Saturday, April 24, 2010

ANZAC day silence

It is ANZAC day here in Australia tomorrow. It is a national day where we say a very great thanks to those men and women who have fought in wars over the years to protect Australia and its citizens. A most worthwhile task in my view. My grandfather was a doctor in the army and my father was an able bodied seaman in the navy during the second world war. Fortunately I missed out on a potential call up for the Vietnam war by being just a bit too young. I admire my father and grandfather for what they did for this country and me and my family

In the past week there has been the usual build up to this most reverent of days in this country. Much comment has been made, articles written and commentary on the different theatres of war in which Australians have fought and many images of our gallant men fighting where they did.

Me in high school “army”.

Whilst it is a day to show our thanks it is also a day where Australian society makes a statement to itself and particularly its children about war. It says to the children what we think about war, how we view it and how we wish to remember it. This is where I have concerns

There is a silence that is most disconcerting.

At the moment ANZAC day is a good fun day. The first thing the children learn about ANZAC day is that it is a day off school so they are all in favour of it I would imagine. There are also dawn services that a solemn and moving and very picturesque. Plenty of parades with lots of flag waving, smiles, cheering, clapping, tears in the eyes, BBQs, beer drinking, playing two up and I would imagine that the women of the night probably do a good days trade as well.

At the moment everybody is slapping everybody else on the back and everyone is agreeing on how this celebration and national statement about war is being conducted.

The anti war movement is completely silent. It would seem there is none at all. I recall quite a few years ago now there would be anti war protesters on ANZAC day who would burn the Australian flag, shout their anti war views and in the dark of night put graffiti on war memorials like “Men’s wars rape women”.

Whilst I find such slogans most repugnant they are also reassuring. At least someone is disagree and the children will see this and will make them think. It will make them think that maybe war isn’t just parades and days off school. And it is true, men’s wars do rape women. Whether that be the random rapes by male soldiers on female civilians or armies using rape as a systematic method of warfare. Like the “comfort women” used by the Japanese soldiers in WWII or the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war as in recent conflicts in Sub saharan Africa. Why don’t we tell our children about this? Why don’t we show images of this to our children? One sees very, very few if any images on ANZAC of mutilated bodies and death and torture. So what are we teaching our children about war on ANZAC day?

Unfortunately ANZAC day has commercialised war and sanitised war. One of the worst offenders in this way is the Australian Football League (AFL). They have wholeheartedly seized on ANZAC day and squeezed it for every dollar it can make out of it to sell seats at games of football. Equating footballers to our fine soldiers and games of football to the battle fields. Now that is repugnant!. For heavens sake it is just a game of football and who really cares who wins and looses. But perhaps it teaches our children that some how, kind of, war is like a game of football. And that the young adult males kind of start to think that going to war is like going on a long extended camp with your mates at the expense of the government.

The AFL have commercialised ANZAC day so you are never going to get any truth about the ‘bad’ aspects of war, and there are many. And thus one ends up with endless good pictures about war and never any of the bad ones.

Is the AFL going to show our children pictures of war like these.

I don’t think so because that would be bad for business and they will continue to send only a very ANZAC day sanitised view of war to our children.



  1. Very thought provoking post. The whole idealised concept of war is disturbing. All about heroes and villians and nothing mentioned of terrible suffering by every person who is caught up in it.

    My son is 13, goes to high school and learns what he learns there. At home he has access to many books that open his eyes about the violent history that has preceded modern times. I don't censor it, perhaps I should. But if I did then how would he ever know the ugly truth of the brutality that goes hand in hand with war.

    Everything is so homogenised now that it is very hard for young people to appreciate the importance of knowing real truth is.

  2. Hello Linda,
    I certainly agree with the sentiments you state in your comment. Of the ever present nanny state in which we live here in Australia the placing of our children in cocoons is the most pronounced. In my view grossly over protected and kept in cotton wool.

    Children can see pictures like the ones on my post and they are not going to be traumatised. Sit with them and talk about it and everyting will be fine. And then they will understand much more about war as you note.


  3. Tony,

    Perhaps our country has made promises (like little pinky ones) that if or when someone feels like killing people then Australia will jump in on the ban wagon and go kill people too. If that is the case... the 'stake holders' of such pinky promises will do all they can do to keep the truth from the future generations who's lives will make a killing, literally and financially for the stakeholders involved.

    Is that a synical persective? I think it might be, but it is also the truth. Sucks huh!

    I hope your long weekend goes to plan and you get to spend time (real, quality time) with the ones that matter in your life. *Hugs* to you.

  4. The press would have a field day Tony and the AFL would crucified for such realistic teachings of what constitutes war and involvement by Anzacs. I think a homogenised version is more socially acceptable and inviting for mass social participation rather than not. Sometimes the "good work" can be achieved without the greusomeness that might be considered appropriate by some minority groups.

    Maybe I am becoming systemized Tony or at least open to ways that work in the mainstream?

  5. Hello on ANZAC day to you Roses,
    You make an interesting point.

    yes i spent some very good quality time last night with my sons and one girlfriend of thiers. We had food and some very good conversation and company


  6. Maybe you are becoming part of the system Kenoath. I would consider myself part of it too.

    I am concerned however when the anti establishment groups are not active and vocal even if it causes angst for the mainstream. If we don't have the "flag burners" on ANZAC day then I think we are in real danger of becoming quite skewed in our thinking about war.