Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Today is ANZAC day in Australia

I hate it when they say, 'He gave his life for his country'. They don't die for the honour and glory of their country. We kill them."
- Rear-AdmiralGene R. LaRocque

Today is ANZAC day in Australia. The rememberence or celebration of war is somthing I do not miss about my homeland. Reading the quotes from the defence minister Brendan Nelson's speech at the dawn service on the Gallipoli peninsula (which I visited myself as a 12 year old very Australian lad) I was very disturbed:

"To understand what happened here, to feel a connection with this place, is to be fully Australian," he said.

What about the Turkish descendents of those tens of thousands who died there? They must feel a connection to the place. Are they also "fully Australian"? What a ridiculous statement, but wait there's more:

"No group of Australians has given more, nor worked harder to shape and define our identity than those who have worn and now wear the uniform of the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force."

How can this be so? Australian identity should not be defined by the military. This is the situation in North Korea, not in a democratic state. Australia as a nation, at its best, is the product of millions of peaceful individuals pursuing a way of life that is based on freedom, respect and a "fair go". Few of these values are represented in warfare.

"Precious Australians who lie here and in distant places of the world do so as silent witnesses to the future that they have given us," he said.

The Gallipoli campaign was a disaster. Coming from a military family myself I know that the soldier's (and army nurse's and sapper's) lot was a miserable one where mistakes and bad planning were as common as effective military actions. Those Australians killed at Gallipoli and in all military campaigns on foreign soil are the victims of those that sent them there. Even as volunteers the loss of so many so young should never be glorified in any way.

"We honour them by the way that we use our lives and shape our nation."

This is true. For this reason ANZAC day should be a day for the condemnation of all military spending, planning and deployment. In its name money should be made available for international youth exchanges between conflicting states. Peace and conflict studies should be taught in high school. Australian defence spending (currently around 2 per cent) should be tied to the overseas development aid budget (currently at 0.30 per cent), whereby no more than the percentage that is spent on aid can be spent on weapons and war.

This is how the diggers should be remembered.

I despair of the direction that public opinion seems to be taking in Australia in recent years. Everywhere is a provincial jingoistic nationalism that celebrates a one dimensional version of the nation’s history and culture/s.

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