Nation Steeped in the ANZAC Legend

23 Apr 2015

Pillars of Nationhood Steeped in the Anzac Legend

greg sheridan   The Australian 23 April 2015 article by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor

Anzac Day is one of the supreme achievements of modern Australia. The original event in all its glory and terror rightly remains the centre of our attention: the heroism of the Anzac soldiers, the scale of the casualties in the Gallipoli campaign — 27,000 Australians killed and wounded — the role of the journalists, the galvanising effect on society, the heroism of the nurses and much, much more. ……

Anzac Day continues to give our nation a multitude of benefits. Here are four.

It helps maintain the honour of the profession of arms. With the exception of the US, and to a much lesser extent Britain and France, Western nations are losing the will and capability to undertake armed conflict if necessary.

Australia’s security situation is in the long term more uncertain than that of most western nations. Anzac Day helps us honour soldiers past and present, and to keep alive the national appreciation which is necessary to sustain capable armed forces.

Second, Anzac Day helps Australians in the fundamental goal of all decent people, the search for meaning. The decline of religious observance has left many lives without an ethical centre, or at least confused about ethical purpose.

The story of the Anzacs, which is based above all on the willingness of young men and women to live and die for something beyond themselves, is an inspiration which transcends religious affiliation.

Three, the Anzac celebration of mateship is the celebration of social solidarity. All nations need this and must find it in their own legends.

And finally, Anzac Day gives us an inheritance that all Australians can participate in. Nothing is more foolish than to ask: what relevance does Anzac Day have to Asian immigrants, or Muslim Australians, or any Australians of non-Anglo-Celtic descent.

Australia, like America, is a new world nation, where the gene pool of your ancestors means nothing. All Americans are inspired by the ethical example of Abraham Lincoln.

The same is true for Australians and Anzac Day.

For all this and much more, we should give thanks.