Lest.We.Forget

The backlash to questioning the ANZAC narratives is a very recent phenomena. Australia has had a long tradition of questioning the narrative through music, plays and movies. What changed?

Eric Bogle – The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

Redgum – I Was Only 19

ANZAC Day is a day that was reframed in John Howard’s ‘cultural wars’ twenty years ago and continues to be in the press to this day. It’s is now a day that for many reasons has been captured and the elements of ANZAC have been re-framed for base politics, and that’s the churn we see on this date every year. The meaning of the ANZAC spirit will always be open to debate, but it is generally understood to be about mateship, egalitarianism, larrikinism and a healthy scepticism of authority.

It is interesting in this light that the ceremonies are held in dignified respect, but this is conflicted by the holiday “celebration” and “Aussie Patriot” bullshit that replaces the ANZAC spirit (values?) with a faux hype and a myth – this was disdainfully referred to as ‘the nature of mafficking‘ in 1916. It would be interesting to see how many Australians have learned much beyond the ANZAC myths presented in primary school, and Peter Weir’s Gallipoli. The comment section in the newspapers today hints that the answer would be not many.

The ceremonial framing of the ANZAC Service comes with an historical context, and related nuances. Even the choices of hymns and secular songs have a statement. Some are clear such as the use of “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover” and framing the ANZAC ceremony as Australia’s participation in a European War. Others not so clear and harking back to the race, religion and conscription arguments from World War I. The choices of traditional poetry are also deliberate.

Digging into that nuance;
* In the Recessional, “Lest We Forget” is a warning against jingoism.
* The ANZAC Requiem sets us a charge in the last stanza; “and may we and our successors in that heritage prove worthy of their sacrifice.”

In context, “Lest We Forget” is a bigger challenge than “We Will Remember Them” as it is an ongoing challenge to prove worthy of their sacrifice.

Why is this a bigger challenge? In the “The ANZAC Requiem” we are asked to share the sorrow ‘of all who have been the victims of armed conflict’, we ‘recall staunch friends and allies’ … according to this week’s newspapers we would perhaps exclude current refugees from countries which are now theatres of war as it doesn’t fit the current political agenda. Flag waving nationalism was something we as a nation laughed at the Americans for, we have now in many cases become a jingoistic joke, and to question the narative is seen to be un-patriotic. We appear to have forgotten.

* In remembering Anzac Day, what do we forget? (2016-April-20) [The Conversation]
* The past is not sacred: the ‘history wars’ over Anzac (2015-Apr-25) [The Conversation]

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