Last Saturday was ANZAC Day, the day in which we remember the men and women who have fought for Australia, and New Zealand, in many overseas wars; remembering too the many who are still serving. This year was a big event because it was the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in the First World War. In fact it was such a Big Event that there was debate about the amount of commercialisation of Gallipoli and the ANZAC Legend.
However, I had a different view of the day. Let me assure you that I am quite respectful to those who fought in wars, and also of those who treasure the day. My grandfather went to WW1 and fought on the Western Front. My father was involved in WW2. Fortunately both returned. I have visited the War Memorials in Normandy and been brought to tears by the acres of graves. So many lives lost needlessly.
I have a very ambivalent attitude to ANZAC Day. I grew up in a time when there were large protest about Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. I didn’t go to the protests, but they were lead by people who were later to become friends and political comrades. During the 80s we protested about nuclear weapons and uranium. I remain very anti-war.
I realise that many who went to ANZAC Day events would also be anti-war too. They go, I suppose, to pay their respects to soldiers who are seen to have been defending our way of life.
We know that the Gallipoli Campaign ended in defeat and retreat. (Although I have heard some youngsters are surprised to know that. The relentless media lead them to believe it was a victory.) But the whole of WW1 is difficult to celebrate. Indeed I think Gallipoli is chosen as the poster campaign because the rest of the war is riddled with huge numbers of dead and wounded, mutinies and desertion. In fact the war was stopped, not by military campaigns, but by the Russian Revolution in 1917 and then the German revolution in 1918. The years afterwards were years of upheaval, strikes and revolutions.
If we are really going to celebrate our ‘way of life’ why don’t we celebrate the people and events that created the things we hold dear?
Education Act (Victoria) of 1872 established an education system that was free, secular and compulsory, giving all children access to education. Isn’t that part of our way of life? We were amongst the first in the world to give women the vote, to remove property qualifications for Members of Parliament and to give salaries to MPs. I recently learnt that we had secret ballots way back in 1856. Aren’t measures that promote democracy and help squash undue influence in our political systems worth celebrating?
What about the workers who fought for the 8 Hour Day? Our Labour Day holiday in March is to recognise them, but instead the day has been taken over by the hoopla of Moomba.
Why don’t we have memorials to scientists and inventors? People whose work has given us break throughs in medicine and or made things safer or easier?
I could go on, but I think you understand my point.
So, what did I do on ANZAC Day? Well, I went back to visit the Women’s Peace Garden in Kensington. I have blogged about it before; surprisingly it is one of my most viewed posts. In it you can read about the history of the garden and the symbols used in it. I sat and thought about those who have died in wars, and continue to die. I sketched the colonnade, to help me remember that a world without war would be a wonderful thing.
And lastly I want to leave you with two video clips from Eric Bogle. He is a singer/songwriter who was able to encapsulate the sorrow of WW1. The first is “The band played Waltzing Matilda”, the Gallipoli campaign told from the point of view of a young man sent off to fight.
The second video, is even more heart wrenching, “The green fields of France”.
10 replies on “ANZAC Day”
Thank you for your passionate support, Ellen. When your views are not the mainstream it is good to know that you are not the only one swimming against the current.
What a lovely, enlightening post. Can’t bring myself to watch the videos; I know what they would do to me. While it’s very appropriate to remember our dead, you make an excellent point about celebrating those whose achievements are perhaps more subtle on the surface but have long lasting effects – for good – on society as a whole. I have always been of the opinion that if we could only get more women of common sense into leadership positions there would be a whole lot less violence in the world. Of course, there are women who are susceptible to corruption and who would let greed and power go to their heads. It’s just not a perfect world, no matter how much we’d like it to be so.
Thank you Sue. I know what you mean about the videos. They are very powerful main,y because they are stories simply and honestly told. They brought me to tears when I listened to them on ANZAC Day.
I am not sure about the women in leadership idea. To get to the top women often have to be even more ruthless and can be very gung-ho. Margaret Thatcher was one of the most hawkish Prime Ministers Britain has had. Despite that I do think we need more women in leadership. How do you think Hilary Clinton will go?
I’m anti-war too but our people, and people of all nations, served and are serving. I’m pleased you thought about it, and spent the day in a way that’s meaningful. That’s what matters.
For us being able to spend ANZAC Day in the small Taylors Arm community feels right. We were there for those who are no longer, those who marched on the day and for the community that meant so much to them.
But I couldn’t bring myself to document it. It was so personal, something I think you have to feel and experience in your own way, as you did.
I love your perspectives, Anne.
Reblogged this on Anne Lawson and commented:
Today is ANZAC Day, and my daily walk took me back to the Women’s Peace Garden. I am reblogging the post I wrote last year, when I wrote about my feelings about the day, and why I visited the Gardens.
Very sound, Anne. And we never learn
What a good way to spend the day. Such a waste of life, and so many better things to remember.
As I was reading, I was thinking about making a comment to the effect of “all one needs to do, to understand that Gallipoli wasn’t a victory, is to listen to ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’,” and then I scrolled own and there it was! These two songs say as much about the horror of WWI as a million history books could say–I think Bogle is a genius at packing meaning and feeling into a few words. I think your trip to the peace garden is the very best way to honor the dead–by hoping more won’t die . . .