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footy as a political experience

Anzac Day Ticket

Although i believe that football and feminism can co-exist in my life, i never would have imagined that going to the Anzac Day AFL match between essendon and collingwood could be a political experience*.

Bombers vs Pies09Redgum

Bombers vs Pies09Last Post

The day started with a series of ceremonies commemorating the battle of gallipoli and, whilst most of them were full of schmaltz (and thereby undermining them), there is a moment each year when almost 100 , 000 people stand, silent, and pay respects to the sacrifice those soldiers made for the sake of others**. When the last post and call is played, and i'm standing there-one amongst many- it feels like one of the most solemn acts i have ever done as a citizen. (now if only we could lord the jingoism and have all our acts of commemoration as simple and meaningful as that.)

Bombers vs Pies09 Banner

Bombers vs Pies09Cheersquad

then, the game starts and i swear it's on for young and old. I yell, scream, take the piss out of both teams and supporters. And at the end, after a good game and (thankfully) my team winning - in the last 2 minutes, there was much communal singing, dancing, high-fives with strangers, pats on the back. a sense of jubilation in a crowd. not to mention the common experience of getting absolutely drenched..

i can see why football (and other sports) are so popular here. we've lost the ability to have public ceremony and/or commemoration. we can only seem to find one way to get together and express a collective feeling - whether that be joy, sorry, anger, frustration, etc.

personally, i don't think we're trying hard enough. as a nation, we're still acting like 14-year old adolescents who smirk at the faintest idea of public emotion. but, i'm expecting that things will change soon. well, at least i'm hoping that's the case. i'm hoping that the natural growth of a country, through life experience and the rhythm of change, will gradually learn to use our collective brain, which will be equally connected to our heart and soul, as one of many.

*and when i say political, i mean as citizen, of the public, participating-in-the-polis kind of way, not just the whinge-about-the-government kind of way.

** there seems to be all this blah blah about them "fighting for and/or defending our country", but given that the ANZACs were pretty much pawns for the British Army, perhaps we can change our perspective on things and embrace our inner patsy. We could value the sacrifice for the common good - they'd be pretty good values. Better than 'i fkn live here'-tattoo-wearing-type-nationalism, surely.

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At 02 May, 2009 04:08, Blogger lucazoid said...

i LOVE those banners that footy players burst through before the match. beautiful pageantry, like ribbon cutting with your body.

At 03 May, 2009 02:27, Blogger Stanley Johnson said...

The joint team banner at that particlular is such a great idea. Never thought I'd see that.

At 03 May, 2009 09:05, Blogger lauren said...

it's pretty awesome lucas - i guess a real ceremony for the cheer squad too - up there with workers union banners as a slightly different form of 'public art'.

there's even a wikipedia entry on them!

stan - it's been that way for a couple of years now.. it's pretty awesome to watch too. i think for all the rivalry, there's a sense of unity that runs pretty deep with these two teams, which make the unified banner possible methinks.

At 03 May, 2009 22:27, Blogger a from l said...

Lauren how were the ANZAC forces pawns of the British? They were all volunteers, and at that time in the century a lot of them would have been born in the United Kingdom and emigrated to Australia and New Zealand.

Regards Andrew

At 04 May, 2009 07:48, Anonymous lauren said...

hi andrew. interesting question..

you know that i'm talking 'pawn' in terms of tactics and military strategy, right? not in terms of conscription from the UK government. because you make it sound like a bunch of volunteers can hardly be at the mercy of the world's most powerful army at the time! marketing, remember?

and, given that our ties to the 'motherland' were still incredibly strong (sovereign nation, still) - even more so. it sure as hell wasn't our generals weren't directing traffic up there and if the eastern armies continued to advance into western europe, australia (you know, 10000 miles south) would hardly have been in physical danger of invasion.

fast forward 100 years and we're still military pawns - just for the other side of the atlantic.

At 04 May, 2009 16:57, Blogger a from l said...

Hi Lauren,

It’s exactly marketing I’m talking about, and particularly the marketing of nationalism which I believe is a bogus and insidious political scam.

Marketing of Australian nationalism is dependant on the Peter Weir film Gallipoli which is accepted without question as “truth” when it is actually a work of fiction. It is convenient for Australian politicians (all parties) to push the idea that Australians were victims of British imperialism as that lets them off the hook of having to do anything about the real victims and real owners of the territory currently called Australia. “We were victims too” is the subtext, “we feel your pain, and just to make it up to you we’ll give you a handsome apology and some welfare payments and that will make everything alright.”

I do not want to defend British imperialism. Nor do I wish to pick a argument with you as I am a regular reader of your excellent blog. But I do want to challenge Peter Weir (and Thomas Keneally etc).


* The Germans were expanding in the Pacific region and in the 1880s had seized Micronesia, the Mariana islands, the Marshall islands, the Caroline islands and Samoa. In 1885 the Germans seized the northern part of New Guinea and the adjacent islands which they called the Bismarck Archipelago. The main objective of German foreign policy at this time was to acquire overseas colonies so they would be equal to Britain and France.

* Also in the 1880s and 1890s Germany had built up its deep-sea fleet so that it was equal to the Royal Navy.

* So not only was Germany in 1914 expanding in the Australasia region they also had the military might to take the region by force (and an example of this long-distance warfare is the way Britain took over the former Dutch colonies in south Africa in the 1902 Boer war despite ferocious guerilla resistance by the Afrikaner settlers).

* Gallipoli itself was a disaster and a fiasco, but that was only realized after the event. Nobody at the time (any nationality) was warning it would not work.

* British and French forces at Gallipoli suffered 100,000 casualties whereas the ANZAC forces had 35,000 casualties. As proportions of the population the impact was greater on the antipodes but Gallipoli was mainly a British and French disaster rather than an Australian disaster.

* As for incompetent officers, Australia provided its fair share as the Australian historian Les Carlyon has identified.

* Also look at the motivation of the ordinary people who made up the ANZAC forces – they were all volunteers and they did believe in what they were doing and they did want to be there. We may question the pro-British values they held, but to portray them as pawns (or even, as some politicians have said, dupes) is to devalue them.

Anyway I have clogged up your comments section with nearly 500 words so I’ll stop, but thanks for focussing on this topic.


At 08 May, 2009 05:11, Blogger lauren said...

whoa! andrew! awesome!

apologies for not responding sooner... have been a little flat out.

and while i know what you mean about not wanting to start an argument, it's ok, i love a good online argument - we're adults, we can debate issues cordially i think :) and i'm not sure if it came across in this post, but i don't really hold the australian defence force (historical, or current) in any esteem. just in case my tone has come across as patriotic, god forbid.

anyways, you raise some valid points - i don't agree with australians holding onto being 'victims' all the time either. i think both 'hero' and 'victim' are a dangerous identity for anyone to hold to themselves, but i would like to see the concept of battle be about "common welfare", if it has to be about anything.

i still think that in wwi, australia really was still a prosthetic extension of the brits. that's not to absolve our actions or to blame others, but to undermine this national idea we have that we're one of the big boys playing with guns. when really, we're nothing. and that, as nothing, we should at least come at global politics from a far humbler position. and believe me, i wasn't suggesting that our officers weren't incompetent. but actually, the reverse. that they're so incompetent that they have to get others to do their dirty work! you might called it 'skilled labour'.. heh.

the rest of that information was quite enlightening and i'm glad that you took up so much space. let's do this again this time next year :)


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