National chauvinism is an aggressive patriotism that is often displayed when countries are at war. Lately it is raising its ugly head – even in peace time.
Writes PNG Echo
Australia, yesterday, celebrated ANZAC Day and the battle on the peninsular of Gallipoli during the First World War where it is said Australia gained nationhood.
It was celebrated royally all over the nation with large enthusiastic turnouts for dawn services and marches even though the surviving Diggers of the Gallipoli campaign have all since passed on.
In contrast, by the late 1970s, when there were many surviving diggers of that campaign, the celebration of ANZAC Day had all but died in Australia. It was revived in the 1990s. Some say that it was not an organic revival but a manufactured one.
Ironically, Eric Bogle who wrote his ballad in 1971 “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” that has become the unofficial anthem of Anzac Day, did not glorify what happened in Gallipoli, nor the way it was being remembered – but condemns it. His hero asks:
And the young people ask me, “what are they marching for?”
And I ask myself the same question.
It begs the question of whether the revival of the popularity of ANZAC Day has been a forerunner of a worrying global trend promoted by vested interests – national chauvinism?
For the ANZAC tradition commemorates a war where 56,639 Australia males between the ages of 18-44 died. Fully, 65% of Australian recruits were casualties – the highest rate in the British army.
One commentator has written:
“…perhaps the bravest thing the ANZACs could have done at Gallipoli in April 1915 would have been to mutiny.”
There’s no doubt that Australian troops were regarded by the British as cannon fodder and the Australian Military Commanders facilitated the senseless slaughter of their own – they must have known. Where’s the glory in that?
How well I remember that terrible day
When the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He showered us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he’d blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
As poignantly sad as the whole of Bogle’s ode to the ANZACs is, for me, it is the chorus that is the most chilling as he juxtaposes the band playing Waltzing Matilda – a sign of patriotism – against first, the anticipation; then the horror of what was waiting for the conscripts (and those that had enthusiastically joined up of their free will) and finally their ignominious, desperately sad and inglorious return.
And still the band played Waltzing Matilda… is a perfect illustration of the insensitivity of rampant patriotism and its deadly bounty.
But do we never learn?
National chauvinism, globally, is running rampant – Trump, the resurrection of Pauline Hanson in Australia, Brexit and in a few days time maybe the success of Marine Le Pen, in France. Le Pen, like Trump has, in gentler times, been considered part of the political loony fringe – her party a marginal player. Not any more.
How many casualties do we need before the band stops playing Waltzing Matilda? When will we realise that when we kill or stand by and watch (nay, condone) suffering (as in Australia’s atrocious treatment of refugees) and we claim to do it “For God and Country” it is far from glorious. It is blasphemy.