It’s been a while since the kerfuffle about Paul Keatings comments recently regarding Gallipoli.
From the Herald Sun newspaper…
He said he has never been to Gallipoli and never will because it is nonsense to think the nation was born again or redeemed there.
On the one hand we were out to prove that ‘the British race in the antipodes had not degenerated’, yet we resented being dragooned into a war which did not threaten our own country or its people,” Mr Keating said.
Given Australian loyalties to England at the time, Keating said it was entirely understandable that Australia troops fought the Turks at Gallipoli, but the experience was shocking.
“Dragged into service by the imperial government in an ill-conceived and poorly-executed campaign, we were cut to ribbons and dispatched,” he said.
I’ve been musing for the past few days as to what Anzac Day means to Australians and why there is such an outcry to his statement.
I think most are reacting to the tradition of Anzac Day being sacred not because they have thought it through but because they are told and believe that it is something to treat as holy. A case of tradition for traditions sake.
If you take the time to consider the reality of 25 April 1915 it has to be admitted to being an abject disaster with the British using disposable Australians as cannon fodder and where over the duration of the war 61,720 died from an Australian population of 5 million. One of the greatest per capita disasters for any country in the war.
If we want to celebrate a battle I agree with Paul Keating, in that the victory of holding back the advancing Japanese on the Kakoda Trail and the outstanding success of the Australian and New Guiniea troops there would be a far more favourable example of achievement over adversity. Or if you want to stick with Anzac Cove, lets celebrate without enemy knowledge, the withdrawal of troops as a huge success and without a single life lost. Now that’s an achievement!
The question is really “Why does Anzac Day resonate so?”
When the first and most importantly, impromptu Anzac Day dawn service was held it was not a celebration of a great battle it was a simple quite reflective remembrance of an event and loss.
The Dawn Service which I’ve been attending for about twenty years is about a loss of innocence, about a realisation that we are on our own and that war and the sacrifices made to it are folly.
I think what Anzac day has given the Australian personality, is a sense that we are on our own, which also lead to Our Troops being identified as Australian rather than as being part of the British Imperial Forces in all conflicts after World War 1.
We don’t identify as being British any more and war is a waste of the best of our young people, not to mention the resources that the country must throw at it. Shear stupid waste! This is what Anzac Day has given us, it’s not a party but a reminder to move forward independently and to use our most precious resourses, our people, wisely.
Lest We Forget