Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: This Anzac Day

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  • Nick Russell,

    Thanks for this. I always find myself biting my tongue and waiting impatiently for Anzac day to pass, and this year has been particularly difficult. I don't want to provoke those for whom the day holds such a lot of meaning. I just wish they'd get the damn facts straight. I mean, we had an hour or more about Gallipoli on Morning Report alone this morning without anyone bother to acknowledge that most of the casualties on the allied side weren't Anzacs at all. They were British and French. But never mind, let's just go with the legend.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 125 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    ANZAC should be a day of respect for the people who went through hell. But it doesn't feel like that. It feels like the commercialisation of nationalism.

    Unless the tone changes from one of 'didn't we do well to fight in those wars' to 'wan't that an awful chapter in our nations history, those poor bastards, let's not do this again' then I don't have any interest in partaking in the 'celebrations'.

    It makes me very uneasy.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    most of the casualties on the allied side weren't Anzacs at all. They were British and French

    Yep, exactly.

    those poor bastards, let's not do this again

    And that. But also, the idea that WW1 was unique and we aren't "doing it again" on a smaller scale, and with the casualties "enemy" civilians rather than our well prepared and protected troops.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    "I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder."

    - Harry Patch (until 2009, the last surviving man to have fought in World War One)

    As long as there are armed forces, we won't have internalised the lessons of this or any other war.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Greville Whittle,

    but there were fewer grand speeches from politicians. Big, greedy companies didn't try and get a piece of the action. It wasn't a stage for politicians.

    I really liked the post Russell. I've noticed that there has been a huge change in how we talk about WWI over the last twenty years. There has been a whitewashing and mythologizing of WWI as companies and politicians have tried to latch on to importance of Anzac Day for their own ends.

    When I was at high school we talked about Anzac Day, and WWI in general, as a disaster and monstrous waste of life. We honoured the dead, while lamenting the shoving match between European powers that lead to war. "Lest we Forget" was a comment about the horrible tragedy of WWI.

    I get angry when politicians use the "Died for our freedom" line as if our soldiers were protecting New Zealand from a significant threat. Our freedom wasn't on the line, we were part of the club.

    I remember this scene from Blackadder goes Forth being particularly poignant. And yes it annoys me that a comedy show gets it when our own narrative has moved on to turning the war into a heroic effort.

    Hamiltron • Since Oct 2008 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    As for Gallipoli…

    Gallipoli is the name of a 1981 film starring Mel Gibson as a plain but heroic man in tragic circumstances. It was an interesting and exciting film, based loosely on historical facts. These things made it useful for teaching in Australian high schools.

    By the mid 1990s the events portrayed in this film and several others were well known, and the children of the 1980s were adults themselves. By the 2000s, their understanding was orthodoxy, reinforced by the calibrated pronouncements of heads of the armed forces, and of the Howard Government which was interested in establishing its legitimacy as a bearer of a proud historical antecedent. So solemn ceremonies commenced.

    If it had not been for the fact that New Zealand troops fought alongside Australian ones, then this would have remained a largely Australian way of remembering war.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Samuel Scott,

    Unless the tone changes from one of 'didn't we do well to fight in those wars' to 'wan't that an awful chapter in our nations history, those poor bastards, let's not do this again' then I don't have any interest in partaking in the 'celebrations'.

    I think the tone has changed. I was uncomfortable in the late '70s attending ANZAC day services as I felt that they were glorifying war with their commemorations. A few years ago when I accompanied my children to ANZAC day services I felt there was respect for the loss of life, loss of health, and loss of innocence that occurred then, and in the wars since. The service I attended (Pt Chev RSA) mentioned the mental hardships experienced by those who survived.

    I hope the tone of respectful rememberance of the horrors of war does not give way to any sort of celebration. Companies attempting to use ANZAC day to raise their own profile had best be very wary - overstepping the mark could result in an ugly backlash.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 615 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to George Darroch,

    "I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder."

    - Harry Patch (until 2009, the last surviving man to have fought in World War One)

    As long as there are armed forces, we won't have internalised the lessons of this or any other war.

    Sadly nothing's changed much. Today such decision-makers are known as chickenhawks.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    We tend, further, to forget the complexity of Maori participation in the first world.

    Paging Dr Freud..:)

    Since Mar 2010 • 378 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    Companies attempting to use ANZAC day to raise their own profile had best be very wary – overstepping the mark could result in an ugly backlash.

    It's happened in Oz with Woolworths.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Samuel Scott,

    those poor bastards, let’s not do this again’

    Yes.

    I have been uneasy at so much of the well-meaning over-production this year, and I and many others want to acknowledge the centenary.

    But fake trenches in the Auckland CBD? I can almost imagine my grandfather’s reaction. Jack Elliott was tetchy at times, understandably because he was shot and wounded at Gallipoli as a teenager.

    Understandably because he limped around with a heavy up-to-the-hip wooden leg for half a century after his leg was blown to bits at The Somme (Ypres) by 19 years old.

    He was expected to die. He didn’t. Came home, married, had children, lived his life. He didn’t talk to me about the war; that was not a topic for children. My aunt told me this week he would not march in the Anzac Day parades or wear his medals “because he said he would never salute an officer ever again”. He went to watch the parades to see his old friends.

    He wanted to enlist for World War Two – do some office work and be useful. They wouldn’t have him.

    He was meant to surrender his rifle. It went under the floorboards in the hall (and the floor squeaked evermore). Jack had a family to protect.

    He joined the Home Guard. Resigned in disgust when they set him to guarding the Gasson Street overbridge: “The Japs won’t come across the overbridge. They’ll walk down the bloody railyards.”

