ANZAC Day bitterness

I know ANZAC Day is over but reading The Drum I am moved to comment once more on the day. The Punch, being The Punch, has dug up a conscientious objector to denigrate all that is service to the country. I am ambivalent about these people and don't despise or denigrate them but I do think they should be starved of oxygen and allowed to wither in their bitter memories without being heard. One of the comments left there struck a chord. Have a read of Mr Happy.
I have never marched and as a Vietnam vet ( 3RAR 1971) I say: what a huge relief that Anzac Day has come and gone. That highly stylized ritual massaged by well fed Anglo Celtic politicians, invoking Homeric images of the bronzed Anzac warrior, delivered with the sincerity and well rehearsed solemnity of undertakers presiding over a long dead corpse. The alleged ‘sacredness’ of the commemoration never fails to obscure the alternative narrative: In 1788 British settlers became the original ‘Fringe Dwellers’ with guns. Fanning out , they destroyed an advanced and diverse indigenous society. Later , they morphed into ‘Australians’ , and volunteered – sometimes with embarrassing alacrity - in a variety of imperial ventures or were complicit in the destruction of other people’s societies. Eg The Sudan, Boer War, Chinese Boxer Rebellion, invasion of Ottoman Turkey and, towards the end of WW1, even managed to squeeze in an invasion of the fledgling Soviet Republics. Then of course Korea, Vietnam, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan . When this narrative supplants the state sponsored ‘dead corpse’ of Anzac Day, then, and only then will contemporary Australia achieve a measure of cultural sophistication, and embrace a more historically authentic story to commemorate service and sacrifice.
I replied; Wow! I bet you're a lot of fun at a party - maybe it's a good thing you don't join us on ANZAC Day. While we commemorate lost comrades and celebrate living ones you would be harping on the side about us invoking Homeric images of the bronzed Anzac warrior. I bet you were a hoot in your platoon. I don't even know who your NCO was but I do feel sorry for him. Well written, bitter words that say more about you than those of us who served and choose to remember. Those who choose not to march and those who prefer not to remember at all, are used by the anti-military mob to suggest ANZAC Day is pointless or losing it's significance. As in "My uncle never ever marched" It does nothing of the sort - it simply reflects that some are bitter, some are indifferent and some are still troubled by things they've seen and done. The majority, however choose to participate and I don't think you should denigrate us for doing so. We served, we are proud that we did and if later in life you became bitter about it or earlier in life chose to avoid service for ideological or whatever reasons, then fine. If you despise ANZAC Day and what it represents so much then don't talk about it. If we offend your sensibilities to such an extent that you think we shouldn't have tried to stop Imperial Germany, Hitler, The Japs and assorted communists from taking over the world then retreat to your bitter bunker and stay silent while others secure your life style. Even though you have served and are obviously educated you still can't work out that to achieve your measure of cultural sophistication you need soldiers to first secure the civilization.

11 comments

  • Kev
    Thanks for the link to Stephens article – a thoughtful piece.
    Whilst I don’t agree with everything he says, I support his right to say it. Anzac Day is “owned” by the Australian populace at large, amongst whom are included conscientious objectors, and (despite Jim Wallace’s tweeted assertions to the contrary) Muslims and Gays.
    I was told when I wore the uniform that I was fighting against Communism, but presumably I was fighting for something as well.
    That “something” I would have thought was an Australian value that that it was OK that not everyone else in the country saw the world as I did. Some call it giving everyone – irrespective of colour, race or creed, a fair go. This level of tolerance, after all, is one of the things that separates our democracy from totalitarian regimes.
    I’m pretty sure that when my old man enlisted in the RAAF a few days after the bombing of Darwin, he was of the same opinion.
    I also believe that warfare is the ultimate failure of diplomacy, and we should, as old soldiers, believe in a future when soldiering is rendered redundant. It may never happen, but it’s not a bad aspiration.
    So let’s celebrate Anzac Day, let’s march, but let’s understand that it’s about all Australians, not just those who conform to a specific political and cultural orthodoxy.

