ANZAC Day – The spin-doctors’ story

Anzac-DayThis transformation of the botched Dardanelles campaign into a symbol of emergent nationhood was a stunning example of the most malign and cynical statecraft. By representing the Anzac defeat as New Zealand’s bloody ‘‘ coming of age’’ , the Reform Party prime minister, Bill Massey, made certain that the disaster of Gallipoli would never be seriously questioned or criticised. Because to do so would be tantamount to questioning and criticising ‘‘ the glorious dead’ ’ — and that soon became unthinkable. — Article by Chris Trotter –  25 April 2014 issue of The Otago Daily Times. Below is the entire text.

THE deep solemnity with which Anzac Day is commemorated in New Zealand is entirely appropriate. Never before had the people of this country been required to cope with the violent death of so many of their fellow citizens. For New Zealand’s political and military leadership, the public’s response to the unprecedented length of the casualty lists was a matter of critical significance.

A military disaster on the scale of the Gallipoli campaign can be responded to in one of two ways. Either the nation recoils in anger and disgust at the unforgivable failure of both the armed forces and the government to protect its sons; or it transforms the sordid waste of young lives into an occasion for patriotic and ultimately spiritual exultation.

For the deeply conservative government of the day it therefore became a matter of some urgency that the Gallipoli defeat, and its horrific losses, be reconfigured into a bloodsanctified rite of national passage. Having laid upon the altar of the ‘‘ dearest and the best’ ’ they had to offer, New Zealanders still at home were told that they had all, by some mysterious patriotic alchemy, been ennobled. Those hundreds of dead Kiwi boys had ‘‘ stood the test’’ , and now it was the duty of all those for whom they had made ‘‘ the final sacrifice’ ’ to do the same.

This transformation of the botched Dardanelles campaign into a symbol of emergent nationhood was thus a stunning example of the most malign and cynical statecraft. By representing the Anzac defeat as New Zealand’s bloody ‘‘ coming of age’’ , the Reform Party prime minister, Bill Massey, made certain that the disaster of Gallipoli would never be seriously questioned or criticised. Because to do so would be tantamount to questioning and criticising ‘‘ the glorious dead’ ’ — and that soon became unthinkable.

And so it has continued, down through the 10 decades since those Anzac soldiers first planted their boots on Turkish soil. And in every one of those decades the political and military leadership of New Zealand has reiterated the solemn falsehoods upon which the commemoration of Anzac Day is founded.

That the soldiers died for freedom and democracy.

That the battle marked the true birth of the New Zealand nation.

That had it been left to the Kiwis and the Aussies, the Gallipoli peninsula could have been secured.

The men who died on the unforgiving slopes of Gallipoli were volunteers, brimful of imperial pride and ready to give their all for their kingemperor and his empire. Freedom and democracy didn’t come into it. In 1914, Great Britain itself was only barely a democratic state. Most of the 800,000 British dead gave their lives for a state which allowed them no vote. New Zealand was a truly democratic state, but the progressive forces which had made it so harboured serious reservations about the war. Conscription was required to keep the blood tribute flowing and the government which oversaw it was brutally authoritarian.

Far from marking the birth of the New Zealand nation, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent battles in Flanders retarded the development of an independent New Zealand identity. Only in World War 2 could it be truthfully said that New Zealand’s citizen soldiers were consciously fighting for freedom and democracy — along with the job­rich , unionprotected , welfare state their votes had brought into being.

That the losses in World War 2 were so much fewer than those in World War 1 owed a great deal to the lessons drawn from that earlier conflict. Sending farm boys to take the Gallipoli peninsula was always a fool’s errand. The Turks knew it and so did their German advisers. Yes, we took Chunuk Bair, but we couldn’t hold it. Nobody could.

Next year we’ll solemnly mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. I hold little hope that we will do so honestly. Age may not weary those dear, best boys, but while we continue to tell ourselves lies about why they died — they will never rest.

Lunch at SALT

A farewell lunch at SALT, Esplanade, Dunedin with some of the members of the 60s+ New Tech Group — Oct 10th, 2013.

new-tech-club(left to right) Lorene Cecconi (coordinator), Vivienne Elliott, Molly Duffy, Marianne O’Leary, James Kalmakoff (Instructor), Lorraine Palmer

September 4th Meeting

At this meeting it was decided to discontinue any further meetings until a new format and/or a larger membership was established.

