In launching a
book by former ALP speech writer Graham Freudenberg, former
Australian Prime Minister
forcefully lashed out at key elements of the Gallipoli myth. He was
quoted in the Australian as saying:
is that Gallipoli was shocking for us. Dragged into service by the
imperial government in an ill-conceived and poorly executed campaign,
we were cut to ribbons and dispatched -- and none of it in the
defence of Australia.
seeking to simplify the then bonds of empire and the implicit sense
of obligation, or to diminish the bravery of our own men, we still go
on as though the nation was born again or even was redeemed there.
(It is) an utter and complete nonsense. For these reasons, I have
never been to Gallipoli and I never will."
the Prime Minister Mr. Kevin Rudd was reported as saying:
part of our national consciousness, it's part of our national psyche,
it's part of our national identity, and I, for one, as Prime Minister
of the country, am absolutely proud of it ... I think Paul is
completely wrong on that."
in The Australian Nov. 1 2008)
How many of us
feel disloyal if we attack the institution that ANZAC has become? Our
grandfathers, and great-grandfathers and ancestors were involved,
some were killed, some were maimed and some were deeply affected by
the involvement. Our British heritage that inspired our involvement
to some extent explains who and what we are ... for better and for
worse. And who could doubt the obvious courage and bonds of blood and
heroic action that were exemplified on the killing fields of France
and on the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey! So Mr. Rudd's comments are
completely understandable. They assure the constituents that Mr. Rudd
fuels and needs to harmonize with in order to maintain power ... and
... ONE apology is enough.
It is much
easier to celebrate the courage and mateship of the 60,000
Australians killed in World War 1 than to apologize for the
deliberate manipulation of belief and sentiment that led to their
whole scale murder. The over-looking of the agendas of petty men from
Europe, Asia and Australia who utilized national institutions and
public will to partake in the slaughterhouse of war suits the
Government of the day so as to feed the desires and beliefs of the populations.
We hear that
"in hindsight" we might have acted differently. Or that it
was a different world then and people saw things differently. But the
truth is, our involvement in WW1 was no war of independence; nor was
it a war to liberate anyone; nor was it a struggle for some higher
ideal; nor was it to repel an invasion; nor was it even to protect
the mother country from invasion.
involvement was based more on the need to impress greater powers; to
overcome an inferiority complex of small men with highly inflated
egos and sense of their place in history; to build the political
fortunes by tapping a public's sense of isolation and sentimental
attachment to its past. And does this sound familiar? I'm sure
historians can probably locate the "weapons
of mass destruction"
theme equivalent in the manipulation of public belief in 1915.
It is very
significant that a high profile person from the mainstream of
Australian public life has come out with such a strong statement that
attacks the myths of Gallipoli. Most public figures tend to fall into
line almost completely unaware of their own underlying assumptions
they have as part of their belief system. Few people, even in public
life, can articulate the story of our involvement. It gets lost in
myth and sentiment. It's easier to simply form a belief about
something than to seriously challenge and think about it.
report in the same week focused on the Bali bombers. It is
unfortunate that they died rather than having to face the reality of
their actions and falsehood of their beliefs that led to them. How
sad that relatives and friends and others who share similar beliefs
will affirm their actions with a belief that they have done the right thing.
The sadness of
their families and their need to find solace have led to the
following reported statements:
family don't feel burdened by the execution, in fact we're happy
because it means God and the prophet have given good news," Mr
Chozin (an older brother) said.
significant that Mr Chozin runs an Islamic school. The significance
of such a statement must likely be found in the students under his care.
die because they are standing up for the religion they will be placed
in paradise," he said.
mother of the brothers involved in the bombing said:
that killing infidels isn't a mistake because they don't pray."
