Tomorrow (25 April, 2015) in Australia and New Zealand we will celebrate ANZAC day. This is something we Aussies and Kiwis do every year to commemorate our fallen soldiers, particularly those from WWI. These soldiers, called ANZACS as an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, landed at Gallipoli to fight the Turks back in 1915 and it must be said, really put their all into it. This campaign was the first major military action of Australia and New Zealand as independent dominions, and is often considered to mark the “birth of national consciousness” in the two countries.
Tomorrow marks the 100 year anniversary of that ‘birth’. 100 years since our troops landed in a foreign land to do their bit against the 'enemy'; 100 years since the commencement of eight months of fighting that would lead to the deaths of 44,000 allies including 8709 Australians and 2701 New Zealanders; 100 years since we joined the apparent world Fight Club that is International Politics.
So did we win at Gallipoli? Hell no, got our asses kicked, but we tried damn it! And Turkey was most gracious about it all and buried our dead in carefully tended cemeteries as a nod to the effort of the challenge. But overall it wasn't a howling success.
And a hundred years later I'm not sure the message has got through. Are we are honouring our fallen in a way they would appreciate? Don’t get me wrong, a dawn service is a suitable and oft powerful remembrance, but I can’t help but think that we altogether ignore what they were fighting for: the ultimate goal of peace. Though it has been said that fighting for peace is like f**king for virginity (and that’s not far wrong), you can’t ignore the intent if you’re going to commemorate the people who fought for it.
After a century, one would like to think that we have found other ways to work toward the ANZAC’s goal, but the stats aren't looking good. While WWI cost approximately 31 million deaths (not including Spanish Flu fatalities), the so-called ‘War to end all Wars’ was quickly superseded by the Second World War (1939 – 1945) which cost the world up to 85 million human lives. Considering the world population only went up from 1.8 billion in 1914 to about 2.2 billion or so in 1945 it’s easy to see that a fair amount of human capital went six feet under just in those two conflicts.
And other countries haven’t exactly toned it down either. With major conflicts in Africa, Asia and the Middle East ....things don’t seem to be improving a whole heap.
And neither are attitudes of intolerance that fuel the wars in first place, those of disdain and hatred toward human beings different to our self. For example, as of 2013, 74% of Russians (predominant religion Orthodox Christian) believe that homosexuality should not be accepted in society. Also, according to a 2014 study, 25% (mercifully down from 48% in 2011) of Australians hold ‘anti-Muslim’ views (not surprising considering the media bias of the country) despite the fact that many Muslims are fighting hard against the extremists within their culture themselves and embrace Australia’s way of life significantly. And then there are white cops shooting black people and generally not helping the case of all the genuinely good white cops out there.
And then there's the parts of the world that are now just a war torn mess (Syria and Gaza spring to mind here).
Instead of world unity, we are still just trying to create more distance between an imagined ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ even when ‘them’ (for an Aussie or Kiwi) could be a child refugee in Syria or a hard-working, tax-paying next-door neighbour.
Is that really what the ANZACs got their asses shot off for? So we could sit here 100 years later doing the same shit, just in a different bucket?
I can’t help but feel that we have f**ked this up a little.
Maybe tomorrow, instead of just looking backwards, we should also look forward. Look to (and actively pursue) a future where we make an effort to smile, communicate and understand the world from another’s point of view before we judge and discriminate. A future where we recognize that different countries’ laws and cultures are specific to that country regardless of the dominant religion (For example Jordan, Mauritania, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Turkey are all 90%+ Muslim countries but all have very different cultures and worldviews on certain issues, just as Croatia, American Samoa, Republic of Congo, Iceland, Puerto Rico and Greece are all 90%+ Christian counties but also have very different cultures and worldviews)
Maybe we can look towards a future where every single one of us makes an effort toward the global peace the ANZACS were fighting for. Whether it is donating to Amnesty International, schooling yourself open-mindedly about world politics and disseminating information, or even simply knitting blankets for Syrian refugees.
But if you want to keep it really real for ANZAC Day, how about donating to causes that support the rehabilitation of homeless and mentally ill war veterans that rarely get discussed in the media. Help the people who put their asses on the line (just like the ANZACS) to fight for people to be able to live in peace. Whether the motivations for the wars are just or not, the soldiers do what they are told to do and often pay a very high price for doing so.
While it is commendable to remember those who have died for your country....it is even more important to remember those who fought and lived.
Have a great ANZAC Day everyone.
P.S. Here are just a few of the many organizations that can help you help others
Learn (along with many other sources...keep looking)
Help an Aussie or Kiwi Veteran.
http://rsa.org.nz/ or http://www.veteransaffairs.mil.nz/ (how to help or get help for a veteran in New Zealand)