Historical memory

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at SPAMqut.edu.au
Sat May 12 16:07:58 MDT 2001

I think, George, that in a perverse way the answer is that memory is the
source of hope.  I have long been fascinated by Benjamin's theses on
History,  especially his thought that not even the dead are safe.  They are
killed, murdered, tortured and then the memory of their very existence is

It is also fascinating to note the cases where we are expected to recall,
and the enormous amount of distortion consequently necessary to create a
bourgeois memory.  Thus there is enormous investment here in Australia in
what is called Anzac Day.  The Australian and New Zealand soldiers who
volunteered to fight in WW1.  Every year the television and the papers are
full of pictures stories etc.  Always some young person in interviewed and
they always say these men died for our freedom. Lest we forget and all that.

I always tell my students to go down town to the War Memorial and check out
what in says in stone there.  On the memorial we are told that the Anzacs
fought and died for "King, God and Empire".  I then ask the students why
there is no mention of King, God and Empire now.

Now we are told they fought for freedom. I also drag out "The rights of
small nations" and the "War to end wars" crap from the period. I tell them
that these were the slogans used to get Americans and others to fight. I
then ask them to think why it was not necessary to use such slogans to
rally Australians and that it was only necessary here to mention the Empire
and thousands would flock to the banner.

Interesting I think but as you say not very sexy.

warm regards


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