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.
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.
I suspect the UK's WW2 obsession has more to do with national myth and a yearning for a simpler time of national solidarity than it does anything else. The 70 years since the end of WW2 have mostly been marked by loss of global power and influence, internal civil division, and extended periods of economic gloom.
It's not coincidence that the popularity of 'keep calm and carry on' exploded around the time The City imploded and took the economy with it, and all the politicians stood around the hole, lost for words and looking like the exposed powerless incompetent idiots they mostly are. I don't think 'the state' really drove it at all.
I saw Paul Mason talk in 2012, after the riots, and just before the jubilee celebrations and the start of the olympics. He mused that he considered that things might 'get interesting' around those times, implying that there might be some sort of renewed flare-up of civil disorder. As it turns out, he was 180 degrees wrong, and both events actually worked more to 'solidarity' the country than otherwise. However, it will be interesting to see how things work out this year with the election and all: The Kippers are on the rise, and Scotland is looking somewhat unsettled.
As for “… for Heroes”. These charities were set up when it became clear that the standard of care provided for badly-wounded and disabled returning servicemen and women was absolutely inadequate. It never quite became a front-page national disgrace, mainly because the right-wing press were never inclined to join the necessary dots, but they're basically filling a hole the the state can't/won't.
There were sustained attempts by politicians here in the UK to hijack the WW1 centenary last year and turn it in a more jingoistic direction, but fortunately they mostly failed.
You're right that there are troubling signs: the military toys in the shops seem to be aimed at younger children than I remember from my youth, and are more 'real', than they are fantasy/historical (it ain't robots and aliens who are the villains...). But I don't really see how an air base open day is different to the Navy base open day I went to in Devonport a few years back.
In Oz as a young lad, we had remembrance day on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, because it was funny to keep shooting people for a few more days and hours until it came to a tidy number.
The story we got told was of the troops having the first Christmas truce, and then not being allowed to again because it was bad for morale to learn the "enemy" were just scared young kids like yourselves. That men don't actually want war at all, from the first moment they have to live it. That it's only fear and ignorance makes people fight. Rather red teachers union in Victoria, all too many relatives names on the town war memorial.
But it's all much worse than that in reality. We conscripted 18 year olds to invade countries on the far side of the planet, then had them run at machine guns and left the resulting corpses to rot in the mud. They didn't even have helmets for a start, because a nice hat was cheaper. It was disease killed most of them, because they had to live in an open sewer, and everyone had trench-foot and lice that constantly itched and hurt.
But the thing they talk about, it's the boredom. War is the same faces, the same food, the same tiny bit of trench or same tent when you're rotated out, nothing to talk about, nothing to do. You wait for weeks, or months, the odd person you vaguely knew getting blown to bits, and then you kill some people who look just like you and your mates, and then they make you do it over again. In WWI, the people it broke, wandering about asking how to get home, we shot them as cowards.
The soldiers didn't make a sacrifice, the country sacrificed all those young men for the glory of the British Empire. To run at machine guns until they ran out of ammunition, which the central powers finally did late in 1918.
The trenches were a place that young men died, not an amusement park ride.
Quite. Where are the tone police when they are needed? (I didn’t realise the trench was on tour. Presented by the History Channel.)
Christchurch people: I’m told the 19th Battalion and Armoured Regiment Service at The Memorial in Victoria Park (Victoria Park Rd, Cashmere 8.00am Saturday) is one of the most atmospheric and without the vast crowds.
Where are the tone police when they are needed?
Speaking of which, I felt that this fits well with the refreshingly BS-free tone of Russell Brown's piece. Glen Le Lievre from tomorrow's SMH.
The Belgians actually had two world wars in their country (without provoking them in any way). They’re still digging up mustard gas. Aren’t they entitled to sell a few chocolates?
It's the "official" endorsement from the RSA that I find most anger-making.
The Prime Minister remembers the great success of the Gallipoli campaign, to help us understand ...
"I think it would be denigrating their service and sacrifice to say they died for nothing. They died for a belief in our country and what we stand for and they stood alongside their Australian mates and their British mates...the most appropriate thing any of us can do is just to look back with gratitude and thanks. To do anything else is to rewrite history."
I hate that speech so VERY much.
