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
As I see it, ANZAC day is a tribute to the brave Australian soldiers who suffered and lost their lives in combat so that their sacrifice is not forgotten, just that. There are 364 days left in the year to study and analyse the consequences of the conflict from every possible angle which, needless to say, is important too. In my opinion, one thing doesn’t exclude the other.
Hello Juan – you seem to be suggesting that Anzac Day itself is sacrosanct and that analysis and comment about our history should not be made on that day. Is this correct?
My point is that while Anzac occupies only a 24 hour period, the tradition itself has wide ranging influences on our cultural identity and foreign policy attitudes. What better time to challenge and confront these but on the day itself?
The Anzac tradition does not represent, nor is agreed to by a very significant proportion of the Australian population. Each and everyone of us (regardless of our views) has a right to express ourselves on any day of the year and none of our cultural traditions extinguishes that right.