FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Toxic Myth of Anzac

Derry, Northern Ireland.

Scott McIntyre was sacked last week as a sports presenter on the Australian TV network Special Broadcasting Service for having tweeted acerbic comments about Anzac Day – the annual commemoration on April 25th of the role of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli in 1915. “The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society,” was McIntyre’s opening salvo. Australians should rather be “Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs.” The anger has been phenomenal. An online petition calling for McIntyre’s sacking attracted a reported 180,000 signatures in a day. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull denounced him as “despicable…difficult to think of more offensive or inappropriate comments.” Twenty four hours after the messages were sent, SBS announced that it had “taken decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position with immediate effect.” Anzac Day is of huge significance in Australia and New Zealand. Australia had become independent 13 years before the outbreak of the first world war, New Zealand six years later. The white section of the population regarded itself still as empire-loyalist, but now with this difference: that in joining the conflict as independent entities, they could see themselves as having taken their place among the nations of the world. I

The writer of “Waltzing Matilda”, Banjo Paterson, caught the note perfectly:

The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

McIntyre had trashed the foundation myth. More generally, he had drawn attention to the way soft-lit Remembrance is used slyly to promote wars of the present and future. On a visit to New Zealand on the eve of Anzac Day, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot referred to soldiers fighting in the Middle East today as “Sons of Anzac.”

There are no exact parallels with Ireland’s experience, except in this: that the sentimentalisation of slaughter which McIntyre lost his job for exposing is evident, too,  in the memorialising of the Irish misled into following England’s flag. Like the Kiwis and the Aussies, they, too, were flung to their deaths like fistfuls of chaff.

The attack on Turkey was intended to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war and clear the path for Tsarist Russia through to Constantinople. In the longer term, it can be seen as the moment when Britain and France stepped decisively into the Middle East to replace the Ottomans as imperial rulers, then to draw the boundaries of invented nations, the better to divvy up the resources of the region between them. (A glance at today’s news pages will tell how that one worked out)

It is right and proper that all those killed in World War One should be remembered. But they should be remembered with rage against the obviously predictable futility of the enterprise and of the crime which it represented against humanity, not with reverence for a sacrifice well made.

How can it be that crowds gather today with heads bowed for the wilderness of victims but no show of anger against those responsible nor firm resolution of Never Again. How can there be commemorations of the ’14-’18 war which are not also anti-war demonstrations?

Herein, of course, lies the reason rouge is freshly applied every year to the skeletons of the fallen. In repose now, still beautiful, all worth it.

There is a positive size. After McIntyre had been battered for a couple of days, a different response began to emerge. A number of commentators spoke up, some to endorse what he’d said, others to defend his right to have said it. “It took four months for the defenders of free speech to move from #JeSuisCharlie to #SackScottMcIntyre” wrote one correspondent in the Sydney Morning Herald.

After apparent hesitation, the Australian journalists’ union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, came out strongly in McIntyre’s defence.

Perhaps some who are sick in their souls at the drenching of Ireland in toxic Remembrance will be encouraged to disrupt the displays of consensus.

In the 1970s, the Scots-Australian song-writer Eric Bogle adapted Banjo Paterson’s anthem:

“They gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia/The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane, those proud wounded heroes of Suvla/And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be/And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity./ And the band played Waltzing Matilda…”

Very many of us who have no time for the nationalist falsifications of the history of the Easter Rising are nevertheless content that it was far better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Suvla or Sedd el Bahr. We should be saying that out more  loudly.

Eamonn McCann is an Irish journalist and political activist. He can be reached at Eamonderry@aol.com

More articles by:

Eamonn McCann is an Irish journalist and political activist. He can be reached at Eamonderry@aol.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail