Thursday, 26 April 2007

The ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corp) spirit, captured here in a photo of an old man in a car, part of the morning parade I presume, grasping a 'stubby' of VB (the brand of beer is a national icon) and the Australian flag, demonstrates the depths to which ideas of nationhood have descended, in recent years, in this country.

Al Jazeera covered the memorial marches, but with a difference. Their reporter was in Redfern, an inner-city slum the indigenous population considers a cornerstone of their efforts to gain some sort of sovereignty over themselves, with the black 'diggers' (what soldiers are commonly called here) who served in the various wars that have come to be such an important part of nationhood.

Today, The Sydney Morning Herald notes, as did Al Jazeera, that while their service on the front lines of war was valued, once they returned home they became second-class citizens again. Aborigines were declared full citizens only in 1967.

Meanwhile, in Bathurst, a group of five teenage girls painted the words "Anzacs are murderers" on the cenotaph in the NSW town. The president of the NSW RSL (Returned Services League), Don Rowe, labelled the act "absolutely bloody terrible". The premier, Morris Iemma, said the girls should be "kicked up the backside".

But was it so bad? I mean, after all, most Australian have no conception of the reasons for the First World War. That's just for a start. But to see and hear young Australian girls, camped on the foreshore of Gallipoli for the annual orgy of self-satisfaction that is the ANZAC service, is to imagine that we empathise with the young men, some only 16 years old, who volunteered to be blown to bits.

In the service of Britain, not of Australia. The First World War was fought in France and Belgium, mainly. The Gallipoli adventure was a complete failure and a miscalculation by ignorant British generals. At no time was Australian sovereignty threatened. It was a war fought for all the wrong reasons: patriotism, pride, and an emotional attachment to the Mother country that we are well rid of.

Blindly glorifying militarism, especially when you have no clue as to the reasons behind the war, is a pitiful spectacle to watch. But the media venally panders to the public's insatiable appetite for self-congratulation (we won!) and covered the events with splendid fulsomeness.

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