cataragon: (Default)
[personal profile] cataragon
A weekend where I saw my whole family, which is getting a lot rarer nowadays than it used to be.

ANZAC day today, which was different and a little odd, going to a small town ceremony again, after years doing the big city version. And with my soldier-sister, in uniform. I expected to be somewhere else entirely this year, and the fever probably didn't help.

I think my favourite thing I read or heard today was this from NZ Army chief Major General Rhys Jones -

"It's not a commemoration of victories that gained independence for our country or a great battle that established our name on the international arena. Anzac Day is a time to remember and reflect on the sorrow, loss and sacrifice that is the obligation of nationhood, the cost of liberty and the price of freedom."

I've said for years that things like anthems and history and nation-specific holidays define countries - in NZ we mark a day of indigenous and colonial negotiation (however successful/not), the not really real birthday of a not really real sovereign and the anniversary of the commencement of a campaign that was struggled for and lost.

ANZAC day is special, because it's a completely organic remembrance day - the official one was Armistice day, on the 11th of November, but the one marked by veterans grew and grew and completely eclipsed it.

A lot of theories abound as to why the Gallipoli campaign came to be so significant to Australia and New Zealand - a lot of theories about national identity and colonialism and disenchantment and natural cycles and innocence lost and really, you name it, some historian or sociologist has come up with it.
Some I agree with more than others.

And some of what's really interesting is not why, or how, but what that meant later. What does it say, that the digger's holiday was chosen over the official stamped and signed and matching everyone else's one?
Why a lost battle, a failed and not terribly significant campaign, for the ANZACs the first painful elongated skirmish in what would be a drawn out bloody war fought nearly to a standstill?
What has that written on our national consciousness? I think there is something there - probably something about the key thing being how you get the job done, about the people on the ground and the realities being more important than whatever shiny veil is drawn over things later.
Maybe a whisper of something else too, something about solidarity with soldiers not being the same thing as agreement with war aims, about remembrance and glorification being different things.

Maybe one of the key things about Gallipoli, though, is that it's not so much the end of something and the beginning of something else but rather, like most historical events, merely an easier to see point on a continuum.

The NZ national anthem (or at least, the one we use all the time) was written some 40 odd years before the Gallipoli landings. It was popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, adopted as a national hymn in 1940 (during wartime) and became a national anthem in the 1970's. If you bother to read past the first verse, which is mostly all that's sung now, it says, I think, quite a lot about the nature of our national identity. YMMV, of course, and different people have different feelings about the religious nature of it. My point, really, is that it's not about Glory or Patriotism with a capital P, and it seems, at least to me, to have it's priorities straight. Peace before war, guard from dissension, hate, corruption, good before great, just and right causes, a spotless name, freedom.

Nation building is not a finite concept - every country chooses over and over and over again what kind of country it will be. If we can try to live up to these kinds of standards I personally think that would be a good thing.


God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedom's ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations' van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Aotearoa

Ōna mano tāngata
Kiri whero, kiri mā,
Iwi Māori, Pākehā,
Rūpeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko ngā hē
Māu e whakaahu kē,
Kia ora mārire
Aotearoa

Tōna mana kia tū!
Tōna kaha kia ū;
Tōna rongo hei pakū
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa ngā whawhai
Ngā tutū e tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai
Aotearoa

Waiho tona takiwā
Ko te ao mārama;
Kia whiti tōna rā
Taiāwhio noa.
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau
Aotearoa

Tōna pai me toitū
Tika rawa, pono pū;
Tōna noho, tāna tū;
Iwi nō Ihowā.
Kaua mōna whakamā;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tū hei tauira;
Aotearoa

Date: 2010-04-25 11:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] niennahirilfea.livejournal.com
"solidarity with soldiers not being the same thing as agreement with war aims, about remembrance and glorification being different things."

*nods* This, basically. I think you've hit it on the head here. Also, I've always really loved our national anthem, it's hopeful (even if the tune itself is a bit dirge-like :p) I've heard a lot of people say it's not representative and needs replacing with something less religious, but I think people who only see the religious side of it are missing the point a bit, because who/whatever the words might be directed at, it's not about that, but about hope for the important things. [/ramble] I know what I mean, but unfortunately that's not quite it, bah.

I like your post :)

Date: 2010-04-26 02:38 am (UTC)
drcuriosity: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drcuriosity
Though it may sound contradictory as an Agnostic, I actually like having God in the anthem. I may not believe in the existence of God as a real entity, but I think that even the idea or principle of God is a good thing to entreat in such a song. You can substitute in whichever entity or entities of positive unifying goodness you choose in His place if you like.

Even more so, I like the "every creed and race" verse. People may worship in different ways, or not at all, but there's a place here where we can try to bring together people from disparate backgrounds and coexist with tolerance. The world certainly needs more of that.

And yes, I think it says a lot about our national character that we prefer to commemorate the fallen rather than celebrating the victories. We're generally a peaceful nation, yes, but there's an edge in there. Something that tells you that, when the shit comes down, we'll set to with a grim determination regardless. Let our cause be just and right.

Date: 2010-04-26 09:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] muerk.livejournal.com
*LIKE*

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