In the meantime this website will remain active for anyone who wishes to make a blog posting on any topic or make a comment on any previous blog post or review the topics that were previously discussed, see Archives. If you would like to become an ‘author’ and have your own blog postings, please contact: — to see the postings of any particular author, click on their name in the blog posting (eg Lorene Cecconi ) or on the category (eg NZIFF).

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I didn’t see all the films by any means, and some that I didn’t see but were greeted with great enthusiasm by my fellow-ushers, were: THE GILDED CAGE, France/Portugal 2013. I think this was one of the very few comedies. JAPPELOUP France 2013. The true story of a French equestrian show jumper. THE SPIRIT OF ’45 UK 2013. Doco by Ken Loach on the aftermath of the war and the programs set up by the Labour government which are gradually being disestablished.
Two films generally disliked by everyone: STRANGER BY THE LAKE, France 2013. Gay porno. ROMEO AND JULIET: A LOVE SONG, NZ 2013 Described as trailer trash pop.


Austria/USA 2012
A Canadian woman from Montreal is called to visit a comatose relative in Vienna, and, not knowing anyone there, wanders about, frequenting the Kunstistorisches Museum, and in doing so befriends one of the gallery attendents. He takes her under his wing and together they visit the cousin, as well as other sites of interest around Vienna. There doesn’t seem to be much purpose in this film other than to depict the unlikely friendship between the two. We do get some interesting shots of some of the magnificent art works in the museum, but they are random and unexplained, except for a series by Breughel, in which a docent discussed the life and times in which they were painted.


France/Japan 2013
A fascinating foray into a day in the life of France’s Maison de la Radio. We follow various announcers, journalists and interviewers from the 7:00 morning news bulletins throughout the day until the early morning hours when they return to work to scan the papers and discuss the stories that are making the day’s news. A very warm and sympathetic peek into the complexities behind-the-scenes — the end result for the listener being a seamless and relaxed radio experience.


Japan 2013
When two little boys turn six years old, their parents find out they have been swapped at birth. The two families, particularly the fathers, couldn’t be more different, one is well off and the other lives in lower class suburbia . It is an extremely difficult situation for both families, especially the fathers, to have to make the decision of whether keep the sons they have raised to this point or to swap. The focus is mainly on Ryota, whose wife had complications at birth and cannot conceive again. His life is well-ordered and has little room for deviation, his journey throughout the film is a painstaking one, reflected by the manner in which he was raised, and is now treating his own son, both his biological one and his other one. A wonderful, heart-warming drama.


Belgium 2012
Beautiful tattoo artist meets handsome bluegrass lead singer/banjo player of The Broken Circle Breakdown band. They fall passionately in love, marry, have a child, and six years later their daughter contracts cancer, and tragedy enters what seemed to be a perfect life. As the story unfolds it is filmed like the shuffling of a deck of cards, amidst the sublime sounds of the bluegrass tunes. Invariably questions are asked, why has this happened to us, to whom do we apportion blame! Ultimately, it is the music that is the spiritual force that helps us through the hard times. Bring a hanky!


Saudi Arabia/Germany 2012
I came away from this film feeling extremely grateful that I was born into a Christian/Western society, and absolutely horror-struck and angered by the repressive society created for women by the Muslim world. This little film does deliver some hope that not all women are content to be subjugated, however. Considering that cinema is illegal in Saudi Arabia, and that this film is a first feature directed by a woman, Haifaa Al Monsour, it is a truly amazing achievement. The insight into the fabric of Muslim society cold only be exposed so succinctly by someone who actually lives in it.


A charming documentary featuring Sister Loyola, who turns 90 during the filming. She joined the Sisters of Compassion in Wellington, NZ as a nurse, having made the decision she wouldn’t marry because her soldier hadn’t returned from the war. She became a nurturer of small babies that no one wanted, and eventually a nurturer of gardens, both the convent garden and a community garden. In the film, she shares her views on life, compassion, and compost, as well as the faith that has sustained her for so many years. The filming of the convent gardens and Wellington landscapes over the four seasons is lovely. An inspiring film on aging as well as gardening.