The Eye of the Fish

Leviathan
April 25, 2015

ANZAC commemoration

100 years to the day, since the “birth” of our nation. Wellington has seen an outpouring of World War One nostalgia and whakamatauranga – remembrance – for those who lost their lives. Yesterday was a quite wonderful piece of street theatre produced by Sir Peter Jackson, who seems to have a slightly unhealthy fascination towards war battles. But to me the real hero of the remembrances has been the new Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. It functions well as a memorial space, enlarging to accommodate the crowd as necessary. Apparently there were over twenty thousand people there at 5.30 this morning, although I thought that the number was far higher. There is something quite surreal about standing still, silently, in the small dead hours of the morning, quietly watching and waiting for the dawn ceremony to start. Dead quiet.

In terms of urban design, Pukeahu Park is crisply perfect. No money has been spared on this project – yes, it was completed on time – even a month ahead – but the final cost is still unknown, but will be astronomical. Quality levels that good don’t come cheap – the beautiful red stone (from India) commemorating the Australians, setting off the clean crisp grey basalt (from China) commemorating the New Zealand presence in the war. Wraight and Associates will be rightfully rewarded with many awards, I’m sure, for the crispness of the design and the clarity of the design intentions. The plan is clear from above, with lines of stone and concrete fanning out from the centre, and the road nicely subdued into the background. The real success of the scheme is of course that the state highway / motorway onramp is now tucked away firmly below ground. What a god-awful mess it would have been if allowed to go through the park at ground level, as was planned for so many years.

I’m not sure really why we went to war then – or why, indeed, New Zealand goes to war at all. As the only country in the world that can truly claim the title of being entirely at the other end of the world, we could have quite safely not gone to war against the Germans and the Turks, or against the Vietnamese, and certainly not against the Iraqis and the Afghans. We would have – could have – been a very different nation.

I’m a little disturbed that there has been so much commemoration of the effects of war, and yet not a single mention of peace in any of the speeches that I have heard. Surely, surely this should be a celebration of peace, even if it has not lasted. And I’m also really uncomfortable with the lack of commemoration for the Turks, who gallantly (and very successfully) defended their own shores against the waves of lunatic warriors from the opposite end of the earth, senselessly throwing themselves against the barricades of the cliffs of Gallipoli. Turks killed our men, and rightfully so, as it was their own land that was under attack, but still, many thousand of Turks died in WW1. Perhaps one of the first nations to be invited to install a memorial at Pukeahu Park, should not be the British and the Americans, but should be the Turks.

Two very appropriate sayings deserve an airing here, firstly:

“That the first casualty of war, is truth.”

and secondly:

“That history is written by the winners.”

Louise Pemberton
25 - 04 - 15

Actually, in a surprisingly good speech, John Key said much the same thing just now, over in the commemorations at Gallipoli. ie that the Turks rightfully attacked us, and thanked them for letting us come back year after year to commemorate. Tony Abbott speaking now, not so much humility. Curious speech. Seems to find it obligatory to mention larickanism.

PKH
25 - 04 - 15

There is, of course, the wonderful Ataturk memorial on Wellington’s South Coast

Levi
26 - 04 - 15

Yes, the Ataturk memorial is rather good, and goes really well in its rocky, remote site. I hope that doesn’t stop the Turks having another memorial at Pukeahu as well though. Yesterday, listening to the broadcasts, I was amazed to hear that Turkish casualties were so much higher than NZ and Oz losses. Something like 80,000 Turks killed by “our” boys. That’s obscene.

m-d
26 - 04 - 15

One observation about the new Pukeahu Park, if there was no trench/tunnel, there would have been a lot more room for viewers to stand in Buckle Street – the entrances and exits wipe out a lot of usable space, meaning people were standing far back along Karo Drive and Taranaki Street (probably the other end as well, but I couldn’t see there (and SH1 was closed anyway!). I’m guessing this won’t be an issue for future dawn services though.

Regarding the Turkish: there was a commemoration at the Ataturk memorial yesterday as well. Also, the comment that history is written by the winners: The winners (if there are any winners in war at all), of that particular campaign were the Turkish led by Kemal Ataturk. his words (recorded at the memorial), read thus:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us, where they lie side by side, in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

Levi
26 - 04 - 15

Interesting comments m-d, but I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with you. Firstly, on the trench/tunnel at Pukeahu Park – with a street/ motorway through at ground level, yes, there would have been a vast swathe of asphalt through the park at all times, day and night, year in, year out. Any time you want to see the War Memorial Hall, or new Museum of Conflict, you’d have to cross the road. Want to see the Australian memorial after you’ve been to the Conflicto Museum – got to cross the road again. I honestly can’t see that would ever have been a plus point.

But your other point has me more intrigued. Yes, the Turks won that battle, no doubt, but they were on the side of the Germans, and so they did not win the war. I’ve been to Germany a few times, but the only war memorial I’ve seen is the ruined church in Berlin. The British make films about the nasty Germans in the war. The Americans make films about the nasty Germans in the war. The French make films about the nasty Germans in the war. But do the Germans make films about the nasty English? The nasty Americans? The filthy Aussies and the shitty New Zealanders? I honestly don’t know, but I honestly don’t think so.

m-d
26 - 04 - 15

‘Twas just an observation regarding the park design, not a summative judgement. As I mentioned, I doubt whether the need for that much extra space will be felt again for a long time.

Levi
27 - 04 - 15

Meanwhile, in Australia, a sports reporter has made some comments on Twitter:

The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society.
— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015
Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.
— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015
Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan.
— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015
Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki
— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015
Innocent children, on the way to school, murdered. Their shadows seared into the concrete of Hiroshima.
— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015
They said respect for Australian audiences was “paramount” at SBS.
SBS has said:
“Mr McIntyre’s actions have breached the SBS Code of Conduct and social media policy and as a result, SBS has taken decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position at SBS, with immediate effect.”

The statement went on to say that employees were encouraged to participate in social media but McIntyre’s comments compromised the inegrity of the network and audience trust.

“SBS apologises for any offence or harm caused by Mr McIntyre’s comments which in no way reflect the views of the network. SBS supports our Anzacs and has devoted unprecedented resources to coverage of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.”

McIntyre’s tweets prompted a hashtag campaign to get him fired #sackScottMcIntyre
Australian Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull also tweeted saying it was difficult to think of more offensive comments as those made by McIntyre.

Levi
27 - 04 - 15

Which makes me wonder what exactly of those comments Minister Turnbull finds so offensive. Putting aside the comments about Hiroshima at present, is there anything not truthful in the comments made about the forces at Gallipoli? Presumably he finds offensive the idea that Australian and New Zealand men committed “summary execution, widespread rape and theft” – yet is he not just being naive? It is tarring every soldier with the same brush, to be sure, but these things do happen in war.

On a different note, it is interesting to note that in Britain, they have now, at last, unveiled a monument to the women killed in war. A dark bronze Cenotaph-like sculpture, decorated with images of writhing female, faceless bodies, in Honour of the many millions of women killed by men in wars over the years.