Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I don't understand ANZAC Day. I mean, I understand the history, I know what happened on April 25 1915. Possibly it's because I know this history that I don't understand the way we treat ANZAC Day now.

91 years ago the Australia and New Zealand Army Core was part of a failed invasion of Turkey. Over 130,000 soldiers died over the next 8 months (that's 500 people a day). For what? Well it was part of an on-going war, which historians sometimes blame on railway timetables (Germany couldn't mobilise against Russia without also mobilising against France etc.), but like most wars it was a fight over resources.

New Zealand actually benefitted from this, we became the colonial power that controlled Samoa. This resulted in a large number of Samoans dying of the flu, because our economic interests were more important than quarantine. But that's not what people talk about when it comes to ANZAC day. They don't say 'they died so we could have a colony of our own to fuck over'. They say 'they died for our freedom'. Which is just not true.

I do think we should remember the men who died at Gallipolli (some of them were only 19), and I do think we should say never again. But what we should be remembering is that those men were lied to, and led to the slaughter. We should be remembering, not that they made a sacrifice, but they were sacrificed.

But we didn't mean it when we said 'never again'. Since 1915 we've contributed troops to many other imperialist wars. At the moment New Zealand has troops in Afganistan and the Solomons. We send troops around the globe either to protect our business interests (like in the Solomons), or to promote the business interests of our allies (like Afganistan).


  1. For once I don't have disagreements to offer. If you can bring yourself to watch the news on ANZAC Day, you're presented with a seemingly unending stream of pompous cant.

    If we were to set up ANZAC Day ceremonies on the basis of "Let's just keep in mind how all these poor sods were conscripted into the armed forces and sent off to be shot or worse for no good reason, and make sure we don't get fooled again", well then I could be a proud participant in ANZAC Day like (it seems) damn near everyone else. But we don't - we have participating in a failed invasion of Turkey presented as some kind of sacrifice that we might live in freedom. It's wishful thinking on a colossal scale, and depressing to see our kids sucked in by it year after year.

  2. Your views are misguided but I doubt they will change.

    It not about honouring or commemorating war, its about honouring and commemorating those who gave their lives for the folly of war.

    Good luck on the radical anti-imperialist crusade, etc.

  3. ANZAC Day is about glorifying militarism, in short, and we are indoctrinated from a very young age (witness the many children at dawn parades).

    This year, I tried (in my own way) to celebrate Conchie Day, in memory and solidarity with all those jailed (and worse) as conscientous objectors. I liked doing that, I think it's a tradition I'll continue.

  4. If you were writing about Australia on ANZAC day I would be inclined to agree with you on this. they have massive flag waving paraded. and CELEBRATE ANZAC day.

    In NZ it is obvious we COMEMORATE ANZAC day. our services are sombre affiars where we remember those who died and hope and pray it never ever happens again. there is no glorification of war here.

  5. I turned on the news at about 10 past the hour last night and was shocked. For about 10-15 minutes on either channel there was nothing but celebrations of the 'ANZAC spirit' and other such nonsense. And then a full half hour devoted to the same afterwards.

    The whole rise in pride over the actions of these men (let's not forget that we were INVADING another country for no _good_ reason)

    Sometime in the last decade the commemoration went from being a small form of rememberance to a great ceremonial outburst of pride with (growing) nationalist sentiments. I wouldn't place the blame entirely on the politicians, but Bolger and particularly Clark (and the Australian Liberal Government of course) have been instrumental in this change. Their constant going to Gallipoli, tomb of the unknown soldier, visiting of war shrines and sponsoring of revisionist inerpretations of history have made the day what it is today...

    Let's feel quite ambivalent about these dead men and their actions, and quite disgusted about the imperialists who sent them to their deaths.

    I bought a paper poppy this year and then cut it into a tear shape. I'm not going to let anyone hijack the actions of my pacifist great great grandfathers...

  6. Do you have any examples of NZ business interests in the Solomons that the intervention is protecting? I thought all the business people there were from China, or Taiwan. Or is there some secret conspiracy between NZ and China (or Taiwan) for us to send troops there as a proxy?

  7. What I find hard to put together is that these rememberance ceremonies (here and abroad)are attended/presided over by the very people that make the decisions to send the cannon fodder off to fight.
    The hypocracy is almost equal to Bush presense at the Rosa Parks' Funeral.

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  9. Some of the things you say are right. But how about you save them for the other 364 days of the year? There is enough virtue and respectability in our past wartime thoughts and deeds to fill in one day in April. I thank you for thinking, I don't thank you for offending me. Your understanding is incomplete, Maia.

  10. Anonymous10:28 am

    Virtue and respectability in our wartime thoughts and deeds?
    If, as you said g, we recognise the folly of war why do we ignore the passifists who protested against the war?
    War is about the slaughter of millions, and there is nothing honourable about that. Remembering the past should ensure that we never go to war again - remembering the pointlessness of war, the innocent people that died, and the fact that there must always be a better way.

    "Lest we forget"

  11. Belatedly: I commemorate Anzac Day because Gallipoli was tragic, horrible, pointless, and because it shaped New Zealand's cultural identity in countless ways. You know what I think about during Anzac Day? Those poor pricks dying in the trenches, in the mud, with gangrene. So save the condescending crap. This hectoring bullshit about how we poppy-wearers don't really *understand*, maaaan, and we're just glorifying war and colonialism... it couldn't be more tiresome. Yeah, there may be a few 'war-glorifiers' among those at the dawn services around the country, but how about giving most of us some credit for complex feelings like empathy? Horror? Grief? Respect for the dead? The desire to prevent war in future?

    Incidentally, why do you think that most historians point to Gallipoli as one of the seminal moments in the development of a distinct New Zealand identity? Because, as you say in your post, *those soldiers were lied to*, and the country knew it. We still know it. Why do you think we began to culturally distance ourselves from Britain after WWI? Do you think we're the first generation to notice that we were cannon fodder? Give your forebears some credit.

  12. ANZAC Day is about glorifying militarism, in short, and we are indoctrinated from a very young age (witness the many children at dawn parades).

    Yeah mate, I'm sure it's nothing to do with the relatives of theirs that have fought in wars, right?

    Let's feel quite ambivalent about these dead men and their actions, and quite disgusted about the imperialists who sent them to their deaths.

    You really need to read more Marx, comrade, and gain a greater understanding on what 'imperialist' means. I don't feel 'quite ambivalent' about my great-grandfather who was blinded at Gallipoli, nor my other relatives who died at Gallipoli. Sometimes reality transcends ideology, comrade.