There are many different types of ANZAC Day.
By this statement I mean that for every person attending a service, it will hold meanings unique to them, and there are myriad reasons that may bring them to that service. They may have been in uniform themselves, be honouring a family member who did or just seeking to honour the sacrifices of others?
I remember attending services as a kid with my Grandfather Col, who was a Changi veteran (2/18th Battalion 2nd AIF), and for him it was clearly a low-key day for remembering the many friends lost, then some beers and stories with the ones who survived.
As the years went by ANZAC Day seemed to be fading from national reverence.
When I eventually ended up in uniform myself it certainly still had tremendous significance at each Unit in which I served with, but with regards to the public turnout, whilst respectful, it was never what you’d call massive.
The comeback of ANZAC day in recent years with the great media fanfare and elaborately marketed and presented extravaganzas is quite the contrast to the low-key affairs I remember attending with my Grandfather. In some ways, great to see the support, but there is a darker side that represents somewhat of a double-edged sword to the spirit and future of the day.
This new “shiny’ format is one that in my humble opinion many true Diggers struggle with, as in some cases it has become just another bandwagon for corporate brands and TV Morning shows to jump onboard and milk.
The term ‘Anzackery’ was coined recently by some of the more cynical observers of the razzamattazz being attached to what was not too long ago quite a sombre day of remembrance. The recycled media grabs of jingoistic slogans, Gen Y backpackers wrapped in flags and politicians seeking reflected glory can all be a bit too much at times.
For some it’s a day to mark remembrance of actual combat they have seen and actual mates lost, for others a day to remember and honour those beloved relatives who had those experiences, and also a day for those who may have served in peacetime or were not deployed. For many more just a respectful day and a valid way to honour others who have served whether they have those tangible connections to military service or not.
Many collectors of militaria and military vehicles in Australia for example will get involved in their local services by simply attending or providing vehicles, artifacts or re-enactment troops.
There is much of the resurgent energy around ANZAC Day that can be good in terms of education, respect and healthy love of country provided that it is kept in context as a day that remembers and not glorifies war, and provided that it is not hi-jacked by brands, politicians, marketing wankers or misguided nationalists.
Any politician for example desperately seeking their happy snaps / Facebook pic with a Digger and his / her medals, should then be held accountable for applying equal energy to advocating for Veteran’s care. Regrettably whilst they love the former opportunity, they tend to run for cover when it’s time to find the money for the latter.
A balance needs to be struck between honouring the spirit of the day, keeping a new generation engaged and it turning into a circus. And let’s face it, at some locations it has truly become a circus hijacked by media spin, local politicians and nebulous groups for myriad messages and agendas.
For those who attend a service their reasons are truly their own, but for it to survive as a healthy part of the national narrative it needs to be carefully husbanded and kept from those seeking to brand it and gain from it for reasons other than the simple commemoration intended.
To put it simply, it should always be about the Diggers (and in that term is implied Sailors and Airmen also by the way), not about exploiting their image or their sacrifice for the sound grabs, corny media shots, ratings and reflected glory.
Let’s hope that for the sake of Diggers past, present and future (and those who respect them without seeking to gain from that legacy) that the right balance is found and maintained.