Four Anzac Day Myths

Four Anzac Day Myths

Four myths about Anzac Day (April 25th) and the Australian military are constantly propagated by the media and schools at this time of the year. Interestingly, even many liberal and social-democratically oriented people tend to share them in part or as a whole. In my view these myths are important propaganda planks in right-wing mental hegemony over large sections of the population. Rather than sharing them, perhaps progressives should help debunk them.

1. Australian troops died to defend Australian democracy and way of life

Except for WW2, every one of the eleven or twelve wars Australia has been involved in has not been to defend Australia and its institutions but to aid its Imperial protector (GB, US) in some overseas war of aggression as self-funded mercenary. From the Boer War to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Australian soldiers have been the willing cannon fodder for an imperial alliance insurance premium. Incapable of defending itself, it hopes the Empire will honour its side of the insurance deal and come to its aid if attacked.

2. Australian ‘national identity’ was formed at Gallipoli in 1915

Says who? ‘National identity’ is a politically contested social construction. All nationalists and right-wingers since Charles Bean have made this assertion for their own domestic political purposes. Left-wingers would point to Australia’s progressive social-democratic record instead: the early or first introductions of a minimum wage, the secret ballot and women’s suffrage, long before most other countries.

3. Australian soldiers are unique in their courage, humility, mateship, larrikinism

Governments, ideologues and sections of the population of every country on earth indulge in their own national narcissism and see their own soldiers as possessing unique qualities. In fact, courage and mateship (as much as their opposites) are universal human traits, not Australian ones. Humility and larrikinism can also be found in many other cultures.

4. Anzac Day serves to remember the victims and awfulness of war

Anzac Day remembers only Australian victims. It does not remember the many more military and civilian victims killed by Australians for their imperial protectors, mostly not in defence of Australia. It never focusses on the horrors and military brutalisation of war. Its exclusively military rituals and ceremonies reinforce the conservative, authoritarian and hierarchical values of nationalism, the military and militarism. It acts as an effective form of pseudo-religious-cohesion-for-a-day for a fragmented, alienated, 24/7 consumer society devoid of meaningful rituals and social solidarity.

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 23, 2012.

5 Responses to “Four Anzac Day Myths”

  1. Well, not ONLY Australians but also New Zealanders. Hence A NZ AC

  2. Australia identity forged at Gallipoli?! Don’t let the Eureka Stockade hear that!!

  3. Hi Peter,

    Agree with everything but just wondering about point one. Many conservative historians (i.e John Hirst) argue that the insurance pact – and therefore Australians involvement in wars – is justified precisely because we believe we are ‘incapable of defending ourselves.’ What would you say in response?


    • Hi Jonathon, thanks for the comment and question. I’d say a nation which considers itself incapable of defending itself should admit it, for a start, instead of bullshitting on about its brave, heroic warriors defending freedom and democracy etc etc. (A position like Hirst’s would then have to come clean and actually TELL its soldiers that they are cannon fodder for an insurance policy). A nation incapable of defending itself is an immature one, like a child. Then I’d ask people to democratically debate why it can’t defend itself. Then do something about it that does not entail sending its own people to kill other people in the Empire’s wars of aggression (the most serious war crime under international law). From a libertarian perpesctive, I would argue against a military build-up and for an innovative combination of small scale, purely defensive military commandos (incapable of launching an attack on any country) combined with mass training of the general population in passive resistance and civil disobedience towards any potential external (or internal) aggressor. (This would also save billions that could be invested in health, education and transitioning to sustainability). Hope that helps answer your question. Peter

    • Hi Jonathon, just to say I’ve posted a short response to your comment as my last blog post. Your comment and question much appreciated, thanks again. Peter


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