Friday, April 30, 2010

Another failed assault on Anzac Day

Anzac Day is the day of remembrance here in Australia. It has occupied a considerable place in the national consciousness and the memorial services have grown in attendance in recent times.

It's one important tradition that the political class seem to have declared off limits. It's one day of the year when it's OK to show a little bit of national feeling and some positive regard for the older white men who served their country.

It's not that there haven't been radical attempts to undermine the day. This year, for instance, a group of academics published a book titled What's Wrong With ANZAC? They want the emphasis of Australian history to be not on the sacrifices of Australian soldiers overseas but on liberal political campaigns at home. They prefer the period in the 1960s and 70s when,

The emphasis of Australian history was ... on political and social reform, on the egalitarian Australian ethos and the shaping of a vision of a new society.

Other academics have complained that Anzac Day lacks diversity and excludes others:

Nina Burridge of the University of Technology in Sydney - said ANZAC Day glorified white males.

"It's something about male mateship in many ways to me - it doesn't celebrate the wide diversity in Australia," she said. "The very fact that we focus on Gallipoli means we symbolically exclude others, even if we don't intend to."

But so far the line has held against the more radically liberal academics. Even the generally left-leaning ABC ran a well-produced documentary series on the Kokoda campaign this year. And even the very liberal Age newspaper ran a demolition of Catherine Deveny by Richard Cooke.

I don't know much about Cooke, except that he writes for The Chaser - which suggests that he is somewhere on the left. Nonetheless, he defended the Anzacs against a ranting Catherine Deveny.

Here is Deveny in full flight:

Refuse to celebrate a glorification of war that ignores the suffering and carnage of (mostly female) civilians ... They didn't die for us but because they were risktaking testosterone fuelled men with a pack mentality ... I hate bullies, homophobes, thugs, racists, misogynists and rapists in the name of war ... Men only enlisted to fight for the money, for the adventure or because they were racist ... Bigger heroes the women who leave abusive relationships with nothing...

And Cooke's response:

I couldn't shake the feeling that Deveny was waging a senseless campaign ... The phrases were lions, but the thoughts were donkeys.

Anyone who has been to university will recognise the way those sexistracistandhomophobics string together. They're charges that can be levelled against any Western institution or tradition, otherwise masters students would run out of things to do.

Here, though, they feel as if they've turned up to the wrong argument. If anyone could put the racism, sexism and homophobia of 1940s Australia to shame, it was the Axis powers they helped defeat.

Few others have noticed the rape battalions marring Anzac Day marches, but even if we fielded a whole division of sex offenders, they would have a hard time keeping up with the Imperial Japanese Army in Korea and Manchuria.

After all, the campaign at the centre of remembrance isn't called "The Rape of Gallipoli", a distinction not lost on what used to be Nanking.

... If you form an opinion for a living, and you form a contrarian one, you can't shape it just to make Andrew Bolt angry - it has to contain something more than your own raw, visceral reaction to something you don't like. Otherwise, it's just a prejudice.

I'll speculate a bit here and interpret the Deveny versus Cooke debate as follows. Let's say you have liberals like Catherine Deveny who are all too successful in attacking and weakening their own Western societies. That then puts liberal Western societies at risk, leading others who identify as liberal to turn their fire on the likes of Deveny.

Anyway, I did enjoy Cooke's response to Deveny. There's much more he might have added, and perhaps this can be discussed in the comments (e.g. the claim that women suffered as much in war as men doesn't hold up well when it comes to the Australian experience of war in the twentieth century).


  1. You may be pleased to know that the ANZUS Corridor in the American Pentagon is prominently in the A ring of the 2nd floor (the main entry level). It survived 2 moves in the past few years. We American military professionals remember and honor that you guys stood with us at times when our other allies would not.

  2. "But the Anzac legend cannot be extracted from the values of the time of its birth and the attitudes that prevailed in 1915. It has thus become the vehicle by which the ideas of the Edwardian militarists are preserved and passed on to a new generation."

    LMAO! Who, exactly, in this day and age is promoting the "Edwardian attitudes", let alone Edwardian militarism?

    "A further complication for the current apotheosis of the spirit of the Anzacs is that they were men of their time and therefore convinced white supremacists."

