Friday, April 25, 2008

It depends on what you remember

Despite the inclement weather I was up before the sun today to attend the local ANZAC Day dawn service. Now bear in mind, I am opposed to war and to being wet and cold, but there I was out on the Town Green with up to 1000 other people.

Even as a Vietnam skeptic I was attending these events, the beginning of what is often called ‘Australia’s one day of the year’. Sure it is a remembrance of war, but goes much deeper into the spirit of this country. All my life I have had old ‘diggers’ telling me; “Remember it, respect it, and work to stop future wars!”

Of course there are those, past and present, who simply glorify war, but there is a powerful force for working for peace. While the day is founded on Australia’s disastrous Gallipoli campaign in 1915, and recognises every campaign since, it is remembrance and not glorification.

Young people are flocking to ANZAC Day events, and the messages they are hearing are encouraging. These events are increasingly inclusive; the major televised dawn service pointedly includes not just the military, but all those who serve in civil emergency services as well.

In short they celebrate the spirit of stepping up, regardless of personal safety, when the situation calls for it. That is something many Australians do as a matter of course, I won’t go so far as saying all, but then we are also realistic I hope.

I remember an uncle (Lyell) who served in North Africa. I remember him as a solitary sort of character, preferring unpopulated places. He was a transport driver in North Africa, a fairly solitary role; when I knew him he managed a remote sheep property. He rarely talked about ‘the war’, and never happily. I guess he impressed with his self sufficiently, but he certainly impressed.

The rosemary pictured represents remembrance, and was coincidently, common on the strange landscape in Turkey where our troops landed a dawn so many years ago. It always comes back to what we are remembering, how we convert those memories to good rather than just maudlin thoughts. ANZAC Day seems to be doing that well. It truly is our ‘one day of the year’.


D.K. Raed said...

This actually sounds so much nicer, more meaningful than what we do on Memorial Day or Veteran's Day when our leaders who've never been in combat lecture us on the glories of war. You guys get it right, the goal of a real soldier is to prevent future wars.

Have you ever seen vid of The Pogues "Waltzing Matilda"? 8-minutes 1915 Gallipoli:

OK, they are Irish (The Pogues), but I think they do a credible tibute. Hope the ANZAC events go well today.

Cart said...

DK, I guess like the title it is what you invest in meaningful. But it is probably the most significant even on the Aussie calendar.
I think it is about our contrary nature, not to mention the booze that is consumed in the course of the day :)We must have landed the better parts of the Irish heritage.
Still I can recall, as a small child, the impression not of celebrating war but of decent people putting themselves on the line at crunch time.
In a country of wildfires, floods and natural disaster life takes on the intensity of war more often than we like.
I expect other countries face the same kinds of dramas, we just seem to respond to it differently.

Pogues aside, I do intend a rant on our national songs soon...

lindsaylobe said...

Anzac day has special relevance to me as my father died prematurely in his late fifties from war related complications having served as a Bomber pilot in WW2. My grandfather was in the light horse in WW 1.

During the 1960s and 1970s numbers attending ANZAC marches fell but the tide of sentiment has turned from the 1990’s to a remarkable resurgence of interest, particularly amongst young people, with many making the pilgrimage to the Gallipoli Peninsula to attend the Dawn Service. Our younger generation eagerly wants to learn of this history and to understand how it impacted in their communities. School Children learn of their equivalents, since many lied about their age (typically only 16) on enlistment. They do the detailed research of the families and where they fell; even some visit their gravesites in Turkey to “live” that history. It becomes very emotional for them, influencing their future lives to the better. It’s as if the ANZAC consciousness urges them to live each moment to the full for "Nothing is certain, only the certain spring."
Best wishes

Cart said...

Lindsay, the Light Horse has a lot of significance to me. My father was with the Light Horse in Bathurst and later in Sydney. He was on the march from Parramatta to Victoria Barracks before they were shipped down to Flemington Vic.
I won’t go on with the negatives of that story, but I did know others who served with distinction in that unit. The uncle I mentioned, the ‘Rat of Tobruk’ and my maternal uncles, who were all officers, really gave me a sense of the real spirit behind ANZAC Day.
I did object to Vietnam, but the principle, not the soldiers. I was active in the party under Holt and emotionally drawn in all sorts of directions. I still recall some excellent ‘Young Liberal’ minds which steered me from reacting negatively to the exhortations of our leader at that time, John Winston Howard, and taught me to look at the more complex picture.
I still thank them today because I can encourage young cadets, and young protesters, and discuss the complex issues and where we should be able to grasp and promote the incredible positives of our society.
For the second year, since returning from Canada, I have been impressed by the Currumbin dawn service. There are not many things that impress me about the Gold Coast, but this particular service is so brilliantly inclusive. They take the ANZAC spirit to all our emergency service personnel, beyond the military.
I know many in the RSL would object outright, but I’m starting to think this should replace Australia Day. Don’t change the name perhaps, but it has been the country’s high spiritual day for so long only good can come from the move.

David said...

Great site! I have to pick you up though, on the suggestion that Anzac Day is a "remembrance of war". It is far from it. It is a remembrance of the sacrifices in those wars, by the individuals who served in them. What your old diggers were trying to tell you was to remember the hell they went through, and remember the meaningless loss of life so that we won't be silly enough to repeat what they had to endure. (We won't learn though). Winston Peters got it right in his speech at the Anzac Day Dawn Service at Gallipoli this year (2008); and thanks for posting that video. Well done!

Cart said...

David, maybe I shouldn't be so wordy :) But thank you and I agree with you definition completely.