Lest we forget

There is no greater story in western Australian culture than that
of the ANZACS at Gallipoli celebrated
throughout the country on 25th April.

Now let us make it known right away that The Spiral Path has no interest
in glorifying war. However, this is a phenomemon I can’t ignore. It
was an inglorious and spectactular defeat, but we celebrate it each
year with increased vigour. As children, we would wear our Dad’s (or
our grandad’s or uncle’s) medals to school on Anzac Day and our mums
would have Anzac
Biscuits
waiting for us when we got home.

But what has made it such a unifying national day?

As Robert
Manne
puts it in today’s
Age
,

Mystery surrounds Anzac Day. Why have Australians, despite
the passage of the years, increasingly come to regard the beginning
of one of the most terrible defeats the British Empire suffered in
the First World War as their most solemn national day?

In his reasoned and patient manner, Manne goes on to examine some theories
particularly focussing on John
Hirst’s
that it is a response to our collective sense of colonial inferiority.
Again, in Manne’s words:

The Gallipoli landing was the first action of a solely Australian
military unit.

And, quoting one of the first reports to reach Australian
shores

“There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing
in the dark and storming of the heights. …(The Australians) were
happy because they had been tested for the first time and not found
wanting."

Manne concludes this section:

The Anzac myth was created

So much has been said about the Anzac tradition and so much further will
be said. The thing that struck me this year was the power of myth.

So often when we think of myth we think only of one of its meanings "A
widely held but false belief or idea" [Oxford American Dictionary],
as in Urban
Myth
. But there is also a more foundational meaning.

a traditional story, esp one concering the early history of a
people or explaining some natural or social phenomenom… [Oxford American
again.]

As it happens, I am currently reading Tim
Costello’s
book Tips
from a travelling soul searcher
. This book is largely about the power
of and the need for us to keep telling one another stories. Stories
are just that. They have many meanings and people present at the
same event each tell a different version. Stories are not complete
explanations. We know that they contain truths that are valuable
to us but we don’t always know exactly what the truth is. It just
resonates somewhere within us. Sometimes the story contains a warning.
Sometimes they warm us. Sometimes we tell them because they say
something about ourselves. Often we tell the same story over and
over again. When people join our family or our organisation, we
tell them our stories and the learn more about us that if we tried
to describe ourselves.

So like other stories, we don’t have to understand the Anzac myth. It is
worth our while to talk to one another about what it means. Each time
perhaps we learn more about ourselves and about a different side to
ourselves. Perhaps, most importantly, we become more confident about
ourselves.

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