Banner Pic above: Faces of ANZAC by Fat Ass Tony
WW1, 99 years ago, Dardanelles Campaign, Australians subserviently trudge to the other side of the world to invade a foreign land and wage war against a Country that had done no harm to us. And we got our asses literally handed to us.
Australia sent a generation of boys to endure hell on earth, and to inflict hell on earth on people defending their land, in support of British Nationalism.
Now, as usual, I like to pose a polarising view and take the road less travelled. The pod we are suggesting for some belated ANZAC listening is far less extreme and covers both sides, it’s got all the usual twee rubbish about how ANZAC forged an Australian Identity as we threw off the stigmatic shackles of our convict past and blazed a trail of mateship, endurance and irreverence across the globe. Pfft.
But it also goes into other facets of the ANZAC story and it’s relevance today, that, for me, was fresher and more entertaining. It’s from BBC World Service Audio Documentaries from 9th Dec 2012.
As most Australians know, you can’t keep a good Thomas Keneally down, so he pops up regularly in the pod too, and he usually has some cool stuff to say. Links to pod at bottom of MoshPost.
So these blood soaked fallacies of glory are not part of what makes Australia great. As Tommy points out, these war glory stories are the exception and not the rule in our past. In 1901 we united six disparate states, spread over a land mass the size of London to Moscow, peacefully and without bloodshed. Since then we have peacefully transitioned between many governments, liberal (note small ‘l’ liberal so for Australians not in the know, that’s historically The Labor Party), conservative (The Liberal and National Parties) and centralist regimes.
In Australia, it’s a very rare sight to see an armed soldier in public, a perpetually common sight in many countries, these are the things that make Australia great. Where corruption is the exception and not the rule, where a head of state peacefully resigns when he’s caught not declaring a $3000 bottle of wine in his campaign contributions. Some countries love going to war over this sort of stuff.
Another side the pod explores is the white male nationalism inherit in the ANZAC story and the people that this view excludes. They bang on about the Cronulla riots a bit, we’ve heard all that, but more interesting for me, they seek out the stories of people who participated but have been previously been ignored. For example little Charley Sing (I don’t think that was the guy’s name but if you listen to the pod you will know who I’m talking about), a crack sniper of Chinese descent who used to lay in wait for days in his own filth just to put a cap in Jonny Turk, and later, Ze Germans on the Western Front.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love war in the abstract sense, I find it endlessly fascinating and will tirelessly seek out the most brutal accounts of warfare to get insights into humanity at it’s basest level, the animal instinct to kill and to survive combined with the calculating intellect of man and the exponential killing power of evolving technology, all generally unleashed by state actors, where old rich white men make young men go and kill and die, to commit and witness atrocities against other young men.
The irony is that the men facing each other usually have far more in common, hopes and dreams wise, than with the old men they are killing each other for.
So I get the admiration that people feel for the boys that had to go through that, not because they were heroic or that they were putting Australia on the map but because of what they had to endure, the hell on earth, total war.
It’s also worth noting that this was symmetrical war, not like the recent wars we have been participating in, asymmetrical war where our allies have air superiority or outright air supremacy, keeping a constant flow of supplies and superior firepower coming to us, while denying the enemy from doing the same. We were fighting from a tenuous beach toe hold an ocean away from supplies and reinforcements, we were sending a volunteer army of boys with no combat experience to take a barren stretch of land from a well equipped battle hardened enemy who were fighting for their own land, which apart from a sense of righteousness, gave the Turks a steady stream of reinforcements and supplies. So yeah, hell on earth and no way out, well, one way out.
So in this sense we can admire their stoic bravery but it’s got nothing to do with them being Australian, I feel this for any poor soul, soldier or civilian that has to endure war. In the case of the ANZACs, if they have never fought and died, nothing would be different today, Our governments instigated that shit but the people paid the price and they probably should apologise to Australians and Turkish alike.
About the only decent argument for going was to concrete our military alliance with Britain, to ensure they would come to our aid if ever threatened, but as we saw in ww2, when their back is against the wall, the least of their worries is Australia. (The U.S.A turned out to be a better help, predominantly because they had more military interests in the South Pacific, which was lucky for us). And that brings me to my final point of Kokoda.
Kokoda, Kokoda, Kokoda. The shit went down at Kokoda. We chopped up the Japs at Kokoda. I’ll monger war all day when the barbarians are at the gate. As the Japanese military swept down south through Asia in a tsunami of atrocity, we were literally fighting for our national survival in the steaming jungles of P.N.G. Perhaps the only just war we have participated in with the possible exception of the East Timor Peace Keeping Force (INTERFET) we sent to war in 1999. Although even then there was talk of access to East Timorese oil fields, and there certainly hasn’t been a lack of human rights abuses throughout Asia we chose not to intervene in with hard or even soft power so it’s never simple. It’s the old question, is it better to be exploited or ignored?
The good thing about ANZAC Day, it’s evolving, it means many things to many people, increasingly it’s embracing these intricacies rather than just the blanket celebration of “‘Straylans At War” that continues to serve those who would use the sanitised legend to promote the glory of aggression and nationalism.
Posted by Bang, and jesus did I bang on.
BBC World Service Audio Documentaries, ANZAC
9th December 2012
Here is the link to the pod, you can download or listen from here:
direct link to MP3 here: