ANZAC Day

By Legal Eagle

I read Tracee Hutchison’s opinion piece in The Age today. She really irritates me. Her opinions are so terribly predictable and, above all, shallow. I am so mad that I am sitting here at one in the morning typing.

Hutchison’s piece is driven by her ideological motivation (which is to criticise John Howard, those who are nationalistic and those who don’t agree with her particular idea of how Australia should be). While I’m certainly not a fan of Howard, or blind patriotism, I think she really needs to take off her idealogical blinkers and look at the big picture.

She describes ANZAC day as “tub-thumping over diggers”, and seems to see it as some kind of militaristic and nationalistic occasion that is harnessed by John Howard to keep the right wing death bogans happy.

Has she ever participated in an ANZAC day ceremony? Hutchison has ANZAC day all wrong. To my mind it is not a glorification of war or of brutality. It is the very opposite. Hundreds of thousands of young idealistic Australian men volunteered for war in foreign countries, for a cause that did not directly involve Australia, and many of those young men died or were wounded in terrible ways. Other people showed great courage and bravery. Should we forget that sacrifice just because Australian society at that time was not perfect according to the standards of today? The standards of today didn’t exist then, so why should people in the past be judged as worthless for failing to live up to them? It’s so easy to look back at the past and judge people harshly. Hindsight is a marvellous thing.

I think it is a real mistake for commentators to judge the actions of people in the past solely according to today’s standards, using today’s political agendas. It is also a mistake to draw broad and loose analogies between two very different wars at very different times (eg, World War I and the present conflict in Afghanistan).

My great-grandfather fought on the Somme. He lied about his age so as to be enlisted, and was only 16 years old. He was apparently in some of the worst battles of the Somme. He eventually died many years after World War I because of shrapnel which could not be removed from his chest. My grandmother tells me he had one word of French, which he proudly pronounced as follows: “Lez Erfs” (otherwise known as les oeufs). He never spoke of what happened otherwise. My grandmother was not fully aware of where he had fought until my mother sought out his war records. I am proud of my great-grandfather, and that he bravely went and fought in a foreign country. I am also proud of my paternal grandfather, who was a sapper in Borneo in World War II, and fought against the Japanese. He suffered nightmares for the whole of his life as a result of his wartime experience.

I am proud that these men risked their lives because they thought it was the right thing to do for their country. And I am proud of being Australian.

However, this does not mean that I’m Pauline Hanson in legal garb. (God forbid!) Quite the reverse. What I know from my forebears, and ANZAC day in general, is that war is a terrible thing.

Few who have read the histories would argue that World War I was a glorious event. In fact, it was frequently futile, resulting in terrible loss of life for no strategic gain. The conditions were appalling beyond belief and the casualties unimaginable. One Christmas I heard someone reading out a story of how the German, ANZAC and English soliders played soccer together on Christmas Day in World War I in the battlefields of France. The next day, they went back to trying to kill each other. I cried. The fact of the matter is that most of these men were ordinary decent men, with families and loved ones. They had just been pushed into a hideous situation by the exigencies of war.

The cause of the Allies in World War II resonates more strongly in modern terms, as the Allies were fighting the forces of fascism and intolerance. Surely Hutchison is not arguing that the Allies should just have let Hitler invade whichever countries he wanted to in Europe? The problem is that a person like Hitler can’t be stopped by asking him nicely.

To sum up: ANZAC day is about remembrance. It is about remembering those who died fighting under the Australian flag, and those who were wounded. It is also about honouring those who came back safely, and saying that we appreciate their sacrifice. While we may be able to see with hindsight that a particular war was not a good idea, or was motivated by improper political motives, this does not mean we should dishonour the people who fought and died in them. Part of the message of ANZAC day is that war is a terrible thing. Certainly, my forebears seemed to have been indelibly scarred by it.

ANZAC day tells us that we wish for peace in all areas of the world where war rages. I would like nothing better than for soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq to be unnecessary, and for the populations of those countries to live in peace.

30 Comments

  1. Jeremy
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    “I am proud that these men risked their lives because they thought it was the right thing to do for their country. And I am proud of being Australian.”

    Just out of interest, why do either of these things make you “proud”? In what way are you responsible for, and therefor deserve to take credit for, the men who risked their lives? I can understand their being proud of their sacrifice; but the rest of us? And being “proud” of being Australian is like being “proud” of having two arms. It’s just an accident of birth.

  2. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Jeremy,

    I think we have different definitions of the word “proud”.

    You seem to see the word “proud” as meaning that I take some sort of responsibility for the achievements of these men, and that I take credit for their actions. That is not what I mean. How could I take credit and responsibility for their actions (undertaken well before I was born)? Let me be clear: I do not take credit or responsibility for the actions of soldiers.

    To me, the word “proud” means something that is valued and respected. When I say that I am proud of them, I am saying that I value and respect them. They retained their fundamental decency in the indecent situation that is warfare.

    If people like my grandfather had not stood against the Japanese, we would have been invaded and, if the experiences of people under imperial Japanese army control is anything to go by, Australians would have been subject to great cruelty (eg, rape of Nanking, Changi, Burma railway). So yes, I do honour his contribution to Australia.

    My great-grandfather was just an innocent boy, with none of the opportunities for education which you and I have had. To agree to fight in France was tremendously brave. He must have known that he could be killed far from home, but he saw it as his duty to fight because Australia had agreed to help Britain. I take exception to people such as Hutchison expecting people at the turn of the century to have a modern outlook and judging them as wanting. To an extent, one must judge people within the context of the times.

    As for being proud of being Australian… Have you ever lived outside of Australia for any length of time? I suspect that you have not, but please correct me if I am wrong.

    I moved to the UK as a teenager. This is what taught me that I love Australia, and I am proud of it. I missed the sun, the sea, the beautiful wildlife and trees. I missed the land itself. I missed the people – the relaxed attitude, the comparative lack of a class structure, the sense of humour. I missed my family and my friends. By God I missed the food, especially after a few school dinners. I felt an almost physical sense of bereavement in being away from Australia. I had never realised before that I even cared!

    In saying I am proud of Australia, I am not saying that Australia is perfect. Like any other country, it has problems with racism, disadvantage and the like. Like many other countries (USA, Canada, NZ etc) indigenous people have suffered since colonisation.

    But that being said, Australia has many advantages and good things about it which I value. Of course, my “Australian-ness” is an accident of birth. But it is an accident of birth for which I am profoundly grateful. I am lucky that my forebears came here (or were transported here!). I doubt that I would have been able to get a university education because of the class structure in the UK. I love the way in which many Australians are willing to question authority, too. And my Australia is not just a “One Nation” Australia. One of the things I love about Australia is that there are so many different kinds of ways of being Australian. I have friends from almost every religion and culture. Catering for my wedding was crazy – we had to accomodate Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and vegetarians – thank goodness the venue took it all in their stride!

    So, yeah, mawkish as it may seem, I love my country. This doesn’t mean I have to hate other countries or that I am blind to the faults of my country. But it does mean that I am cognizant of the immense privileges I have been given by growing up here.

    Cheers, LE

  3. Anonymous
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Beautiful piece LE. You are becoming one of my Missing Link regulars – and I’m always glad that you’re in my part of the Club Troppo Google Reader so I get your posts to myself 😉

    I’m one of those odd Australians who prefers Australia, but can’t live here – why I’m heading off to Oxford this year. I’m just too eccentric. This has been a hard and bitter lesson for me, and it took me until I was 34 (last year, when I put my paperwork in for the BCL) to learn it. Whenever I live in the UK, I long for Australia. Whenever I come home, Australia breaks my heart.

