Friday, April 24, 2015

Anzac Anzac - where are the historians?

I wonder how this young man will fare, returning from a war with experiences his people at home wont be able to understand.  Is he traumatised? Will he still be alive in five  years?  Are there sufficient support systems for him or is the government mouthing support while cutting his benefits? (Australia: 2015) What are his chances of happiness?

As another Anzac day rolls around I feel as I do after long election campaigns: I am totally over it! Earlier in the year I saw two Gallipoli-inspired concerts (one by the ACO and the other a sung tribute) which were tributes to the humanity of the soldiers, but the feelings they inspired have since been contaminated by the posturings of the politicians and commercial sector. 

Woolworths pulled their 'Fresh in our memories' marketing campaign after it bombed on social media but they were too late - their attempt to use the Anzac spirit to sell groceries pushed me right over the edge. I no longer like Woollies and I am sick of nationalistic, jingoistic politicians. Birth of Australia indeed - go and read your history books!

One thing I do find interesting is the juxtaposition of the 100 year "celebration" of the failed Anzac landing and the rise of a new Islamic Caliphate. In a fascinating radio interview last night historian Malise Ruthven said that the Anzacs might have failed in 1915 but the Turks were eventually defeated and the result was the dismantling of the Caliphate ruled by the Ottomans. If Bush, Blair and Howard had read their history books they might have reconsidered their decision to invade Irak, but I bet they didn't know what a caliphate was. (Ruthven is a writer, journalist and historian and wrote Islam in the World, Fundamentalism: the Search for Meaning, and A Historical Atlas of the Islamic World.) It is a pity we don't hear more from historians instead of politicians on these occasions, which brings me back to why I am so over Anzac 'stuff' right now.

Link to a thoughtful article about present day Australia

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