ANZAC Day is alarmingly following the same route as Christmas or Easter in becoming materialistic and agenda driven. What started as a day to remember the sacrifice Australian men and women made during military conflicts has turned into another excuse to sell products and glorify war.
ANZAC Day has always been a bit awkward for me. Coming from a German/Russian background, my ancestors have always been on the opposite sides. I remember cringing a bit when my school headmaster discussed how these Australian soldiers saved us from a force of tyrannical evil. This did allow me to learn that there are always two sides to every story however and as another ANZAC day rolls around, I am seeing both silenced.
Tired tropes get wheeled out every year such as ‘they died for our way of life’, ‘they will not grow old’, etc. This has always infuriated me, as coming from quite a strong militaristic family, I know that this is not the case. My ‘evil’ German family was flung into battle for the exact same reason the ANZACs were, and it was not for any strong belief in personal political ideologies. As Rear-Admiral Gene R. LaRocque said,
“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.”
Their innocent lives were cut short because they were either conscripted by a politician rugged up safe at home, or because they were brainwashed with the lies that they were in store for an easy holiday around the world, filled with comradery and loose, ‘exotic’ women.
Besides, I have always found ANZAC separates the country more than it unites it. Australia is a multi-cultural country and ANZAC day would be almost meaningless to the average person. According to the Australian Census 5% of the population (898,674 people) are German, 5% are Italian, 35,378 people are Japanese and 15,354 people are Russians. Hell, even 300,000 in Melbourne alone identify as being Turkish! In fact, Australia’s economy boomed because of immigrants after WWII. If it wasn’t, I would not be here and neither would the majority of the country. That is why I have always found it odd that we commemorate ANZAC day instead of the much more inclusive Remembrance Day, which gets swept under the rug in comparison.
As this pie chart reveals, a very small percentage of people living in NSW are actually Australian. The fraction of people directly affected by the ANZAC corp within that must be even smaller. Yet, every group in this whole pie chart has been affected by warfare in some way or another throughout their existence. A lot of them would be considered the enemy in ANZAC stories, but all of us can unite over the needless loss of family and loved ones in war time on Remembrance Day.
To continually glorify these unnecessary, blood-soaked conflicts every year with unrealistic, dramatisations of the ANZAC spirit honestly makes me uncomfortable. The constant comparisons every sport code makes between their overpaid sports stars and the soldiers is even more gut wrenching. The most disgusting abuse of this public holiday however is the shameless excuse companies use it as to sell their products. In 2015, Woolworths (the fresh food people) was in the midst of a PR disaster after their ad about the ANZACs being ‘fresh in our memories’ received monumental backlash.
Or how about the Stonewall nightclub’s recent poster?
This backlash is the exact attitude that needs to be supported. ANZAC day is in the midst of being hijacked by corporations and political agendas that want to use the idea of the ANZAC spirit to sell either shameless consumer products or political agendas. These men, my ancestors, did not die innocently for ‘our way of life’. They were shipped like cattle to the other side of the world to fight men who were equally as undeserving of death, all in the name of some privileged politician’s ego. As former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating said,
“The first world war was a war devoid of any virtue. It arose from the quagmire of European tribalism – a complex interplay of nation-state destinies overlaid by notions of cultural security peppered with racism.”
We should not ‘envy’ these young men because they will not grow old. Our guilt over their innocent blood should not force us to lie to ourselves about the events, but should haunt us and teach us lessons. ANZAC day should be a time when we reflect on the absolute stupidity of global conflict, not bask in its glory.