    That doesn't "complicate" my admiration of them at all. =D

    "They were the proud representatives of the white Australia policy, which promoted racial purity at home and abroad. Indeed, much of their self-confidence and elan came from their belief in their racial superiority. They embodied it in their swagger, proud bearing and well-nourished physiques. The dark side of such racial cockiness was the contemptuous treatment of non-Europeans and, in the Middle East, the Egyptians, Turks, Palestinians and Bedouin. Some of the Australians behaved like overbearing bullies in their dealings with the people whose countries they were occupying. Others expressed amused kindly condescension."

    So... these are all bad things?

    What an asinine screed.

  3. The phrase "white supremacists" in liberal speak means that they had a positive sense of identity as white men - as anonymous points out, unless you are a "convinced liberal ideologue" this ought to be thought of as a good thing.

  4. The only reason the ANZAC history hasn't been flushed by the wayside like the rest of Australia's proud colonial spirit is that the liberal elites will one day rely on stout young men to do their bidding (and women in valorous support roles).

  5. Maybe I'm a bit too cynical but I'm a bit surprised by the amount of leftists who do acknowledge Anzac day these days, particularly since they aren't exactly very patriotic on most other issues.

    For example, lots of leftists in New Zealand, like Helen Clarke, make patriotic statements about the sacrifices made by the soldiers at Gallipoli, but usually express themselves in a sort of pro-UN, anti-European kind of way.

    The left narrative of Gallipoli seems to be along the lines of - 'the men who died at Gallipoli died naively in a futile campaign at the hands of distant and incompetent upper-class British generals, but in so doing helped make Australia and NZ more independent from the evil British empire and helped forge the modern, liberal, internationalist, propositional states which exists today.

    The traditional pre-1960s narrative is that these men had a reasonable idea what they were in for and died bravely with their French and British allies (who suffered greater casualties and are now largely forgotten)to help secure a prosperous future for their nations in a British Commonwealth united by a common culture.

    Personally I think we should credit the Anzacs with a bit more intelligence and recognise it for what it was - as a bold, imaginative, somewhat poorly planned, unlucky attempt to break the terrible deadlock on the western front by getting supplies through to the Russians.

  6. "Let's say you have liberals like Catherine Deveny who are all too successful in attacking and weakening their own Western societies. That then puts liberal Western societies at risk, leading others who identify as liberal to turn their fire on the likes of Deveny."

    I think it's the difference between left-Liberals (Mill, Rawls) and cultural Marxists (Marcuse, Adorno). Liberals seek to maximise Autonomy at any cost, as per your analysis. For c-M, destruction of western society and civilisation is the whole point; for c-M maximising Autonomy is a means to this end.

    c-M initially infiltrated American Liberalism after WW2 and has since spread around the Western world, being particularly successful in Anglosphere nations. But there are a huge number of Liberals who are not cultural Marxists, who are usually unaware of C-M (or see it as just a more extreme form of Liberalism), and who I find are often surprised and repulsed by the behaviour of their c-M colleagues.

  7. Even most of the marxist groups have the common sense not to attack this day on university campuses. Even they know a dead horse when they see it.

  8. The Chaser crew really are critics who criticise pretty much everything. Its interesting that in these days with the left being so dominant a lot of their criticisms will take the form of rightist argument. So they'll criticise feminism or anti racist arguments or pacifism. You can see this in a lot of comedy and in examples such as Family guy and American Dad.

    They basically argue that the left goes too far. They're all white/whitish young men and can see that in attacks on Anzac day (ie white Australian proud goer men) that they're in the crosshairs. So they respond by sitting in the university student common rooms and laughing.

    They're pretty useless allies though. They're all basically soft left liberals with strong individualist leanings who don't want to be thrown in the same boat with the other bad guys, ie conservatives. Someone like John Stewart may not like the idea of being seen as an exploitative Nazi but that doesn't mean he's much of a defender, or an effective defender, of the Western tradition.

    [Note to Professor Hale, that's awesome, and America isn't forgotten here either.]

  9. I mean look at what Cooke said. The Anzacs weren't rapists like the Japanese. Oh my goodness what a concession.

  10. On Mike Courtman's point. The left defend Anzac day for the same reason that they defend WWII. Its seen as a necessary fight to defeat their ideological enemies.