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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How bad are our historians? A remembrance

John Butler of the John Butler Trio on Australia's WWI historians...

The 90th anniversary of the day since the guns fell silent in western Europe has brought out a rash of lousy opinion pieces. Most prominent of all has been Dr Peter Stanley of the National Museum of Australia, who has been all over the media. But if you examine his work, the reasons for this are confounding.

Take this from the Sydney Morning Herald:

"But too often commemorative cliches muster on anniversaries like this and it is easy to assume the Great War is a part of our lives today. For example, it is often said that community war memorials are a highly visible reminder in the towns of Australia. I'm not sure that's true any more. You can traverse vast tracts of outer-suburban Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane and see any number of fast-food outlets, malls and garden centres, but you'll find hardly any war memorials."
WTF? ...and how far up your arse does your head need to be to miss the huge crowds turning up to Anzac Day commemorations every year? Then this:
"We tend to forget this war did not come as a bolt from the blue."
Hey, Sherlock, every history student in the nation has had to ponder the causes of WWI. There's even a band named after one of the key players. Where were you? And what happened to your concern about cliches?

Even worse, is his item on the ABC website from the same speech:

"We need to know more about why Australians felt so compelled to take part. Empire loyalty does not go far enough as an answer."
I can't put it any better than a commenter at the site who replied:

"It worries me when people with titles such as 'Doctor' have to have explained to them as to why Australia was involved in WW1...I know Dr Stanley will be surprised to learn that the over-riding reason we went to Europe via Gallipoli in 1914 to 1918 was because we were still very British. Don't look any further Dr Stanley, that's it." But Dr Stanley continues:
"We know that as we near August 2014 and even more April 2015, we will see a slew of books that tell us that Gallipoli is no longer forgotten, though in doing so they may perpetuate the relative disproportionate treatment the Western Front has gained."
WTF? Then:

"For over 20 years, writers and film-makers have been overwhelmingly and unduly concerned with the Australian experience of war. Australian military history has become our last bastion against globalisation..."

WTF, WTF? Can this get any more inane? Well yes, it can...

"My partner Claire suggested a useful way of looking at what I'm proposing. At present we regard the commemoration as an heirloom, like a crystal vase... Instead, we ought to look upon our commemoration of war as a robust wooden fruit or salad bowl...Subsequent generations can even modify it to their taste - add a silver handle or some carving."
Robust wooden salad bowl? Make no mistake, Australia's modern historians are way up with the worst in the world. Thank fuck the same cannot be said of our soldiers. Lest We Forget.

1 comment:

Boy on a bike said...

There are few if any memorials in outer suburban Melbourne or Sydney because in 1919, those suburbs were distant cow pastures or wheat fields. He is probably talking about suburbs that sprang up in the 1950's, or even the 1980's! He could also say that there are no memorials in Mt Newman, which was a patch of dust until the iron ore boom of the 1960's.

What a cock-throttler.