    That said, while the UK is better at tolerating eccentricity, I know that – but for Australia – I wouldn’t be going to Oxford. In the UK (had my parents, one Irish and one English, chosen not to migrate here) I’d have been the child of a pair of tinkers and probably wouldn’t have even gone to school too often.

    This dichotomy is one of the things I’ve accepted I just can’t reconcile. It’s a contradiction I’ll just have to live with.

    skepticlawyer

  4. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Skepticlawyer,

    I also like the fact that the English tolerate eccentricity more than Australians – it is where I started learning to let my eccentricity shine through! And I do love England, despite its flaws and frustrations; it will always be my “second home”, because I lived there during my formative years.

    I am glad that you understand the contradictions in my attitude to Australia – it seems you feel very much the way as I do.

    Cheers, LE

  5. Jeremy
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Yes, we do appear to have different definitions of “pride“.

    Yours appears to be “2. satisfaction with your (or another’s) achievements; “he takes pride in his son’s success”.

    Obviously the main alternative definitions there are to do with credit or satisfaction felt in one’s own actions – I think the “or another’s” is a bit of a leap, and is developed from the notion that someone can take credit from someone else’s achievements by association. However, it’s there in one of the definitions, so I guess I can’t fault you on it.

    I don’t think “proud” is the most accurate word to use to describe the basis of your feelings as outlined throughout your comment and article, but it’s your piece.

    ps obviously that was supposed to be “therefore” in my last comment.

  6. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Jeremy,

    I’m not sure what the appropriate word would be otherwise. Respect? Value? Honour? Love? Admiration? All not quite right.

    Like you, I looked at the dictionary.com definition, and most of the definitions of pride listed seemed to be “selfish”. But to me, pride can also be “selfless” – recognition of and pleasure in the achievements of another without seeking to take any credit or kudos. Selfish pride is a more negative emotion, but selfless pride is a more positive emotion. That being said, I’ve had to realise that I need some self-pride in life, and it’s not an entirely negative emotion – otherwise I end up being a doormat, disrespected by myself and others.

    Anyway: thinking about that sentence you mention, “He takes pride in his son’s success”. There are two types of proud parents. On the negative end of the spectrum, there’s parents who seek to live vicariously through their children, and take credit for their children’s achievements (like those awful parents who beat up other kids and parents at children’s sporting matches).

    And on the positive end, there’s parents who are genuinely selflessly proud in their child’s achievements, not for their own sake or vindication, but for the sake of the child and her sense of achievement. When I saw my daughter take her first steps, I felt that second type of pride. She looked so happy with herself that I just couldn’t help sharing in it!

    So “pride” is a dangerous term, I suppose, with varying meanings even in the same sort of factual scenario. Still, I can’t see any other term in the thesaurus which I like better.

    Mmm, semantics, I could quibble over it for years. Comes of being a lawyer, I suppose, and a word nerd.

  7. Lad Litter
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Oh, cut it out you two! LE, I understand how you feel (great uncle killed at Pozieres; grabdfather & great uncles at Gallipoli & through France; dad in New Guinea 1943-44 etc) and don’t think much of judging actions of the past by today’s standards, except where some of the wrongs of the present can be redressed eg Stolen Generation; Vietnam veterans but I deplore the way some elements use the Anzac tradition to settle current political scores. I think we need to be careful we don’t get so bound up in our justified reverence for the Anzac sacrifices that we fail to recognize sleazy opportunistic invocations of it. Cloaking themselves in the badge, as it were.

  8. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 29, 2007 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Well said indeed, Lad Litter.

    I agree, I really dislike sleazy, self-serving uses of the ANZAC myth too (politicians excel at this). In fact, I find that tendency precisely as irritating as I find Hutchison’s article. The truth is more complex than either.

