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Australia’s leaders, its media and some historians persist in talking up the big Anzac game

8 12 0

Our four-year, half-a-billion-plus dollar festival of Anzac commemoration officially ended last November.

But it may still be too early to hope that our national remembrance might now extend beyond inflated myths about Australia’s first world war role in Europe and the Ottomans.

We cling hard to our Anzac myths, us Australians.

We spend an awful lot of money on fostering and preserving them; witness the staggering $600m spent on Anzac 100, another $100m on the John Monash centre on the European western front and the $500m slated for the proposed Australian War Memorial extension.

Despite the fact that other nations experienced many more casualties, Australia spent more on first world war commemoration in the past four years than any other country.

We’ve also done a whole lot of diplomatic spadework to ensure that Australian participation – “sacrifice”, valour, spirit, “loss” – remains not only acknowledged but celebrated in the places where our 62,000 personnel died during the war.

We create stories such as that about the famous Ataturk words – You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. – and witness our commemorators in chief get mightily peeved if the facts get in the way, when their myths are challenged.

Anzac has become a national faith, a secular religion. And fact, of course, runs a distant second to belief when it comes to faith.

It’s been easier to mythologise Anzac, of course, since the death in 2002 of the last one, Alec Campbell, a socialist who abhorred war and wanted no fuss made of his passing, least of all a state funeral – but was afforded one by then prime minister John Howard........

© The Guardian