    • Richard Sharpe

      Old mate from 3 RAR is perfectly within his rights to have a whinge about ANZAC Day. His freedom of speech does not include freedom from rebuttal though. He expressed his opinion that he hopes that ANZAC Day fades from the national psyche. Kev expressed his opinion that he hopes that people like our bastard from Woodside would just accept that for some people ANZAC Day is a time to remember friends and family who didn’t come home or came home maimed in mind or body. It is just good manners to allow those people their day without venting ideologically driven opinions.

  • Your comment reminds me of “Which of you bastards called the bastard a bastard?”
    See – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10486188
    Why do you call him a bastard? Because he disagrees with you?
    Kev’s sorting of veterans into three groups is close to the money, but I’d suggest (after spending a couple of days and drinking many beers with people from my rifle section that I hadn’t seen for 41 years) that it’s a much more complex picture than that.
    What gets up my nose is the rush to judgement of anyone who has the temerity (or the courage) to express an opinion which doesn’t toe the politically correct line.
    You can criticise his opinion, but leave the personal name-calling out of it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I doubt you know the man.
    Your post would have been improved by leaving the reference to “our bastard from Woodside” out of it.

    • For a former member of the Royal Australian Regiment you are surprisingly ignorant of their customs and traditions. The 3 RAR song goes “We’re a pack of bastards, bastards are we. We come from Woodside…….” Hence, 3 RAR are sometimes referred to as the bastards from Woodside. It is generally considered to be a term of endearment. Our correspondent claimed to have served in 3 RAR, and so I referred to him as a bastard from Woodside.

      • “you are surprisingly ignorant…..”
        You may be surprised – but remember that I was a member of a different unit, and a Nasho. I doubt that many Nashos know much about regimental history. Not having spent large chunks of their lives in the army, that’s hardly surprising.
        I doubt you know much about the education of children with disabilities – but I wouldn’t be critical of you for that. You’ve not spent 40 years or more in that endeavour.
        Whichever way you cut it, the sense of your post was a put-down on the basis of someone holding a different opinion, and of me because I pointed that out.

        • I’ve never served in 3 RAR either. I also never actually had any formal instruction in the customs and traditions of the Royal Australian Regiment. Oddly enough, my current corps is much better at that sort of thing. Just being in an infantry battalion was enough for that information to get passed on. It’s the sort of thing one learns over a beer on occasions like ANZAC Day. That’s one of the aspects to events like ANZAC Day that the naysayers just don’t get. In addition to the sombre portions of the day, there is also the fellowship that comes from shared or similar experiences. To the outsider, or the bitter non-participant, it just looks like old soldiers telling war stories. What the more observant will experience is the cross-generational tribal knowledge of the ADF, and maybe the odd drunken rendition of Old Faithful’s regimental song.

      • my husband david ellison a former 3rar bastard says that the old bastards song originated in korea and had NOTHING TO DO WITH WOODSIDE, that has been added by the toy soldiers post svn it goes
        we are a pack of bastards, bastards are we, we are the arseoles of the infantry, thats it
        he does say woodside gets a mention in this
        they say that woodside is a wonderful place, the organisation is a fuckn disgrace, the colonel, the captains the Lts too, with their hands in their pocket with fuck all to do, they stand on the parade ground, they scream and they shout, they scream about things they know fuck all about.
        so there it ALL is

  • Unsurprising that these whingers come out of the woodwork every Anzac Day.

    There have been many attempts by various fringe group ratbags to hijack Anzac Day, and it must be exceedingly galling to them that the day is becoming stronger, year by year.

    There was a time in the early 70’s I thought that Anzac Day would die out after listening to the anti war foghorns who seemed dominate the media at the time. I was still in uniform then, and over the next few years regularly went to country towns around NSW and Qld as NCOIC catafalque parties. After seeing almost all the towns’ populations turning out for Anzac Day, I realised that it lives on, deeply embedded in the hearts of many, many ordinary Australians.

    I no longer lister to the ratbags, nor take any notice of their bilious blather.

  • I’d rather not march, however I do so because there are others who can no longer march and they have no voice.

    Anzac Day is about them, not us.

  • Hear, hear. Well said.

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