Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lest We Offend

Anzac day is always curious to me, that is to say when I log in to facebook I'm always surprised at the solemn reverence of posts by my friends about Anzac day. It's a minority but has no bearing on age for example, people whose parents fought in World War II are no more or less likely to post about Anzac day as people whose Grandparents fought in World War II (or people whose grandparents fought in Vietnam for that matter). I just don't understand it, it is a mistery to me. I grew up with a Grandfather that fought in World War II, and have lived the entirety of my life with a Grandma that hasn't moved past it. Somehow my mixed feelings about Anzac day remain unresolved, and further more I just don't care enough to really dig in and figure out how I should feel about this holiday. Like I do have a number of problems with it, and particularly the reverence. It's because of something Napoleon said:
A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.
Which is to say, on remembrence day and Anzac day I get confused as to what the general vibe of what we are remembering and what we are forgetting is supposed to be. Are we glorifying a tragedy? Or are we reflecting on a tragedy in the noble ambition that a population at large won't be fooled again? I am for the latter, but not the former. Furthermore, I have a feeling that wars are by and large rarely decided by soldiers. They are decided by academics in buildings breaking codes, and diplomats in staterooms operating telephones, and other communication exchanges. To say the soldiers, whom are transport for the 'arms' attached to their bodies are the key factor I feel is letting those truly responsible for war, the decision makers off extremely lightly. When Australia entered the Iraq war John Howard asked the public in that unpopular war to direct the flac at him, and lay off the soldiers who were just doing their jobs. And he was right. There are decision makers in war, inevitably somebody is responsible for engaging. Elsewise you simply do not have a state, and that state would have no holiday to celebrate military traditions. The decision makers deserve the lions share of criticism and glory. War can be entered into meaningleslly and voluntarily (such as Iraq and Vietnam) or it can happen to you forcing you into an incredible waste of defending your existence (such as the Pacific War). As Keating said in his remembrence day speech:
Because the Great War was a mad, brutal, awful struggle, distinguished more often than not by military and political incompetence; because the waste of human life was so terrible that some said victory was scarcely discernible from defeat;
etc. The speech was ultimately celebratory of how extraordinary an ordinary person can be, and I agree. But I suspect there's a corellation generally speaking between people who inject the most solemnity and respect and importance into a day like ANZAC day and those who would most readily call for another war should even the vaguest opportunity arise (eg a state 'harbouring' terrorists). I find this offensively hypocritical. Another aspect of hypocrisy is in the general way we treat our forebears. I have never intended to be ambiguous about my stance on the direction of indebtedness across generations. Children owe their parents nothing, parents owe their children everything. I shall presumably at some point transfer from being an absolute creditor (to my parents) to an absolute debtor (to my children). This goes on through the generations. I find it thus hard to hold my tongue when a day comes along where I am asked to feel indebted, forget or deliberately overlook all the bad and pay, PAY respect to any person that somehow rises in significance over myself or any other individual. Somewhat serendipitously I've been going through a Josh Freese phase in my music listenings and yesterday worked my way onto listening to the Vandals album entitled 'hitler bad, vandals good'. Hitler was undoubtedly bad, and the most recognisable figure of WW2, a man more celebrated even in his villainy than Winston Churchill, and I suspect to his generation and probably the next three (and possibly counting) to follow a kind of comforting figure. I think to many these military holidays equivocate to a simple world view of 'hitler bad, australia good' and 'hitler bad, england good' and 'hitler bad, USA good' and perhaps even 'hitler bad, modern germany good'. Similar to conspiracy theories, the subconscious desire of the person who purportedly hates the 'big brother' conspirator but in fact seeks the comfort of their existence to reassure them that life is orderly predictable and that somebody is in control, I think there's a subconscious appreciation that Hitler was so bad that all who opposed him are heroes and allows us to look at our past present and future with rose coloured glasses, because in this ultimate acid test we determined once and for all 'hitler bad, we good'. Thus why on this day or any should I pretend that my Grandma and I have a shared meaning of Australia. Today I am supposed to honour the sacrifices made by my forebears in defending this nation to enable us to have the lifestyle we enjoy and tomorrow I can go back to scoffing at her ignorance in opposing Climate Change, Refugee Visas (aka Human fucking Rights) and Same Sex Marriages? On what day do we honour those who marched in the streets to end the Vietnam War and those who marched in the streets to prevent joining the Iraq war? When do we honour those who care about the lives of complete strangers be they soldiers of the same state or civilians of another? On what day do we honour those who hold media to account? Or honour the media that actually holds the decision makers to account? Where in the ANZAC parade do the conscientious objectors march? Those who would rather go to prison than fight an unjust war? When in other words do we start celebrating those who actually do remember and DO learn from the horrors of War? A 'Peace and Goodwill' day that was dedicated to somebody other than Jesus would be a happy holiday that I could fully get behind.

No comments: