The commercialisation of Anzac Day goes far beyond whichever advertising executive will shit the bed on April 25 with a tone-deaf attempt to cash in on the “ANZAC Spirit”.
This is a day which has become a battleground for right-wing culture warriors desperate to exploit the boozed-up bogans eager to defend ‘Straya in the trenches of focused and persistent online abuse.
Nuance is a myth on Anzac Day. Anything short of full-blown patriotism is a hanging offence, and even then, there’s a sliding scale of how much patriotism is required based on age, gender, skin colour, religion, sexuality, and so on.
God help any queer women of colour who feel compelled to engage in a critique of Australia’s warmongering this year.
This has been a growing storm for years. It came to a head around the treatment of Yassmin Abdel-Magied, because she was like a Murdoch columnist’s wet dream: a young, female, Muslim, Sudanese-Australian immigrant.
What she had to say was not important because she wasn’t paying due deference to the ANZACs, therefore she had to be harassed out of the country.
Of course, it didn’t start with Yassmin. Lest we forget former SBS sports reporter Scott McIntire who was sacked for a series of tweets highlighting Australia’s brutal wartime atrocities and complicity in war crimes.
Then Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, helped to end McIntire’s career at the Special Broadcasting Service, in a move that definitely helped solidify some support on the right for his later coup against Tony Abbott.
And even then, the vilification of those not deemed to be patriotic enough on April 25 is something most of us would have grown up with. I cannot tell you how many brawls and riots I have witnessed at various pubs on Anzac Day in years past.
The notion that it is a bogan holiday, an excuse to drink and gamble, should not be sniffed at. A surprisingly large number of those at the pubs on Anzac Day didn’t attend a service, going to Gallipoli for the dawn service has become as trashy as popping over to Bali for a long weekend.
Half a billion dollars is being poured into an upgrade for the Australian War Memorial to add an underground “exhibition hall” to display helicopters and fighter jets. This is on top of the $552 million spent to commemorate WWI – more than five times what the British spent to commemorate a war that they played a much larger role in.
This incredible waste is justified by the jingoistic bullshittery spewed by the major parties out of fear that they may be called “unpatriotic“.
The fetishisation of the military and days of remembrance in Australia is reaching parity with that of the United States. There are, increasingly, attempts to link sports and the military, with the AFL holding an “ANZAC round” every year and commentators bending over backwards to describe the sportsmen as “warriors going in to battle”.
The “culture” of Anzac Day has nothing to do with respecting veterans, or acknowledging the past, and we know this to be true by the countless thousands of returned servicemen from Iraq and Afghanistan who have been devastated by PTSD and left with zero support by a government that cares more about playing dress-ups on or around April 25.
Billions of dollars are spent in pursuit of mythologising ANZAC and everything that comes with it, with even more thrown at attempts to make Australia one of the world’s biggest arms exporters.
Most Australians operate under the assumption that the purpose of Anzac Day and remembrance is to actively consider the powerful loss of war, and the danger of seeking it out. We thank veterans for their service because they know what war means, they have seen the death, destruction, and devastation of warfare.
While there is an inherent risk to focusing on those left behind, as it can ignore crimes committed by those serving (such as the case of the continued deification of Ben Roberts-Smith), it is also the only to remind the public of what endless war really means.
And yet Australia’s leaders are pursuing a warmongering agenda, siding with countless aggressors in genocides in Yemen, Palestine, and Myanmar.
The Australian government has repeatedly tried to send Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, despite the evidence of the genocide.
We ignore war crimes to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia for use against Yemeni civilians.
We offer to follow Trump in moving the embassy to Jerusalem and side with Israeli führer Netanyahu in his Palestinian pogroms.
Lest we forget.
We’re through the looking glass on the Anzac Day front. Turkish nationals have been banned from attending the dawn service at Gallipoli – in Turkey – this year despite the fact that the Ottoman Turks suffered almost as many casualties during the Gallipoli campaign as the ANZACs.
Never minding the fact that the ANZACs were the invading force at Gallipoli.
Any time someone attempts to critique anything that can be associated with Anzac Day, they run the risk of being Murdoch media’s chosen one for the next few months. The attacks can devastate a career or destroy an individual. It can cause threats of rape or death from those who take up the call from these irrational conservatives, such is the insanity of the Anzac mythos.
Despite the billions thrown away in pursuit of this toxic ideology, funding for mental health services is cut or privatised; and the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) is buried in countless layers of bureaucracy, meaning the services offered for veterans and war widows has become increasingly worthless.
No one should soon forget how both Labor and Liberal governments wasted a decade and millions of dollars fighting against an injured veteran, secretly changing the rules to remove their culpability for his pain.
But, they can afford $1.1 billion celebrating a war that occurred a century ago, a war with no living survivors.
Post traumatic stress disorder has devastated the lives of millions of Australian veterans and returned servicemen, yet the Abbott government made plans to cut funding for assistance before folding under public pressure.
But this won’t be the last time the government attempts to cut funding for veterans, especially as the claims for trauma suffered in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan start to stack up.
Lest we forget, we’ve been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years.
Calls to the DVA counselling line have increased exponentially over the last few years, going from just over 7500 in 2014/15 to more than 10,000 in 2016/17. Meanwhile, average wait times have shot up, as funding for this service stagnates.
In the last decade, 4 Corners has run two investigations into PTSD in the military and returned servicemen, because nothing is being done to address this crisis.
A 2018 report found half of the veterans leaving the ADF were suffering mental health disorders, but still there isn’t enopugh funding to ensure they don’t have to suffer in silence.
We knew John Rambo had PTSD in First Blood; the whole plot of the M*A*S*H* finale was Hawkeye’s PTSD; both of these are incredibly mainstream, and both were first seen almost 40 years ago. PTSD isn’t some new diagnosis for those returning from war, yet the military and countless successive governments CONTINUE to pretend it doesn’t exist, even as they pat themselves on the back for sufficiently fellating the “Anzac Spirit”.
Lest. We. Forget.
One last thing. The RSL is more interested in protecting the ANZAC brand than it is protecting returned servicemen. Younger servicemen have no interest in joining the RSL because of how corrupt it has become under the influence of the gaming lobby. If it cared for returned servicemen, all pokies would be removed from all RSLs.
But then, where’s the profit in helping those who served?