But I don’t really see how an air base open day is different to the Navy base open day I went to in Devonport a few years back.
It wasn’t an air base Open Day. They didn’t have those, there was a war on (they were busy bombing Libya). It was an event at the local home for retired horses, raising money for the Home for Horses trust (I think they alternated years with fundraising for Hounds for Heroes).
I’m not arguing with the work the “Heroes” charities do. I’m arguing with their labelling. As far as I can see, the only pre-requisite for “Hero” status is to join the armed forces. Volunteering to kill people doesn’t seem particularly heroic to me. In order to benefit from the “Hero” charities, you need to have had someone you were trying to kill manage to kill or nearly kill you first. That doesn’t seem to me to justify “Hero” status either.
On the “Keep Calm and Carry On” bit, I think we differ on cause and effect. The timing was indeed no coincidence. But the “national yearning for a simpler time”, and the lack of social discord and breakdown is a result of the success of rhetoric and propaganda that has convinced the UK masses that the huge degradation in their public services and employment is something outside everyone’s control (like their experience of war), to be soldiered through. This lets The City off the hook, and lets the Government off the hook for not doing more to recoup national losses from The City. The people SHOULD be marching in the streets, but (unlike in the 70s and 80s) they’ve now been successfully convinced that that would be un-British or something.
They died for a belief in our country and what we stand for...
...they also died because of very bad leadership and planning, is Key putting his hand for honouring that as well.
They died for a belief in our country and what we stand for
What we stood for I could accept - "Where Britain went we went etc" - but 100 years later that is no longer what we stand for.
This morning I read Gordon Campbell's excellent piece in Werewolf; I know it has already been linked upthread but for proximity
…they also died because of very bad leadership and planning, is Key putting his hand for honouring that as well.
Hands... I recall James K Baxter's 'The Gunner’s Lament' (1965), about a dying Maori soldier in Vietnam - which he concludes with these burning lines:
‘And go and tell Keith Holyoake
Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs his hands
He’ll never get them clean.’
The Gunner's Lament is by the way on the The 9th, Sam Hunt and David Kilgour's upcoming release - brought to my attention earlier today over at Friday Music Put: the band in a lounge - hat tip to Matthew Goody!
Interesting how Peter Jackson and Weta workshops’ version of the War have become the new reality. The exhibition of the huge gory men in Te Papa has a constant lengthy queue. The parade yesterday in Wellington was bizarre. Peter Jackson’s collection of restored vehicles and actors dressed up as WW1 soldiers interspersed with the current defence forces. The crowd cheered them all particularly the actors.
One of my grudges about it all is that the Anzac stuff has taken most of the government’s history and culture funding for several years. We are in for four years of WW1 commemorations. Meanwhile where is the focus on the land wars or our unique identity events such as Parihaka?
One small positive with this attention to the past and remembering ancestors is that it will hopefully spin off into a thirst for finding out more about NZ’s history, including the uncomfortable bits.
So agreed on the "amusement park" trenches. My great-grand uncle died in one in Northern France.
However, the one in the Auckland museum always moved me. There was a similar larger-scale exhibit in the Imperial War Museum in London that really got to me - it came with sound and lighting effects. I totally acknowledged the artificiality of the exhibit, but trying to imagine living in such horrible quarters day after day after day under a semi-constant barrage and risk of sniper fire just brought home to me how little I can know of its horrendousness and how lucky I am.
And also reflecting on s how, today, so many political disputes end with people blowing each other and bystanders up. When will we learn?
It's really appalling to think that a sleb ( Angelina Jolie, re Syria) has made more apposite comments about war these last few days than any reported politician or prominent participator in the ANZAC circus (by which I mean the hyped Gallipoli "event", which has been even more objectionable here in Oz).
Interesting how Peter Jackson and Weta workshops’ version of the War have become the new reality.
Indeed it is. It was the curiously North Korean aesthetic of Richard Taylor’s Rugby World Cup sculpture that first brought into focus for me how Weta had somehow become the arbiters of state-sanctioned capitalist realism. Personally I find the parallels between Weta and North Korea’s Mansudae Art Studio more than a little disturbing.
