Sunday, April 25, 2004

How unAustralian am I? I totally forgot about Anzac Day until I looked at Elanor's entry at Symposiasts. To think that I was still up at 3:30 this morning - I probably could have made it to the dawn service.

When I was a Girl Guide (3rd Box Hill Unit) we used to go to our local dawn service, badges shiny, woggles straight, socks pulled up. They have one of those statues with the cocked-hat guy standing on top ("They shall grow not old," etc) where we would solemnly lay wreaths and stare at the ground as a teenage bugler played the Last Post. My favourite part was going to the Box Hill RSL afterwards for a free old-school cooked breakfast. This being the late 80s, the diggers used to smoke up a storm over their tinned spag, eggs and sausages, so we would come home stinking of cigarette smoke.

The issue of commemorating war like this is another one of those things that I have trouble negotiating a moral view on. These generations of dead, maimed and psychologically scarred young men shouldn't be forgotten, but amid all the ANZAC jingoism, it gets lost that our involvement in war is always contingent on the international and domestic political climate of the time, and that Anzac soldiers were never a product of a pre-existing, pure "Australian way". Rather, the contemporary clich├ęs of Australian nationalism were largely solidified by having to justify the deaths an entire generation of young men.

And of course, being Anzac Day, I'll have to quote some of my favourite exchanges from that hilarious, touching, homoerotic fodder for Masculinity Studies essays, Peter Weir's Gallipoli:

Jack: What are your legs?
Archy: Springs! Steel springs!
Jack: What're they gunna do?
Archy: Hurl me down the track!
Jack: How fast can you run?
Archy: As fast as a leopard!
Jack: How fast're you gunna run?

And my personal favourite, from the scene where Archy is trekking across the desert to get to Perth, and comes across a wizened old camel driver who, he is shocked to discover, has no idea about the war:

Archy: (earnestly) We don't stop them there, they could end up here.
Camel Driver: (looks around at the wilderness - there's nothing for miles) And they're welcome to it.

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