  9. peter
    Posted April 30, 2007 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    traceeeee is a moonbat.

    mr leftard hates anyone who expresses love for their ancestors – what’s wrong with yours mate?

    nice post – I went along a long while ago and saw an old fella walking slowly on through the rain. The crowd started cheering him on and his chest puffed out and he straightened up, walked tall and PROUD. He was proud of himself, and we expressed pride (but mainly gratitude) in him. It was a great moment and I hope it eases any painful memories he may have, and any physical pain he suffers from any war injuries.

    And what is wrong with that?

    Sadly, our friend lefty thinks it is wrong to hold up military personnel as heros. Your loss. Don’t forget they died for your freedoms too.

  10. Legal Eagle
    Posted April 30, 2007 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Peter,

    “Gratitude” is a good word.

    The other point you make which is good is that by expressing public thanks to such people, it may ease terrible memories and pain. So it is worthwhile holding an occasion like ANZAC day for this reason.

    LE

  11. -k.
    Posted April 30, 2007 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Well said, LE.

    I’m tempted to print your post out and start giving it to those who proclaim ANZAC day to be nothing more than a ‘militaristic display’. It’s probably wiser than thumping them, which is what I’ve always wanted to do…

  12. RG
    Posted May 1, 2007 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    i don’t think hutchison was bagging out anzacs, anzac day or national identity. i read her opinion piece (and it’s just that, an opinion) and took her to be doing nothing more than calling for a wider analysis of what australia’s national identity really is – it’s a debate/discussion that is never had, that involves bitter, beautiful and controversial aspects of this nation’s history, and that is only really referenced during anzac day or rememberance day. it seems australia, or her politicians, base the identity of this country on a one-off (albeit magnificent) event. what about all that came before and after it? i think that’s what hutchison is erked about; it’s a blinkered view. i agree.

    i have utterly no issue with saluting the remaining, or the memory of, men and women (largely unrecognised, but that’s another point) who have died at war; i do have issue with the political machine going into overdrive every year in a competition to see who can muster the most nationalistic fervour – it’s ugly and disrespectful. the tragedy is, it seems so artificial; for the cameras, not from the heart. i think this is part of what hutchison takes issue with.

    personally, i get really pissed off with the blurring of the lines between the massive distinctions of anzacs and fighters of recent wars such iraq, afghanistan etc. part of the backbone of the anzac tradition, reputation and legend is the badge of honour ‘digger’; i see red every time some battle somewhere run with high-tech precision and (often) long-distance attack lables the australian contingent thereof as ‘diggers’. bullshit. diggers did just that – they dug in and faced an horrific challenge; they physically dug ditches in which to fight and take shelter, such as it was, from an enemy that was fought face-to-face and body-to-body.

    if we are truly celebrating and remembering the sacrifice of our anzacs, it is nothing short of repulsive for political leaders to take the cloak of the ‘digger’ and apply it to current situations in order to tug at the emotions of a nation in a bid to politically succeed or be seen as ‘more australian’ than the other guy.

    sadly, i don’t have a massive love for australia – and i do think it is sad, not to feel an affinity with your home country. one of the reasons i don’t feel a connection is because the celebration and acknowledgement of this country’s history is so selective; i feel i’m living in a dishonest place where the ugly is forgotten and ignored and only the heroic are held up as ‘australian’. hutchison draws reference to this.

    a work of art’s beauty is in the layers, rough or refined; it is not the same without texture; it’s not as true as it could or should be. this is what i dream my country will develop as one day, but if we continue to only bang on about baptisms by fire (and i deliberately use ‘bang on’ because it’s nothing but a sad echo without substance when clung to so selectively) and ignore the rest it will never happen, a loss for us all for sure.

  13. Legal Eagle
    Posted May 1, 2007 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    RG,

    I agree – I hate the self-serving adoption of the “Digger” mythology by politicians to seem more dinky-di Australian than any other country.