While Weta seems to enjoy a substantial popular goodwill I’m not aware of their being particularly philanthropic. Around a decade ago the Levin Rotary Club decided to mark their centenary by gifting a bronze statue to the town to commemorate the Chinese market gardeners who’d contributed to the district. Being good public-spirited NZers they naturally thought of Weta Workshop. I understand that the artist who eventually carried out the project did so for a fraction of Weta’s prohitively high take-it-or-leave-it quote.
I still don't really understand how NZers came to be invading Turkey.
Meanwhile Turkey was kicking out Armenians, and who has recently highlighted that centennial? Non other than Kim Kardashian, a descendant.
Here's the Kardashians selfies and all, commemorating genocide in Armenia 100 years on.
Bryce Edwards has a round up of stories You are mos def not alone, Russell
At a Turk? sorting the ottomans from the tall boys...
Bryce Edwards has a round up of stories
I wonder who okayed the "join the Tall Poppy Crusade' 'Tall Poppy Real Estate Agents' ad on that page...
NZ was a self-governing British colony from 1854 to 1907, and British dominion from 1907 to 1947. We've only been an independent country for 68 years. Our sole national anthem was God Save the King/Queen until 1977, and it's still one of our official anthems and commonly played at ANZAC day.
But now it's re-writing history to suggest anything other than our tiny, bloody, and largely ineffectual part in Britain's imperial ambitions was for "a belief in our country".
Check out the recruitment posters, you'll see what people fought for, killing the monstrous foreigners with their bestial habits and strange languages. Kill the Hun, for the King! For Britannia! For God, who is so clearly on our side.
@Hillary, the Russian Empire had been busy trying to grab territory off the Ottoman Empire for a long time, while the British Empire wanted to support them (now that the whole Crimea thing was settled for good) in fighting both the Austria-Hungarian and German Empires by shipping munitions through the middle of it.
The Ottoman Empire refused to allow that, by threat of bombardment from the hills of the Dardanelles strait, on account of their recent troubles with the Russian Empire (and their new allies, the Armenians) and also not particularly wanting to have to fight the Hungarians again, as they'd recently lost territory and rather a lot of people there.
We were part of the British Empire at the time, and Turkey was part of the Ottoman Empire. So NZ invaded Turkey and they decided shit was getting a bit real and set about killing everyone who was on team Tzar.
Bad taste biscuits, fake trenches, John Key - by all means call out these low hanging fruit, but really is that all you've got? I couldn't spot many of the 25,000-odd in Cranmer Square this morning who were there for the glorification or entertainment.
Bad taste biscuits, fake trenches, John Key – by all means call out these low hanging fruit, but really is that all you’ve got? I couldn’t spot many of the 25,000-odd in Cranmer Square this morning who were there for the glorification or entertainment.
Are you replying to someone's specific post? Because given the thoughtful and sometimes highly personal nature of much of what's been shared here, implying that it's little more than a bunch of petty gripes marching in lock-step comes across as a very cheap shot.
Thanks for that summary. The Armenian genocide was very briefly featured on TV3 News tonight with the Pope naming it as such. But item mentioned certain leaders won't use the G word including our PM. (I would not be surprised if he knew nothing of this history).
Some aspects of this Anzac have been bloody awful, such as the parade of Jackson's war toys and Soviet Brutalism statues at Te Papa, but one good thing today was seeing a restored print of Jean Renoir's anti-war film The Grand Illusion (1937), as part of the French Film Festival.
I started to feel uncomfortable about all this a few weeks ago, when the Camp Gallipoli Event at Ellerslie (since cancelled) was being advertised.
After I heard the Australian promoter talking on NatRad about how (from memory) it was New Zealanders' fault for not getting in to support something great, I felt mildly relieved that maybe we haven't gone quite so far just yet.
But it's depressing reading this comment thread. I've been disconnected from ANZAC events for a few years because, as well as marrying someone who basically doesn't care about it, I also couldn't closely relate to the highly patriotic Australianised ceremonies over the ditch during the time I lived there. I'd hoped that all this year's stuff might just be a one-off 100 year thing, but it sounds like we're going the Australian way, perhaps.
Leaving the Wellington dawn parade this morning, I noticed at least a couple of cafes open on Cuba Street, at least one of which had some ANZAC themed advertising out front taking advantage of the mass exodus, and Burger King on Lambton Quay appeared to be open. Are they allowed to trade on ANZAC morning these days?