Beliefs are not
isolated individual phenomena. They are constructed around
interconnecting social, cultural, personality and historical
elements. And they can be manipulated. The articulated beliefs of
these family members are very similar to those articulated by the
Christian Church in medieval times. The following observations are relevant:
medieval theologians, no illegitimate violence was being done to
Jews, infidels, and heretics put to the sword at the behest of the
Church: these people had no rights to be violated. Although theology
recognized that all men were made in the image of God and even that
Christ had died for all men, the infidels by virtue of their
deliberate choice of error had cut themselves off from humanity. St.
Augustine believed that the individual had no right to dissent. He
and those who followed him insisted that error had no rights and that
ignorance of the law of God was no excuse." (Jeffrey
Burton Russell: Witchcraft In The Middle Ages, p.148)
Church's most common justification for it's use of force, one
congenial to the medieval spirit, was the argument that it was
legitimate to force to salvation those who would otherwise reject it.
The passage of Luke 14.17-24, 'Compel them to come in,' was
frequently cited as authority for the idea that torture or threat of
death might bring about a salutary repentance. If all else failed and
the accused had to be executed, the hope remained that in his last
moments he might repent and reconcile himself to God."
theological thought from times past places the current actions of
Islamic militants into an age old context.
13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in
Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, a human
rights group says. Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to
death on October 27 (2008) in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators
in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and
Somali media reported, citing witnesses. The Islamic militia in
charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that
three men had raped her, the rights group said." (AAP
possibly inspire 1,000 spectators to watch the slow and torturous
murder of a little girl by supposedly pious men acting out the
instructions of the "direct law of god"? Some overarching
will compelling like a psychic magnet? Some kind of automatic
response to impulses and urges they cannot understand yet enact?
it ... dwell on the thought. The possibilities are horrible. And what
of the crowds watching the executions, the burnings, the slow
torturing of witches and heretics condemned by the Inquisition. How
often do we focus on the perpetrators? But what of the spectators?
about young men on the beaches of Gallipoli charging as lambs to the
slaughter. Those who survived have had to think about what they saw
and experienced all their lives while the men who put them there were
onlookers over the history they felt obliged to shape.
is to kill
If a madman
believe is to kill"
across a wall we can be comforted by the fact of his madness that
such a thought is so plainly and obviously absurd. A more sane
thought would surely be 'to
lie is to kill".
Or better still, "thou
shalt not tell a lie."
However, the provocation of the statement can lead to observations
about the contradictory nature of belief.
Not only the particular quality of belief or the nature of
particular beliefs but the very notion; the very concept of belief itself.
A given set
of beliefs might lead to incredible acts of kindness and personal
sacrifice. The Islamic and Christian traditions of justice and
looking out for one and other is drawn from the same set of beliefs
that gave rise to suicide bombings and the inquisitions. The belief
in the ideals of mateship and sacrifice identified in the ANZAC
experience has become imbedded in myths that inspire a nation.
However, the same belief has been used to mask the reality of state
sponsored commitment to a murderous participation in humanly
constructed orgies of destruction and death.
BELIEF is bigger
Belief is the following of unprovable notions that inspire action.
How often over the centuries have we heard the phrase:
it not be a more truthful phrase and one more in tune with the whims
of history to say:
Is this not
the true nature of the crusade or the jihad or the just war or the
right to defend oneself or enacting the judgement of god ... Is not
the very notion of belief itself the energizer that sets in motion
the blades of the reaper? The hangman's rope? The flames of the
inquisitor? The bullets of soldier? The diseases of the conqueror?
The destination of the bombs? The words of fear? The gods of Babel?
it a paradox that the words of faith and the belief in the rightness
of causes can, perhaps unwittingly, bring down the angel of death on
unsuspecting recipients of the good news? Cultural decimation at the
hands of the righteous beliefs of the inspired carriers of god's word
and god's work has been the pattern of experience hand in glove with
imperialism and imperialistic action from the religious and the
secular adherents of rock solid and certain beliefs.
the madman cringes and tries to hide whenever he hears someone say:
"I believe ..."