    But he kept his dress uniform, the full kit, under the bed until the day he died, peacefully, in Grandad’s Chair with tea in Grandad’s Cup on the arm, surrounded by his family.

    I feel a little fraudulent writing this: he wasn’t going to talk to a small girl about the Great War (though I won a prize as a child for the poem I wrote about his spare leg kept in the hall cupboard). I know little, and I don’t claim any knowledge of his political views, but I know the outpouring of politicking and sentimentality would not have appealed to him in the slightest. Remembrance and emotion, yes, but that’s a different thing, isn’t it?

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2896 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Companies attempting to use ANZAC day to raise their own profile had best be very wary – overstepping the mark could result in an ugly backlash.

    It’s happened in Oz with Woolworths.

    They’ve been nibbling at the boundaries for some time. Twelve years ago there was a BNZ TV ad that played up the bank’s association with rugby. In what I recall as the final scene the camera panned along hallowed sporting relics such as jerseys displayed in glass cases in a clubroom. Just before the cut it stopped briefly on an array of portraits of what were presumably past sporting greats in military uniform. The implied connection was close to subliminal but, knowing something of how every frame counts in a 30 second TV spot, it couldn’t have been anything other than deliberately intended.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Attachment

    It’s happened in Oz with Woolworths

    I’m surprised Aldi didn’t jump on that bandwagon as well.

    Also, the use of war to sell stuff has gone on as long as we've had wars:

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Attachment

    Well, wars and advertising. I don't think they had posters enouraging you to buy the brand of mead the archers at Agincourt drank.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    fake trenches in the Auckland CBD?

    When I was a young lad, we didn't need fake trenches. There was a bomb site on nearly every street in most UK cities.

    People weren't much into remembrance parades either - I think the older generation had seen enough of actual war. And of course, continental Europeans experienced a land war, which was far worse. I don't think they were into parading either.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I’m surprised Aldi didn’t jump on that bandwagon as well.

    German veterans could become associate members of the Australian RSL since at least the 1960s, though I imagine that sieg heiling during the silence would have been frowned upon.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    I'm feeling pretty despondent about ANZAC day this year, and the whole century of WW1 "celebrations" - its always been an important day in my year but its just been made into something it shouldn't because it serves others interests in the way it was never meant to be - I'll be doing my reflecting alone away from the pomp and pagentry

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 538 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    That may have been the case when you were a lad, but on our recent stay in the UK we were shocked and pretty horrified at how obsessed with WW2 the UK appeared to be.
    As far as I could tell, this suited the ends of the State very well. First, there were all the attempts to recreate the sense of “all in it together"-ness of WW2, as some sort of “isn’t this GFC jolly” thing. Thus all the "Make Do and Mend", "Dig for Britain", and all the "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters.
    And second, the whole tragedy/bravery/nationalism of war was convenient for manufacturing consent for the UK’s ongoing military actions in Iraq and other places (when we were there, Libya).
    The language was hideous. All of it was “… for Heroes”. So there was “Help for Heroes”, “Hounds for Heroes” (I thought this was some charity that arranged for returned soldiers to get retired greyhounds, but now I come to look it up, I find it’s slightly better, in that it provides assistance dogs to returned soldiers with disabilities), and, more locally (we were living on the edge of an Air Force village in Buckinghamshire, so doubtless got more exposure than most) the Horses, Hounds and Heroes Family Fun Day. Yes, really.

    My sense of this Anzac Day is that it has wandered into that kind of territory, instead of staying firmly in the field of “why did we and do we involve ourselves in such tragic awfulness” .

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 580 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hebe,

    But fake trenches in the Auckland CBD?

    Billed by TVNZ as Don’t miss out on this.

    Meanwhile, Stuff has How to get in the trenches on Anzac Day

    The trenches were a place that young men died, not an amusement park ride.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    I started to feel uncomfortable about all this a few weeks ago, when the Camp Gallipoli Event at Ellerslie (since cancelled) was being advertised.

    The promotional material told us:

    Kiwis will have the opportunity to sleep under the stars, just like the ANZAC soldiers did 100 years ago, and wake to a Dawn Service on ANZAC Day itself.

    Perhaps they were going to include dysentery and typhoid, maiming and screaming, hunger and thirst, and countless other miseries, just like the soldiers enjoyed 100 years ago. But I doubt it. (In a similar vein, TV reporters not knowing the difference between "commemoration" and "celebration" - that really grates).

    "We will remember" increasingly seems to mean "we will imagine".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1324 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Anyway, thanks all. I had actually been struggling with what to say about this, but I just stopped what I was doing this morning and wrote the post. It's a relief to discover I'm far from the only one feeling this way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Absolutely not. As for "Lest We Forget", it seems we have forgotten it was the War to END All Wars...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to simon g,

    Mud and Glory...

    “We will remember” increasingly seems to mean “we will imagine”.

    does that include the Te Papa Weta Dreams
    scaled-up mucky & Muecky creations?

    Feels to me like they've forced the viewer into a Hobbit-sized POV...

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/67841405/te-papa-brings-epic-scale-of-world-war-i-to-life

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Ianmac,

    It seems sad to me that those who went and returned seems to be not treated with enough respect. After all because they lived on the nightmares were daily demons. They must have been so very very brave to have carried on in spite of the awful experiences that the politicians put them in.

    Winston Churchill refused the credit that Turkey needed in the building/refitting of the Turkish ships in the UK. They wanted an alliance with the UK but when rejected by Churchill, they were picked up by Germany as an enforced ally. The first action of Germany was to send German ships with Turkish (Ottoman) flags into the Black Sea to shell Russian towns.

    So had Churchill accommodated The Turks , Gallipoli would never had happened!

    Bleneim • Since Aug 2008 • 135 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming,

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

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