    It just seemed to me that Hutchison threw the baby out with the bathwater – she had to have a go at the people who participated and died for Australia, and she seemed to be suggesting that they shouldn’t be honoured. I don’t have a problem with talking about the terrible things which happened to indigenous people in the past, but this shouldn’t mean we ignore the suffering of ANZAC soldiers because of that. That’s the other side of the coin to the problem you’re talking about – focusing on one particular hardship (racism and discrimination) and trying to devalue another hardship (violent death, sacrifice for one’s country). Both are equally important threads of the tapestry which makes up Australian history.

    As I was explaining to Jeremy, I think I only learned to love Australia by being away from it. It’s kind of like the love for a family member – a love which recognises deep faults and flaws, and ways in which I think our country could improve. I’m not a fan of naked nationalism – hating other countries and thinking “we’re” better than anyone else. I despise that. That way lies fascism.

    What I have is a sense of the immense opportunities I’ve been given by living here which I might not have gotten elsewhere. By going and living in the UK, I saw an alternate reality, where my forebears would never have been able to get away from the class structure – I would never have been educated – I would have been stuck as “lower class” forever. So I will fight for others to be given the same opportunities as I have, and not to be denied on the basis of class, race or any other discrimination.

    The other thing of which I became aware is Australia’s fantastic natural resources – beach, sun, wilderness, amazing creatures – and we are so lucky to have that – Europe seemed so developed, with barely any wildlife left. Previously I took it for granted. I think it is really important to acknowledge how lucky we are, and to try to preserve our wilderness and animals where possible.

    So for me, my love of Australia is something that makes me want to improve it, and make sure that others get the same things out of life here that I do.

    Cheers, LE

  14. RG
    Posted May 1, 2007 at 4:41 am | Permalink

    “…she seemed to be suggesting that they shouldn’t be honoured. I don’t have a problem with talking about the terrible things which happened to indigenous people in the past, but this shouldn’t mean we ignore the suffering of ANZAC soldiers because of that.” true it is hutchison has given us a brodie’s notes version of australia’s history, unsavory parts only it’s noted. this succeeds in throwing a lot into the mix and blurring the actual point of her column – surely not something a writer hopes for.

    however i don’t see that she is saying anzacs shouldn’t be honoured or that their suffering be ignored; i see her as actually calling for a full and frank discussion on the true legend of the anzac, which would do nothing but allow anzacs to be honoured and celebrated in a more real, true fashion. as each year passes, this is essential – the more time passes, the more “none of us could imagine what they did”. how are we supposed to move past the “much romanticised legend of the aussie digger that dominates our rememberings”, as hutchison so rightly points out, without such a dialogue?

    as she says towards the end, “what kind of australia did they imagine we would become?…at the going down of the sun, what do they reflect on?” this is the australia that makes a nation; real people, real struggles, real courage. it comes in all forms and shapes, and it’s devastating that the embodiment of the anzac and the anzac traditions are threatening to become a parody of such magnificent strengths.

    as you mentioned, you have a love of australia that makes you want to improve it, which is nothing short of beautiful. i guess i’m realising that i share that, but on this point of anzacs and national pride the only way to improve respect for past generations, their accomplishments and contributions is to understand the mistakes and glorious successes afforded to each. this takes more than a special edition of australian story or broadcast of a dawn service and some soundbites to achieve, but i don’t know that anyone is really up for the challenge. as rambling as it is, i appreciate hutchison for at least using her column to stir the pot.

  15. Legal Eagle
    Posted May 1, 2007 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    RG,

    I just wish Hutchison weren’t so negative. Why did she just have to pick out the bad things about the turn of the century? That’s as bad as picking out only the good things. This is why I thought her column lacked depth.

    She just carped on about how BAD Australians are, and that gave me the pip. I think a wholly negative and self-flagellating view of the past is inaccurate. Sure, Australians are not perfect. Some things done by Australian people in the past are very bad. And it’s very important to recognise that. But I also think that some sense of national pride can be a positive thing, in the sense that I am trying to get across.

