Absurdity of the ANZAC Myth

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“What is ANZAC day all about?” we asked our Australian colleagues Al and Chloe this morning. We often ask them to explain something that seems foreign to us when we encounter something about the country we don’t understand. We were trying to figure out what the spirit of ANZAC day is. Does it commemorate a historic sacrifice by ordinary men for some extraordinary goal?

Though we like being irreverent, we have, like everyone else in the modern world, become sensitized about saying things that offend other people or make them “uncomfortable.” We don’t want to be accused of hate speech or anything. Still, we had to just come out with the question as bluntly as we could to see if we were getting thing wrong.

“So let’s see if we have this straight. ANZAC day celebrates the fact that a fully independent Australia happily went to the defense of the British Empire and sacrificed thousands of its best and brightest young man to the inept strategies of Britain’s generals? Is that about right? Are we missing something?”

Al and Chloe assured us that there is an acknowledgement of the absurdity of the sacrifice in the unofficial ANZAC mythology. We hope they are right…

Dan Denning
The Daily Reckoning Australia

Dan Denning
Dan Denning examines the geopolitical and economic events that can affect your investments domestically. He raises the questions you need to answer, in order to survive financially in these turbulent times.
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Comments

  1. ANZAC day is about the men on that beach, Dan. Every Australian knows that the British strategy was flawed.

    But the focus is on the heroism of the men in helping their mates and doing their duty proudly not as British subjects but as citizens of an independent country. They fought for Australia, despite the fact that Australia still towed the line with Britain.

    It’s about the non-militaristic warrior ethos, and the futility of war.

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  2. Dan,
    regarding ANZAC, you have to remember that Federation was achieved in Australia in only 1901 and hadn’t really been bedded down. To many (including overseas) it was a waste of time. Australia was largely still a collection on British colonies now called states in the Australian Commonwealth. Along comes WW1 and the British request help. The prevailing sentiment was that we should help and it was our chance to show the country (internal) and world (external) they we had matured as a nation.

    And that we did. ANZAC cove was a planning disaster which should have resulted in our anielation. But it didn’t. The trenches of France in general and Villers Brentenue (spelling?) are places where Australian soilders succeeded where no other nation could.

    Fast forward to the end of WW1 and suddenly the Allies have won with the Australian contribution significant, and Australia has ‘arrived’ on the world scene. Never again would we be considered a collection of British colonies.

    Noteworthy is that in 1890’s Australian’s fought in the Boer War under British command. Whilst successful, three Australian were executed by the British. You need to read the book Breaker Morant (or watch the movie). In WW1 after ANZAC, Australians fought under Australian command notably General Sir John Monash, a Melboure Engineer I think.

    If I can use an analogy, the perception of the WW1 soldiers in Australia in the 1930’s is similar to that of the US ‘golden generation’ of WW2 veterans who won WW2 through their beach landings in France, and achievements in the Pacific.

    Lastly, in all follow on wars, Australian troops have performed exceptionally well relative to the soldiers from larger countries (WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War 1/2). This is still the case today. It is probably a reflection on the warrier culture in Australia exemplified by our sports mad obsessions.

    Have a great day.

    Mark

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  3. ‘ANZAC day celebrates the fact that a fully independent Australia happily went to the defense of the British Empire …’

    Actually, no. Few Australians ever get to read or hear much about the state of the nation in WWI, except through the excessive romanticism of the Anzac myth. In reality, the majority of Australians were opposed to our young lads racing off to defend the British Empire. The young lads seem to have felt much the same. By 1916, enlistments had dried up to a trickle, leading the increasingly desperate Hughes government to hold a referendum on conscription. (He knew that to simply introduce conscription without a referendum would have brought down his government.) The referendum was defeated, as was another one held a year later – and by an even greater majority.

    In fact, Australia’s war record has continued to be controversial – right down to our current presence in Iraq, which is also opposed by the majority of Australians. Over 120,000 Australians have died in wars, all of which were fought on foreign soil. Only one of these wars (WWII) brought any direct threat to Australia’s security, and even then, most of our troops were out of the country at the time.

    The powerful hate pacifism. The glorification of war and the canonisation of the soldier are vital to continued military enlistment. If Gallipoli had never happened, some other Anzac-type myth would have to have been created.

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