It is Anzac Day again, and as usual there is so much written in defence of it as well as questions raised about the point of celebrating a slaughter on a battlefield Australians had no business being on. There is something legitimate about Anzac Day, and I have no problem with it, thought I do not think that the hijacking of it by sporting bodies who somehow equate playing football with fighting for ones life or putting your life on the line to protect your buddies is appropriate.
In Australia our sense of identity is so vague and tenuous that we grasp Anzac Day for survival while Australia day is just drunken flag-waving, and is simply mindless.
I would prefer to see more of an annual discussion of what Anzac Day means beyond Gallipoli, Vietnam, beyond war and soldiers.
By all means honour the vets, but if we want to revere the Anzac spirit, let's define it and perhaps have some public leadership as to how that is relevant to today. Maybe Anzac Day could be a day for honouring (which is not the same as glorifying) our elders, our past, where kids go to rest homes to acknowledge the 'oldies', the pioneers.
Maybe Anzac Day could become a truth-telling day, where, in a similar way to Mother's Day where we honour our mothers, we have a day where we are encouraged to have those big conversations or even the quick 'I love you's. A day of respect. Perhaps that might be a more meaningful ritual more meaningful than Two-up gatherings or going to the footy on Anzac Day or getting drunk at music festivals in January.
Anzac Day could also be a day for community projects where people come together and donate a day to come together to create something communal. Tree planting, picking up rubbish, there are all kinds of things that could happen that may cause some reflection on the past and our role in the continuim of time, our place in our historial landscape. This would certainly help with our collective current malaise of feeling neither a sense of belonging to anything meaningful or being connected to our world.
Anzac Day is popular as it is because Australia is so bereft of concepts as to who we are as a people with the default position usually some phoney nationalism copied from America. What about using Anzac Day, a unique to build, or to assist in the construction of, a meaningful connection to country, to history, to community? Something more along the lines of the US Thanksgiving holiday where families come together and feel gratitude.
I for one, while respecting the role of soldiers in our history, and even in our present, would love to see this special day charged with something more creative than simply supporting the old 'go to war' paradigm.
Related to - Current affairs
By Mark O'Brien