Friday, 25 April 2008

anzac day

lot's of interesting discussion about anzac day today. i really enjoyed this piece in the herald today by irfan yusuf. less enjoyable, but still worth listening to was this discussion on the panel today (can't believe i've linked to chris trotter twice in a week!). i think it went on too long and was too repetitive, but the initial discussion did raise some good points. finally, this alternative commemoration of peacemakers was brought to my attention by email today.

parts of the peace movement regard anzac day as a celebration of war. i like to think of it more as a rememberance of the dead. it's a rememberance of courage and strength, and a mourning of the loss of life. there are times and places where we should be active in denouncing and protesting against war, but i don't think anzac day is one of them.

however, remembering peacemakers is another issue. i think we should recognise the courage of the people who refused to go to war for reasons of conscience. they often had a very difficult time, although were unlikely to be as much at risk as soldiers on the battlefield. the peacemakers were making a very public stand for principles they strongly believed in, and i don't think including them in our thoughts diminishes the recognition of our soldiers.

i also would have to agree with mr trotter, in that we seem to have imbued the first world war with modern values that weren't apparent at the time. we commemorate a more sanitised version of events, possibly endowing them with more than was there in order to increase the poignancy of the rememberance.

it's certain that WW1 was not about democracy and freedom. we know it can't be so because the side we were fighting for was a colonial power that was not at all interested, at that time, in establishing democracy in its colonies. it was a power not much interested in racial equality, and women's sufferage (in britain) was still several years away.

i think it's important to remember that the heroism was in the way the soldiers fought, but not necssarily in what they fought for. i'm no historian, and i'd have to say that my knowledge of the politics of the day is sadly lacking. i wish i knew more, and it's important that we all do know more. to forget the politics of the time is to glorify a past that never existed except in our minds.

to forget the politics and the full history, good and bad, is a failure to learn the lessons of that time. remember, this was supposed to be the war that ended all wars. but it didn't, and we need to understand why.

i'll be going to the commemoration service in hamilton tomorrow. i want to pay my respects to the dead. i want to remember the loss of so many young lives. not to glorify the way they died but to grieve that it had to happen at all.

post script: here is chris trotter's piece in the dom and deborah's post on her blog, both eloquently written.


Deborah said...

I think the proper response to Anzac Day is grief too, Anjum.

strawbrie.jam said...

I agree too, but I think that empathy for the soldiers who had no idea what they were heading off to, who didn;t want to go is an appropriate response as well. I guess for me, the most important thing I think we can all do on Anzac Day is remember and value the sacredness of human life, and acknowledge what a gift it is.