Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Historic truth mars national days

66 comments
Nickolas Mane Leah Davis at Auckland Museum. Photo / APN
Nickolas Mane Leah Davis at Auckland Museum. Photo / APN

Anzac Day sits alongside Waitangi Day as marking a notable historical moment that defines our values and culture.

The two days are wrapped up in myth and make-believe. We all know that even rudimentary research shows what passes as truth about these two events is in some parts a nonsense.

Here's the good thing about Anzac Day. It is important to acknowledge the fruitlessness of war and its consequences. This time almost 100 years ago thousands of our young sons were misled by the elites of this country, and Britain, into believing that putting on a uniform and invading another country was a good idea.

A day set aside for us to contemplate its meaning is something every New Zealander should honour.

For those of us who read history, it's okay to acknowledge that although no one likes to admit it, young people who volunteer for wars often do so because they are bored and want adventure. The patriotic hype is exactly that.

It is merely to disguise that certain sectors of the existing elites are going to make money and has nothing to do with building a better and more democratic society.

For example, in our country settler militias invaded Maori territory on manufactured premises. These wars were financed by speculators who the Government compensated by transferring the annexed best land to them and the men who did the dirty work.

It always makes me choke when the descendants of these beneficiaries of war whine today about Maori compensation for the land thefts. They should be grateful they are keeping the proceeds and that everyone else is actually footing the modest bill.

Part of the reason the establishment keep eulogising Anzac Day is because we no longer feel proud about ourselves on Waitangi Day.

Most New Zealanders hate being reminded every February that the benign colonisation we pretended our country was founded on is a lie. It's true that Maori weren't treated as despicably as other colonised people, but that's only because Britain wouldn't send its professional soldiers here because it didn't make any economic sense.

Facing the fact that our colonisers were just as immoral and greedy as any others in history explodes the warm fuzzy feeling with which we have been raised. That's why making Anzac Day our national holiday is gaining ground. Every nation wants to feel good about their past. No one likes to be told the only reason they exist is because their ancestors killed someone else and stole their property.

What annoys me is that many people still want to be told fables to protect themselves from fact. Why is it necessary to lie to ourselves?

The Anzac story is a terrible blot on us. We happily joined a despicable and cynical war between European empires for world domination. We invaded another country and butchered 50,000 young men defending their homeland. After we got our butts kicked we happily went off to the mud fields in Europe, led by the same incompetent leaders from Gallipoli.

Some wars need to be fought to prevent evil. I've never been a pacifist. World War II was a great moral obligation - we had to do it to stop great evil.

However, the other wars we volunteered for were not. In the Boer War our men helped run concentration camps for South African civilians to force them to accept British rule. Our soldiers killing people in Korea, Malaysia, and Vietnam was part of doing the bidding of others over the hysteria of the threat of communism.

Now we celebrate our poster boys in Afghanistan in the same way I'm sure New Zealanders kidded themselves at the time about the young men who lie in the graveyards of Gallipoli.

Anzac Day is a day, we are told, that makes us who we are. That's only true if we are babies who like fairytales to make us feel warm inside. Until we can tell the truth about ourselves our Waitangi and Anzac Days are just times of self-delusion.

Being comfortable with the truth is what these days should really be about.

- Herald on Sunday

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 30 Aug 2014 21:45:57 Processing Time: 645ms