    I don’t find Hutchison’s column particularly well reasoned or argued. I don’t like her journalism generally. She pours out whatever is on her mind without thinking about the subtleties. She tends to parrot certain left wing lines without looking deeper into the consequences of doing that.

    Ironically, I think opinions which only emphasise the negative aspects of Australia and its history give strength to John Howard’s faux “dinky-di digger” posturing. Ordinary people don’t want to be told that there’s a whole lot of negative stuff about their nation and history without some positive stuff to balance that out. So rather than listen to someone like Hutchison, they’ll swallow Howard’s revolting “fair go, cobber” act, because it makes them feel positively about themselves and their country.

    I encourage questioning of certain myths and stereotypes, but to my mind, it should be presented in a rounded and thoughtful way, showing both sides of the story. Unfortunately, showing both sides of the story doesn’t seem to be de rigeur amongst many political commentators for newspapers (whether left or right)…

    LE

  16. Posted May 1, 2007 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    How ridiculous to deny other people’s pride in Australia by rushing to the dictionary! And yet, why does it seem to me that Jeremy would not have a similar problem with people expressing ‘shame’ in Australia?

    Patriotism is not the frightening thing that the Tracee Hutchinson’s and the Jeremy Sear’s of this world make it out to be. It is the love and pride of nation, an acknowledgment of the people who make it a good place to live, a sorrow over its mistakes and the faults that have been made in its name, and a willingness to contribute to make the country better in the future.

    Nice new digs, LE.

    (TimT)

  17. Legal Eagle
    Posted May 1, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Yo Tim T,

    I agree totally. You already found my new digs? Glad you like it. I want to change the picture at the top, but need to find something appropriately nerdy.

  18. Posted May 1, 2007 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I like ’em, but then, I like old books in general. I got here via the link on blogger!

    I’m bemused by that first comment of Jeremy’s – don’t want to dwell on it too much, but I think it’s quite revealing. How could you view being Australian as an ‘accident’ of birth? I’m sure the convicts would have something to say about that, or the waves of immigrants who made perilous journeys to unknown parts of the world, or came here at times of war. Or the people who drew up the Australian constitution, or the soldiers who fought for Australia, or… you get the picture. It all sounds pretty deliberate to me! As for the comparison with the person being born with ‘two arms’ as an ‘accident’ – well, um, I’m not sure how many *three* armed people Jeremy knows…

    It’s a strange comment. It’s almost like a piece of rhetorical trickery: by use of a quasi-convincing metaphor about birth and by emphasising the ‘accidental’ nature of being Australian, it *appears* to strip the word Australian of the natural meaning that it might otherwise have had…

  19. Anthony_
    Posted May 1, 2007 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Lol Mr Lefty has gone of the deep end with this comment. Maybe he is ashamed that an accident of birth caused him to become an Australian?

  20. Posted May 1, 2007 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Once Troppo has stopped going up and down like a honeymoon nightie, I’ll repair the link to this piece in the latest issue of Missing Link. I’m not game to do anything at present while Jacques struggles with sorting things out on our new server.

    You’ve certainly started a discussion on this issue. Tim Blair generally just takes the piss out of Tracee Hutchison (quite legitimately, too). What makes your piece different is your decision to take her arguments apart in a careful and forensic manner.

    I must say – as someone who does have real problems with aspects of Australia, noted above in my comments on conformity – the default hitting of the ‘shame’ switch by the likes of Hutchison is very revealing.

  21. Legal Eagle
    Posted May 2, 2007 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Skepticlawyer, I’m going to have to add that honeymoon nightie metaphor to my repetoire. Love it. Is it your own invention?

    Thanks for updating the link – it’s awesome to be included in Missing Link!

  22. Posted May 2, 2007 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Alas, no – it’s one of my dad’s, and I’ve no idea where he got it from. I do have a considerable collection of funnies, though, both from having a London cabbie for a father (born and raised in Kilburn) and spending my formative years in the regions/country.

