The study of history is not about massaging our ego.
It should never incline us to romanticise our past so that we feel good about ourselves. Rather it should be an honest and balanced account of what actually went down – warts and all; and while this honestly may hurt, the discomfort it causes can help us to learn from past mistakes.
History is about learning from the past.
We cannot learn from the past however, if we focus on one aspect of our history only and ignore the context in which events took place. This incomplete and narrow perspective is how many Australians view of the Anzac tradition, that is, by focusing exclusively on honouring the individuals who took part in disasters like Gallipoli.
In their desire to make sense of the senseless, some Australians have created a legend populated entirely by heroes. Questions like why the Anzacs went and what they achieved by going to Gallipoli are ignored, while contemplating what we can learn from such disasters to create a more peaceful future is just too difficult!
Rather than seeing the Anzac tradition as confirming the importance of peace, some prefer instead the ritualised myth that offers solace and comfort in place of logic or emotional ownership.
Consequently, Anzac has become a sacred, semi-religious institution whose followers react with indignation when challenged about their dogma.
This situation does not encourage reason or learning, but arouses a strong pride in our military exploits and a willingness to keep repeating such experiences.
Unwittingly or not, the Anzac tradition encourages us to fight – again and again and again.
R J Poole, Lismore