense of humour about a day which hounours, the uneccesary death of many of your closest friends. A day which conjures up memories and emotions which are nothing but horrific.

    There is no greater love than sacrificing your love for a noble cause. And defending Europe and Asia and Australia against rampaging occupiers and invaders is a noble cause.

    This “all or nothing” style of thinking is the same style of thinking which starts wars. However, i can understand that some Australians do celebrate ANZAC day for the wrong reasons,maybe celebrating war, killing etc. i really don’t know.

    I am not an advocate of war and believe that the only decent service Australia has been in the last 40 years was in Timor. However, i’m not that educated on that one. We should be out of Iraq. And i will passionately display that, and all my local members of government, state & Federal. Know all to well how i feel about that. To the point of not answering any of my correspondence any more on that and many issues. I am all for your opinion however, i believe your “all or nothing” thinking is dangerous, disrepectful and unhealthy.

    I actually think in this day and age putting your own ego and self on the line has totally disappeared. How many times do you hear of an altercation happening and people just sitting and raising there newpapers in front of there eyes and ignoring it. If you see something that is wrong occuring stand up for what you believe in and by truly showing a loving act help those that cannot defend for themselves. As I consider the meaning of love is to perform an act with nothing expected in return.

    Lest we forget

  4. Dissembly (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 1:49 pm

    Ooh, thank-you for your responses! There are 3 particular points i’d like to address; one from each of you…

    Not Needed – “Maybe it if it was on your dead relative’s memorial instead…”

    And I wouldn’t care. Thank-you for your comment, Not Needed, but i actually do have dead relatives who fought in WWI and WWII, as do most (probably all) of the people who share my views, unless they’re very recent immigrants from uninvolved countries.

    Neil said: “Whether you agree or disagree with the handling of global conflicts … it should be separate to ANZAC day. As an example, I don’t yell at tram drivers or train drivers because of late trains.”

    I see what you’re saying, but one of my main concerns is that “honouring the people who have fought in previous wars” is not actually the point of ANZAC day for a lot of people. For example, i do not use ANZAC day to honour anyone who has fought in wars, i use it to remember the horrifying futility of the vast majority of conflicts, i use it to feel sorry for those who were scammed into becoming killers, and to remember those were who killed, and alkso to honour the innocent civilians who are *always* killed during wars and who NEVER have parades in their honour.

    But these alternate interpretations are not made public during modern ANZAC days. The only interpretation you ever herar about is the one you’ve mentioned; honouring the soldiers. Except, that is, when vandals start to act.

    When you have a situation where something is so intensely held up to be this big, un-assailable Sacred Cow, then the best way to speak out is to actually take the leap and slaughter the cow. Metaphorically, of course. Otherwise it just gets more and more stifling, and people get more and more used to not having the view questioned, and you end up with the situation you had during the 60s and 70s, when proud Aussies defending the ANZAC spirit would make physically violent threats against those challenging their sacred beleifs.

    Thats the perspective i’m coming from.

    Ben Howard said: “You might also find that you also would find it hard to have a sense of humour about a day which hounours, the uneccesary death of many of your closest friends.”

    I don’t beleive that’s true. I would be very concerned with myself if i did fail to have a sense of humour about it. Indeed, the spokesman for The Peel said that he had some diggers actually congratulate them for the gay-themed ANZAC party.

    If the “joke” involved something i actually disagreed with, then i’d dispute it on those grounds. In this case, the diggers involved were, i beleive, simply homophobic. But instead of arguing their case against gays, they framed it as “dishonouring the ANZAC spirit”.

    And, because ANZAC Day is taken sooo terribly seriously, they could get away with that. That’s another reason things like ANZAC Day need to be shaken up.

    I support the vandals, and “being disrespectful” is one of the reasons i would honour them so highly. Disrespect is not a crime, nor is it even a bad thing in many cases (Most of us would disrespect Nazism, for example). They disrespected the ANZAC spirit, because the ANZAC spirit has come to stand for things that they do not agree with.

