Now that ANZAC week – commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings where New Zealand and Australian troops were killed – is over, I feel better about sharing my somewhat unpopular beliefs about continually marking this occasion.
Suggesting ANZAC Day, let alone ANZAC Week, is glorifying war brings protest from almost everyone I speak to. Asking why it isn’t glorifying war brings, well, not a lot of sense from anyone.
But maybe they are just blocking out some of the telltale signs because it’s easier to ignore them than question them.
What are the signs, you ask? Here are a few:
“What followed in 1915 was a bitter eight-month campaign that helped to forge our nation.” NZ Government’s Gallipoli 2015 website.
2014’s ANZAC theme: “Duty and adventure.” WW100 website – again sponsored by the Government.
“A spectacular week of events to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings during the First World War begins this Saturday, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says.” WW100 website.
“The Glorious Dead” – inscription on the Cenotaph in London.
Forging, adventure, spectacular, glorious. How can we use these words in the same sentence as war and say we are not glorifying it?
Let’s look at the antonyms: destroy or ruin; accident or doom; bad or ugly; atrocious or disgraceful. Aren’t these more apposite descriptions for the outcomes of war? Shouldn’t these be the things we remember?
Is it not ironic – and telling that we are still somewhat titillated by war – that at the same time as we commemorate (monumentalise) ANZAC Day, we are sending hundreds of troops to Iraq to improve warmongering?
And what of the capitalism underlying war? Where’s the conversation about destroying infrastructure in order to financially benefit the mainly Western countries who nobly get paid (actually, pay themselves) to rebuild the destruction, the military of which they’ve funded to create the ruin?
Finally, where is the celebration of peace and pacifists, as blogged about by my friend Graham Cameron. Why don’t we heroise those who refuse to condone war by disengaging? Instead we shame them with patriotic rhetoric, flagellating them for “failing to fight for their country”.
It’s too easy to focus on individual people and stories to justify heroising a fundamental flaw in humanity. It’s like promoting a “ spectacular week of events” to mark the discovery of cancer and erecting monuments to its gloriously dead victims.
The origin of the word “war” dates back the 12th century concept of “strife”, meaning both “bitter conflict” and “strenuous effort”. Perhaps it’s time use the latter meaning in order to realise peace, rather than remember war.