Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Already forgotten

I didn't go to a Dawn Service this morning, nor did I protest against one. I'm not very fond of dawn. If I wasn't so morning averse I wouldn't have attended the service, but protested. Although the actions in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch actions weren't exactly what I wanted to do in response to ANZAC day either(which isn't meant to be a slur on those who did them in any way).

I have protested ANZAC day services in the past and one of the problems is how almost any anti-war message can be co-opted into the official service. The Foreign Minister said

"In remembering the suffering and loss on both sides, let us commit ourselves to working for a world where differences between nations can be resolved without resort to war."
Which is a ridiculous statement, when right now we have troops overseas, but he is able to say such a thing without anyone pointing out the contradiction.

I imagine, although I don't know, that many of the people at the dawn service would agree with Span:
When I hear the words "lest we forget" I do think of the violence and destruction that characterises war. I can't help but visualise the young men suffering in the trenches of WWI and the many women who are inevitably victims in times of conflict. Maybe it's just me, but I'd actually formed the impression that one of the reasons turnouts were swelling was a view in Aotearoa, held by many, that the price of war is too high, and it must be avoided. That we gather on Anzac Day to acknowledge past sacrifices made, but also to remind ourselves that we do not want to go there again.
A weird kind of consensus seems to have emerged - war was a pointless waste, that it should never happen again, and that the deaths of those soldiers was a sacrifice that 'we' gained from in some unspecified way.

What I think is really important is to break this consensus. I don't think that can be done at dawn on ANZAC day, and instead we have to challenge the predominate narrative in the run-up to ANZAC day. We need to name the people who benefited from war, and the people who sent young boys to the slaughter. In particular to challenge the idea that the army and the state that sent young men unnecessarily to their deaths, could be a part of saying "Never Again".


  1. Or we could at least acknowledge that, in respective of World War 2, New Zealand had a choice of fighting Japanese and German imperialism, or siding (or ignoring) two of the most aggressively expansionist murderous regimes of the 20th century.

    Remembering also that NZ and the allies appeased Germany and Japan time and time again. Germany had expanded enormously in central Europe, executing en masse "inferior peoples" before invading Poland and the allies responded. Japan had Korea, China, south east Asia down to Singapore, before the allies responded.

    The allies resisted war up until the latest moment, because of the experience of (then) the Great War. Had those who sacrificed (all, fighting and non fighting) between 1939 and 1945 not done so, you might be growing up under the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere under the Empire of Japan.

    THAT is one reason some of us are grateful.

    You might ask Koreans, including Korean women of that generation what NOT fighting that cost them.

  2. Anonymous10:24 am

    If you were to look at the politics of the type of people who protest at or against ANZAC day one would find that they whold feel quite comfortable with the type of society that was nazi Germany, fascist Itialy, communist Russia or any other totaliarian regieme either left wing of right wing.

  3. Anonymous1:14 pm

    I get the impression that the growing attendance at ANZAC Dawn parades is less about remembering the cost of war and more about nationalistic jingoism.

    The media jumps up and down with its 'war helped define the national character' and so on and people buy into it. I think its a bit offensive that a day which should be one of commemoration is slowly being turned into one of celebration.

    But then I don't buy that the wars were particularly defining of the national character.

  4. War does help "define the nationl character", it's just that we don't commemmorate the wars that did... the land wars. I mean, look at Australia, they are adamantly proud of Invasion Day to the point where it's a national holiday. Now *that* is celebrating the things that made the nation what it is.

  5. Anonymous8:33 pm

    Every new zealander benefited from world war 2. Unless you of course would prefer to be living under either the peace loving nazi or imperialistc japanese regimes. They were wars in self defence - maybe you could say something about why we were wrong not to appease those two countries and let them conquer us>

  6. Anonymous10:37 am

    I like this quote by Camus.

    I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don't want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.

  7. I guess I benefited from WW2. If Britain had lost there's a good chance my parents would have been killed in Nazi slave labour camps and (apart from anything else) I wouldn't be around today.

    I posted elsewhere that if we stay out of major war indefinitely there will come a time when NZ involvement in 20th century wars is as distant a memeory as the Napoleonic wars are today. At that point we will no longer have remembrance ceremonies which will not be a bad thing.

  8. Maia, you didn't comment on the sexism of sending ONLY MEN to die in these wars. I think both genders could gain from equality, not just women.