    I do not beleive it is dangerous and unhealthy, nor do i beleive it represents “all or nothing” thinking. It is ANZAC Day and the shrines themselves which have come to offend some people (myself included), so it seems appropriate to direct ones protest against these specific things. They did not throw eggs at the marching diggers, they did not hurt anyone, they did not make bomb threats – they directed their disrespect at *symbols* of what they disagreed with, and i argue this is completely healthy.

    We need a little healthy disrespect every now and then.

  5. Ben Howard (unregistered) on April 27th, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

    I understand that maybe not all people celebrate the Anzacs for the right reasons. However, i believe the very things that offend you are not taken in the correct context. Have you been to a dawn service? Do you actually understand what they are remembering. It is the very thing that you stand for. The useless waste of life, in wars. The abhorrent killings. The Anzac values state nothing about killing. They are courage, mateship, determination & ingenuity.

    Towns in france & belguim have ceremnoies daily in honor of the Young Australian soldiers who died so that they could have some freedom. I will state again. There is no greater symblo of love then the sacrifice of one’s life for the freedom of others.

    These symbols and things, shrines etc, you talk about come loaded with emotions as we can tell about this debate. I must admit that i over generalised on the sense of humour bit. It would be easy to understand why people do take offense at an ad wether it be Gay or straight or Alien-attracted for a Night out. Who’s to be the judge of wether it is right or wrong if people take offence at it.

    I understand provocation and anti-conservatism, i am a huge advocate of provocation for healthy causes. However, the simple minded ideas that produce conservatism can also be just as rotten when applied to anti-conservatism just for the sake of it.

    These vandals, have written a message which is just un-educated. And only looks from once side of the scope.

    As you state you “USE” ANZAC day to remember the Futility of war. For your own selfish purpose not what it does stand for.

    The Anzac soldiers deserve no disrespect. They didn’t decide who they fight, and for what cause. Yes there were violent thugs using there ANZAC beliefs to intimidate peace activists. That was wrong. On the other side there were Peace activists hurling abuse at returning servicemen at the same time. And some of them were conscripted.

    When a government doesn’t listen to it’s people. As the current one does, there will always be tensions. I’m not being heard so i’ll just go and vent my anger, fear frustrations the only way i know how. Even if it is at the wrong person, or things. It is part of human life. When the poor and dis advantaged are angry there is always an uprising in violence in society. Those people that have the misfortune of being born under-privileged and are never shown another way of expressing themselves. Find it in the wrong way. This is the same for peace-activists with healthy dis-respect, they must find a way to be heard. I understand this.

    I just am pointing out that this message is not about the ANZACS and nor should it be.

    thankyou for listening, i just had just a real pain of frustration of anger and felt the need to defend the ANZACS. The disrespect is pointed at the wrong people, due to an incompetent, egotistical ultra-conservative government(,and the society it fosters). And the ANZACS should cop nothing for there sake. There’s was a sacrifice of pure love. There are French, belguims, Indonesians, Singaporeans , Jews, Lining up to thank the ANZACS for their sacrifice. Maybe the vietnamese, Iraqii’s and Afganis aren’t. That’s not the soldiers fault.

    I believe

  6. Strider (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

    Hmmm, Dissembly, interesting ideas here, particularly saluting those who desecrated a shrine and called our fallen/returned troops ‘Anzac murderers’.

    Obviously, you must be a cyclist. That says it all.

  7. dissembly (unregistered) on April 29th, 2007 @ 5:18 pm

    Strider, i have the feeling this is going to start going around in circles.

    I have defended and explained my views, though i don’t see much understanding of those points in your above reply, and I’m sure there would be many with that reaction reading my post.

    Yes, I am saluting and defending those who desecrated a shrine and called our fallen/returned troops ‘Anzac murderers’. Good on them. If you’re actually interested in why i take this position, it’s all there to be openly discussed.

    If you’re not, then nothing i say will affect you in any case, and in your mind it will all be as simple as that. You can lead a horse to water, etc. etc.

    Anyway, it’s all up there, let’s not be superfluous…

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