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We Care A Lot

May 3, 2011

I began writing this a week ago, obviously when it was Anzac day. I then got my priorities in order and began working on an essay. I have two more to go, but hey, I’ll be topical in my own week-behind way.

So it’s Anzac day again. Unsurprising – it rears its head annually after all. And so we have our usual Anzac specials which rehash the same themes that we’ve been forcibly extracting from the cosmos of what construes Australian identity year after year. At  least my own 7.30 is  taking a more appropriate approach by covering the war in Afghanistan, which to me truly resembles what the lesson of the Anzacs is – that while war is cheap, lives are dear. That it’s easy to commit to atrocities but the consequences are far from easy to deal with. From the wives who have lost their husbands, the mothers and fathers who have lost sons, and everyone who has lost friends, war is awful, and it’s a very real consequence of our political disagreements. It’s a lesson that was not heeded in Vietnam, and for all the current pandering to the Anzac tradition, whatever that is, it’s currently clearly not very high on the agenda in relation to our involvement in the Afghanistan war. Or when we agreed to join in the Iraq war.

I don’t care about Anzac day much. I think we fetishise war – it is always the last practical resort [practical being a qualifier of effectiveness and a realistic outlook, I’m not a huge believer in the effectiveness of UN or NATO deliberation before intervention]. We pick the wrong fights at that too – Afghanistan was arguable, and I’d have likely made a similar call, but Iraq was hugely questionable from the beginning. I say this, because it’s a sad situation when a country crying for help and for change, Libya, has its plight largely overlooked by the Western world – defended by a very thin coalition – because we’re all too war weary and too tied up in other regions. Admittedly this is largely America’s fault but our actions are also to blame.

Meanwhile, upon viewing The Guide and seeing there was an Anzac edition of Q&A, I joked to my brother that it would feature something like politicians pledging their love for Australia and Piers Akerman challenging to the Australian-ness of non-white people. We laughed. And then this happened:

The head of the Australian Christian Lobby and former special forces soldier Jim Wallace has “unreservedly” apologised for commenting against gay marriage and Muslims on Anzac Day.

Jim Wallace, the managing director of ACL, wrote on Twitter this morning: “Just hope that as we remember Servicemen and women today we remember the Australia they fought for – wasn’t gay marriage and Islamic!”

Now my first reaction was to laugh hysterically. It’s so stereotypical that I can’t believe it was serious. But I’ll deal with this in two ways, because it’s indicative of two unfortunate aspects of Australian society.

Firstly, it still astounds me that people are so disconnected from reality that they do not understand how twitter works. Now, it shouldn’t work like this, but twitter is a very public medium, and anything potentially controversial you can say can and will get picked up the media if you’re anyone of slight importance saying anything that will upset some minority (or rather, offend people on “behalf” of said minority) or lobby.

One of my favourite comedians, Tommy Dean, has pointed this out a few times before – how every time there is this type of scandal it was always due to an open mic, leaked video or silly online statement – how are people still so inept in relation to technology – how do they not understand that if you are a public figure you have to carefully guard what you say in such mediums. We see this every Logies night, although presumably as they were not keen on such a reputation this did not occur last Sunday.

Twitter is dangerous. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Now secondly, onto this dickhead’s apology:

“I apologise – I would never want to politicise Anzac day – never my intention,” Mr Wallace said.

“The interpretation that is being made of this – that I am saying that Australians didn’t fight for everybody – is totally wrong.

“I was a soldier. I know full well how soldiers feel and think. Anyone defending Australia or serving in the defence force is doing it for every Australian. … Even in the time of Anzacs, there were not only gays but Afghans in Australia.

“But I think the Judeo-Christian heritage that framed the nature of Australia that these fellows fought for is very important. We should be trying to preserve it.”

Now I will first comment that his apology is somewhat legitimate – he is fully entitled to apologise for linking his views to Anzac day, and he is fully obligated to as well. So to be fair, an apology was necessary and he can sincerely apologise in that respect. I try to give people some benefit of the doubt – I don’t think he is a bad person, and while his comments are indicative homophobic racist I would attribute that more to ignorance. Deplorable, but he’s entitled to his private views. He just made the mistake of voicing them on an infinitely public medium in real time.

That said, his following comments reveal that his apology is actually rather insincere, as we can see here:

“The context of it was that I was sitting there beside my father, who was a 96-year-old veteran of Tobruk and Milne Bay and he was lamenting how he couldn’t recognise the Australia he fought for.

“And my ill-timed Twitter was just reflecting the nature of Australia that people fought for is different and I think it’s being redefined all the time. “

He did not reconsider his opinions, but simply reacted to negative press. His qualification through mentioning his 96 year old father is irrelevant, and a weak attempt at justification. It is not “sorry I hit you”, it’s “sorry that you were hurt”, which to me is the definition of an insincere apology. He does not apologise for his views. Now, nobody should have to apologise for what they think, but he later goes on to defend what he said, and his defence is in clear contradiction to his statements, which he never says are wrong.

But look, this is all small fry, it’s hardly a huge issue… especially one week on. But it’s indicative of a wider culture in Australia, in which those with institutional power (how many “Christians” does the ACL speak for anyway?) maintain that our Judeo-Christian values are what make us a “great” nation.

Presumably, by “values”, he’s referring to our liberal democracy, in which we have relative social, economic and political freedoms, which are undoubtedly derived from religious values.  Such as the rights of women to vote and for equal pay. Which aren’t secular values. Or equal rights for all races. Again, not secular. Or the right not to be discriminated based on sexual preference. Not secular. I mean, surely then it must follow that people of the same sex can marry; after all as a Judeo-Christian country we don’t discriminate, equality is a religious value!

Christopher Hitchens says it far better than I do, but in lieu of his genius: Virtually every movement towards social equality has been pushed forward by secularists (who may be religious but whose methodologies are secular ie: Martin Luther King Jr), in spite of religious institutions.

Our national Judeo-Christian did frame the nature of Australia. Like it did all countries; as sexist, hypocritically homophobic, racist, patriarchal, economically stratified societies. Thankfully, we changed it. The Anzacs didn’t fight for gay marriage or Islam, but did Abraham Lincoln fight for women’s suffrage? It’s just a non-sequitur.

It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.

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One Comment
  1. God damn wordpress won’t format the last few paragraphs properly.

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