Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmet’s to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … 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. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
(Words Mustafa Ataturk on the Turkish Memorial on Anzac Beach, the landing place, erected in 1934)
According to Mark Twain there are 869 forms of lying, but only one of them has been squarely forbidden, that being, thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Can you imagine an Australian Prime Minister, indeed can you imagine any Australian political or military leader uttering such words as those appearing on the Turkish Memorial on Anzac Beach about an enemy who attempted to invade Australia and in the process killed tens of thousands of Australia’s young men and women both in and out of uniform. Well can you? I can’t.
Those of you, who like me, have been brought up on the bullshit that is the ANZAC, will perhaps think that “those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives” are all bronzed and noble. Well, let’s take a moment to reflect on what prominent Australian historian Professor Manning Clark had to say about those bronzed and noble heroes “lying in the soil of a friendly country”:
As recruits, before being shipped to war, some indulged in sex orgies with an 18-year-old girl at the Broadmeadows camp; others confronted police in violent scuffles on the streets of Melbourne. Their behaviour in Egypt was no better – they burned the belongings of local people, brawled, got drunk and rioted, and spent sufficient time in the local brothels for many of them to suffer from venereal disease.
So, what we are really commemorating on April 25 is a military failure against a noble and generous enemy, whose lands were invaded by an Australian rabble of syphilitic drunks, sexual deviants and vandals – way to go Oz!
Many Australians may say that I’m being at best un-Australian, at worst a traitor. I’m content with both these potential sobriquets, or indeed with the many others that I’m sure our misguided brothers and sisters in the Shire might come up with. So what’s the point I’m labouring to make? Surely not that all Australian’s are syphilitic bastards, we all know that if we exclude the military and certain politicians this would be as overtly false as it would be to suggest that all the fallen Australians “now lying in the soil of a friendly country” are bronzed and noble heroes.
What I am saying is that the ANZAC myth that Australia is a land of heroes and larrikins, ratbags and rebels is utter bullshit. It’s high time that Australians as a collective take a long hard look at what this land of the bronzed and noble hero is really about.
Larrikins, ratbags and rebels, implied in these terms is a sense of equality, mateship and a fair go to all, a true collective conscience where the rights of others are as important as the rights of self. I wonder what the girl who was used and abused by these original bronzed and noble heroes at the Broadmeadows camp would have to say about the Aussie collective conscience. Most likely she would see this collective conscience as more akin to a collective of self-interest or in keeping with current thinking about team bounding in the AFL or NRL, as a collective dick!
Let’s think about the great Australian traditions of mateship and equality. Where are the great Australian philanthropists? Yes I know that Gina Rinehart Australia’s richest person and the world’s richest woman penned a paean called Our Future in which she has a dig at “political hacks” who were “unleashing rampant tax”, then had it engraved on 30-tonne iron ore boulder. But, I don’t think this really counts as either philanthropy or poetry! Though I’m not intending in this post to have a go at the good ‘ol Aussie miners, they’re really a great bunch of … I just can’t seem to bring the right words to mind …
According to Mark Twain there are 869 forms of lying, and I believe that the so-called ANZAC spirit encompasses just about all of them. It is estimated that up to 1,000 Aboriginal Australian’s served in World War One. Of these, at least 11 were killed at Gallipoli, with 21 surviving the battle. Because we (Aboriginal Australian’s) were not legally allowed to wear an Australian military uniform until 1949, the year we officially became citizens, we tended to quietly return to our communities after completing military service. Aborigines would “disappear” and not even resurface for ANZAC Day marches.
Vietnam veteran and curator at the Australian War Memorial Mr Gary Oakley said in an interview with the Herald-Sun in 2012 that:
We don’t know how many [Aborigines] joined. We probably never will know. If you were willing to fight for your country, most recruiters didn’t notice your colour.
When these men got into the defence force, they were soldiers, they got paid the same, they got treated the same, they could drink with their mates …
Life changed, however, when they returned home.
You went back to being a second-rate citizen.
If you were an Aboriginal volunteer in World war One – remember there were about 1,000 – you got to be a token white for the duration; shit, you were even allowed to drink with your mates! But, and it’s a BIG BUT, for those Aborigines who returned from the hostilities, their token witness, or perhaps whitewash would be a better term, faded to black and they returned to being second-rate citizens! We were good enough to kill and be killed by the Turks, to drink with whitie while whitie had his back to the wall, but after hostilities ceased, whitie was still white and we were, well you now… back to the missions – no pensions, no ANZAC Day marches, no two-up for darkie, just business as usual in the Great Southern Land of the white supremacist.
The true heroes of Gallipoli
In 1909, the Defence Act 1909 (Cth) prevented those who were not of ‘substantially European descent‘ from being able to enlist in any of the armed forces. Despite the legislation restricting them from enlisting, or their long history of being persecuted by the British, many Aboriginal people still wanted to support Australia by being involved in the war. Up to 1,000 Aboriginal Australians from every State were said to have enlisted and fought in World War One, for Australia and the British Empire. Although this may not seem to be a large contribution on behalf of the Aboriginal population, when 416 809 Australians in total enlisted for service in World War One, Australia’s Aboriginal population at the time was estimated to be only around 80 000, having fallen from around 750,000 at the time of the European invasion of our lands.
During the war, amongst those who were serving Australia and the Empire, the division of colour which sharply divided the British-Australians and the Aboriginal people in their civilian lives became non-existent. No longer were negative stereotypes attributed to the Aboriginal Australians; all were the same in the face of ‘Johnny Turke’. The lived, fought and died beside each other, never once thinking one was superior to another.
Unsurprisingly, this mentality did not spread through Australia while the soldiers were away. Aboriginal soldiers who had fought and survived overseas received none of the accolades that their British-Australian counterparts did. Often they were ignored or shunned by the white Australian community when they returned home. The Commonwealth government supported public opinion by insisting on legislation which ensured that even the Aboriginal soldiers who served in the war were not entitled to the same rights as the white population. As a result, Aboriginal servicemen were not permitted to have a beer along with the other returned servicemen. To further add to their frustration, the Aboriginal soldiers who went to war were not allowed to apply for the Returned Servicemen’s Settlement Scheme. The aim of this scheme was to give parts of the land for agricultural development to those who had fought in the war as compensation for their sacrifices. The majority of Aboriginal ex-servicemen were denied this right to be granted an allotment. This scheme also affected the Aboriginal population who did not go to war, because the fertile land which was being given to the Soldier Settlement Scheme had previously been Aboriginal Reserve Land. This meant that many Aboriginal people were forced to leave the land which they had lived off for decades. They had no place to go and were left without any money.
Surely men who were prepared to serve alongside their persecutor after being victims of every conceivable form of racism, including attempted genocide, knowing that they were unlikely to be rewarded if they were lucky enough to survive, are the true heroes. In reality a hero is someone who puts others before self, others before personal reward, and others before material gain. No Returned Servicemen’s Settlement Scheme for darkie, just racism as usual.
No Mark Twain there are not 869 forms of lying, there are actually 870, the ANZAC lie being the greatest of them all!
Happy ANZAC lie, 2013!!!