    I blogged about my dad’s handy turn of phrase here.

  23. Posted May 2, 2007 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    It reminds me of the joke we used to tell as kids:

    Q: What’s the definition of suspicion?

    A: A naked man doing press ups in a wheat field.

  24. Posted May 3, 2007 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    “mr leftard hates anyone who expresses love for their ancestors – what’s wrong with yours mate?”

    Of course, I said nothing of the sort, but nice personal attack Peter. “Gratitude” is a better word for what LE was describing.

    “And yet, why does it seem to me that Jeremy would not have a similar problem with people expressing ’shame’ in Australia?”

    Hmm… interesting point, Tim. If someone’s expressing “shame” in Australia it tends to be because of the actions of our present, elected government, so the idea is that some shame attaches to us because they represent us. But in that case I can see why if they were to do something good “pride” should also attach to us. And obviously our military arguably represents us too.

    I see your point. On the one hand, I think it’s a bit silly for people to talk about “shame” and “pride” for things other people are doing, whether they oppose or support them or not, even if they, technically, represent them. But on the other… hmm.

    “How could you view being Australian as an ‘accident’ of birth? I’m sure the convicts would have something to say about that, or the waves of immigrants who made perilous journeys to unknown parts of the world, or came here at times of war. Or the people who drew up the Australian constitution, or the soldiers who fought for Australia, or… you get the picture. It all sounds pretty deliberate to me!”

    Oh, convicts, immigrants etc could feel proud at being here. But I’m fairly sure that describes few of us on this thread. And I was talking about blind “pride” in being Australian from people who were simply born here.

    “Lol Mr Lefty has gone of the deep end with this comment. Maybe he is ashamed that an accident of birth caused him to become an Australian?”

    So if I object to the word “pride” in relation to something over which you have no influence, then therefore I must feel “shame” instead? Nuts.

  25. Legal Eagle
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Skepticlawyer and Tim, you both have a lovely turn of phrase. I very much enjoy it.

    I used to come up with some phrases which people in England thought were hilarious – mostly inherited from my grandparents, but some from Mum and Dad too. My Cockney Japanese teacher was fascinated by the Australian versions of rhyming slang, and adopted me as a de facto Cockney from thereon in.

    Also in England, I used to babysit some Orthodox Jewish kids. I was the first non-Jew they’d ever met in close proximity. One night, they just would not go to bed. “STOP YOUR SHENANIGANS!” I shouted. Suddenly there was silence. “What’s shenanigans?” asked the oldest girl. I hadn’t even considered that the word might be unusual.

    “You’ll find out if you get into be RIGHT NOW,” I promised. They jumped into bed, wanting to know what it meant. The next time I came to babysit, the father said, “They’ve picked up some funny Irish phrases from somewhere – I’m presuming it’s you…” Guilty as charged, m’lud.

  26. Legal Eagle
    Posted May 3, 2007 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy,

    What think ye of the following argument, in which I indulged with the lovely RG above:

    “I just wish Hutchison weren’t so negative. Why did she just have to pick out the bad things about the turn of the century? That’s as bad as picking out only the good things. This is why I thought her column lacked depth.

    She just carped on about how BAD Australians are, and that gave me the pip. I think a wholly negative and self-flagellating view of the past is inaccurate. Sure, Australians are not perfect. Some things done by Australian people in the past are very bad. And it’s very important to recognise that. But I also think that some sense of national pride can be a positive thing, in the sense that I am trying to get across.

    I don’t find Hutchison’s column particularly well reasoned or argued. I don’t like her journalism generally. She pours out whatever is on her mind without thinking about the subtleties. She tends to parrot certain left wing lines without looking deeper into the consequences of doing that.

    Ironically, I think opinions which only emphasise the negative aspects of Australia and its history give strength to John Howard’s faux “dinky-di digger” posturing. Ordinary people don’t want to be told that there’s a whole lot of negative stuff about their nation and history without some positive stuff to balance that out. So rather than listen to someone like Hutchison, they’ll swallow Howard’s revolting “fair go, cobber” act, because it makes them feel positively about themselves and their country.”

