(Written on ANZAC day)
Every year, the news on ANZAC day leads with growing numbers of young people attending dawn parades.
And on Twitter this morning, it was people in their teens and 20s encouraging us all to remember ANZAC day.
Why? Why is this solemn occasion such a hit amongst younger people?
Here's my theory:
- We have deformalised much of our society, and missed out the opportunity to feel completely in awe. The closest thing we have is a music concert, and often that is limited to a particular age group. ANZAC Day is a rare occasion to gather as a whole community and contemplate something truly awesome - the utter destruction of war. (By awesome I don't mean good, I mean something that strikes you speechless)
- We have ignored our European/British/Western heritage, and we hunger to understand it better. ANZAC Day ceremonies are full of distant memories of the past - uniforms, cenotaphs, Bible readings, brass bands, traditions. Where did this all come from? Even when I was at school I learnt more about New Zealand and American (!) history than the British Empire from which New Zealand came. And while I'm a statistical minority for growing up in church and understanding the history of Christianity (somewhat), I'd guess most young people these days know very little about this religion that really defined the Western world. So taking part in an ANZAC ceremony must be a mixture of the familiar (celebrating our basic New Zealand-ness, or even Antipodean-ness) with some aspects that are as unfamiliar as a Hindu or Buddhist ceremony.
- ANZAC Day is not about glorifying war, but it is about celebrating soldiers. Might be a difficult distinction to make. I think what unites us is the sheer emotion - the realisation that war is crazy, and maybe some wars shouldn't have happened, but these men and women were incredibly brave to go through what they went through, and they need our help and recognition to heal.
It's also set off a lot of thoughts in my mind about why war memorials are as formal as they are. War is certainly not formal. It's chaotic, violent, unpredictable. Maybe the solemnity and formality of our ceremonies is part of the healing.
What do you think?
(Image courtesy of Hugo90)