Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Best of Anzac day 2016

I have been meaning to write here for some time, but for various reasons it just hasn't happened. Top of my list is to write about the year 1916 - the year of the first Anzac day commemoration, and also the year conscription was introduced. It's a dark and shameful year in New Zealand's history, in which the rhetoric of sacrifice is the driving force behind the move to introduce compulsory military service. Was the first Anzac day commemoration a significant part of this lead up to the introduction of conscription? How did people opposed to New Zealand's involvement in the imperialist slaughter deal with the emotionally charged atmosphere of the time? Hopefully I will have the time soon to do justice to these questions.

In lieu of anything original, here are my Anzac picks of 2016:

The best and most prominent act of counter propaganda was without doubt the fantastic Archibald Baxter - field punishment - "guerilla installations" dotted around Wellington. What makes this even better is the Stuff article and the accompanying video, unusually positive for this time of year: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/last-post-first-light/79299545/conscientious-objector-archie-baxter-remembered-in-guerilla-wellington-sculpture

Peace Action Wellington may or not be responsible for this, but they have some really good pictures of the Archie mannequins: https://peaceactionwellington.wordpress.com/

Renee Gerlich takes on the grotesque spectacle of Peter Jackson's 'Scale of our War' exhibition at Te Papa, and does a fine job of cutting it down to size. I was somewhat depressed when I visited Wellington recently and saw for myself the massive ques of people lining up to see this exhibition. If only they could all be directed to this:

Not only does Te Papa seek to re-sell the “grand adventure” story all over again, but to bond us to it, have us identify with it. Through the uniforms you can don, the questions you are invited to answer, the poppies you can leave heartfelt messages on – but also through its insistence on speaking in the first person plural. It’s the scale of “our” war. “We” were in Egypt when they told “us” that “we’d” be invading Gallipoli. “The Turks had sided with the Germans in the war, and we were itching to take them on… that’s where the action was.” That text is not even quoted from a letter or a journal. That’s just Te Papa speaking – as your quintessentially Kiwi, male war hero “mate”.

Read the full blog here: https://reneejg.net/2016/04/22/gallipoli-the-scale-of-our-war-propaganda/

Over the ditch where the Anzackery is even more hyped and pumped by gazillions of state dollars, not everyone is buying the same old story. Historian and aboriginal activist Gary Foley contrasts the attention paid to Anzac day with the denial of Australia's own colonial history: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/gallipoli-not-the-only-war-to-define-australian-warfare-20140424-zqymi.html

I posted last year about Scott McIntyre, the sports reporter who was fired from his job after a series of 'offensive' tweets about Anzac day. McIntyre referred to several historical episodes which are typically ignored by Anzac commentators: the so called 'battle of the Wazza', the Surafend massacre, the raping of Japanese women by Anzac soldiers and our complicity with the mass murder of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. It is not hard to imagine the immense pressure someone in McIntyre's position must have come under after this episode, so I am very impressed to see that he has not succumbed and continues to offend people blinded by Anzac nonsense: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/apr/25/former-sbs-reporter-scott-mcintyre-repeats-anzac-day-accusations-on-twitter

Finally, this youtube video of a debate between Australian academics is really worth a look. I think it might be from a year or two ago, but I only discovered it today thanks to the sharing miracles of facebook. The moot is the proposition "Anzac day is more puff than substance", and the first speaker (Jeff Sparrow) absolutely nails it. He starts about seven minutes into the clip, and doesn't talk too long: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pk5MgWXDM2A&feature=youtu.be&t=7m16s

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