    I think that when you’re being critical, you’ve got to be careful that you don’t alienate people. The way in which Hutchison expressed her column could have the reverse effect of what she wanted – her unalloyed negativity and focus on the bad things about Australia could push people towards nationalism rather than making them think about the complexity of Australian history.

    LE

  27. Posted May 3, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    It’s probably a counter to balance the overly rose-tinted view of the turn of the century which is common everywhere else near ANZAC day.

    By all means, attack her article’s slant; but be conscious that much of the stuff on the other side to which she’s responding is just as selective, but in the opposite way.

  28. Posted May 4, 2007 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Up until this last Anzac day, I’d have agreed with every word you said, LE.

    We made our way to the dawn service in Melbourne this year as we try to most years, and to be honest, I came away feeling that I *had* just witnessed a tub thumping nationalistic orgy of jingoism. I was extraordinarily discomfited by it.

    Usually, there is some mention of the fallen on the other side of war, some acknowledgment that war is bloody and horrible for everyone involved and that in the end, we are all humans who have all suffered for causes we thought glorious at the time.

    This year, there didn’t seem to be any of that. There was a lot of being proud of our soldiers… but when they talked about the difficulties for our troops even today going in to Iraq and Afghanistan, and then didn’t go on to acknowledge the suffering of the Iraqis and Afghanis, well, it hit a sour note. A very sour note indeed.

    I certainly won’t feel comfortable taking my children to a ceremony like that until I’m certain that the national tone has changed a little more back to the dignified fairness that in the past recognised the suffering on all sides.

  29. Legal Eagle
    Posted May 4, 2007 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    That is very interesting, Jane. I would also feel very discomforted by such a phenomenon, and I am really disappointed to hear that this was the pervading atmosphere.

    Iraqi and Afghanistani civilians are dying as well as Australian soliders. They have no choice to live in those countries – just like being an Australian, it’s an accident of birth. Although some civilians would be involved in religious and sectarian violence, I suspect that the vast majority just want to get on with their lives and live in piece.

    Iraqi kids who go to get lollies from US soliders don’t deserve to be killed by suicide bombers any more than the soldier does.

    I read this terrible story of an Iraqi academic studying here in Australia. He returned to Iraq to see his baby son despite warnings he would be executed. Be warned, it’s a really upsetting story, and it had me in floods of tears by the end. He, too, is a victim of war, and he, too, deserves to be commemorated and celebrated for his bravery. It is things like this that really rub in the waste, futility and horror of war and sectarian violence.

  30. Dave
    Posted December 5, 2007 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Yes, Tracee Hutchinson is a total idiot. Her columns are never backed with any evidence or reasoned argument, they are like the ramblings of a year 12 student who’s suddenly been given a regular column.

    Her latest piece is that because lots of women are elected we should all get down and ‘shimmy’. Dont worry about the policies, or what they will actually do, of course; thats too boring to discuss and might involve analysis.

    Why can’t we have columnists who actually focus on the issues facing us, instead of this nonsense?

    The age was publishing some good columns from Bernadette Lewis? I think- they should give her more of a go.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Day and how to memorialise our veterans is stilll rumbling around; Legal Eagle provides a thoughtful but nonetheless comprehensive takedown of the Age’s Tracee Hutchison, while Catallaxy – like Club Troppo in the last […]

  2. By skepticlawyer » ANZAC Day Redux on April 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    […] that all people who find importance in ANZAC Day are racist thugs. I resent that implication too.  I wrote a post in 2007 in response to an article by Tracee Hutchinson which describes the way I continue to feel now: […]

  3. By Cultivating Respect « Crafting Context on April 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    […] “I think it is a real mistake for commentators to judge the actions of people in the past sole… […]

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