Can you feel the Anzac spirit?

How Australian can you be? Is it possible, or advisable, to be too Australian?

G’day, s’pose I’d betray myself a bit here. Just for a stir. I mean, we haven’t really been here all that long, and our foothold has always been kind of tentative. Never got much past the doorway really, I mean, the beach. Betrayal? I mean, you can’t really help it can you, once you open your mind? I reckon, anyway. Can you feel the Anzac spirit? Can’t you? Oh! See it’s a vulnerable point. Another beach. A bit of a scab that you just have to breathe upon and you disturb the delicate balance that’s been holding, for, well a while now. I betray myself there don’t I? Even bringing it up as a notion to be approached in any manner other than the media and government prescribed one. Yes, one. I knew I’d trip up; I thought I’d just go in for some Maoist self-criticism. See, I’ve done it again just there. The betrayal. Dropping that sort of a reference on the same page as the word, I mean acronym, Anzac. I should have more respect. I failed. How does anyone feel about Camp Gallipoli? It’s on in every capital city. Morphettville Racecourse, Ascot Racecourse in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane showgrounds and Centennial Park in Sydney. You are invited to sleep out on the ground. Tickets for an adult are $123 and a single deluxe swag (it’s a “swag only” event) can be purchased for $275. There are music entertainers and also AFL, NRL players and members of the Australian cricket team in attendance. It’s a fully official event. I mean, Department of Veterans Affairs, Anzac centenary committee, Federal Education Department, RSL and Legacy. I’m not criticising all this, just doing my bit for… I mean, someone might want to go. You could perhaps compare this festival of parallel events in every major city to the German government’s commissioning of Lament, a performance piece by avant music collective Einsterzende Neubauten. The piece includes the band using hymns, serial composition, the imagery of the Harlem Hellfighters – African American troops playing jazz in No Man’s Land – and readings of telegrams between cousins Tsar Nicholas and Kaiser Wilhelm (Nicky and Willy) as they address each other chattily and prepare for war. You could. But if I wanted to critique it, may I remind you that I am a MADE GUY. I have national accreditation. In 1996, against all odds and in a strong field of fellow studs, I was awarded the title of Best Male Artist at the ARIA Awards. That’s the Australian Record Industry Association. I have a few other gongs too. Some commercial in nature (so, carrying actual authenticity) and some industrial. I even have the keys to the city of Mt Gambier, somewhere. Do you wish to dispute my casual throw of voice? Then take it up with City Hall! Though I must confess to uneasiness about being in the music business at times. On the whole, it is a shady grove. And full of cads, bounders, cutpurses, ne‘er-do-wells and hopeful bums – just like me! I sat through many ARIA Awards in the mid 90s, stalking the field while waiting for my triumphal entrance onto the stage. I paid my dues. Odd, but great, moments like David Gates from Bread stepping through some sort of errant time portal to sing If in that beautiful high voice of his, Slim Dusty duetting with KD Lang, Janet Jackson beaming down from Planet Jackson to whisper some strange alien noises into the mic, and Mandawuy Yunupingu talking equally softly to the hushed crowd of spivs and painted ladies about the kookaburras and the koalas who were somewhere out there in the Australian night. There was also the interminable time that came with Kieren Perkins inducting INXS into the Hall of Fame. He talked of how they were the soundtrack to his life, but it takes only a moment to think on the life of an early-teenage long-distance swimmer and what fanatical weirdness/dedication is involved there. The coaches are all carrying on like Sergei Diaghilev in speedos! Actually, thinking on that got me through it. I sat stony-faced through the proceedings, apart from the worlds they inhabited and projected to. How middle-Australian was that combination? I was definitely lower-Australian and gladly so. In the terminology of 2015, I’m a crafty leaner. Anzac! You fill me with inertia! That’s a line from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s movie Bedazzled. Peter Cook appears as Lucifer on a TV pop show and sings/talks the title song. Rather like an electro Bowie before that thing ever existed. I guess the film is an underground thing. Buried for years, but it was popular in its day. It just didn’t make the airlift as to popular, recognisable, 60s-signifying pop art event. Much of Australian mythology is like that. Unspoken, unseen but widely traded stories and characters. Ned Kelly histories were not public or encouraged until a grassroots historical scene got together in Victoria in the late 60s and early 70s. I grew up with Anzac fading out. My dad had been a teen in Borneo. He never marched. The RSL was a politically active power base for WWII vets in their prime of life. They’d grown up in the shadows thrown by their fathers and the Great War. In turn, they threw their own shade on the Viet Vets. It was not seen, for many years as a ‘real’ war, only what the Americans initially billed it as: a “police action”. All very Australian. Still a bit troubling, I guess, much like our Iraq and Afghan involvements. Best to stay vamping on the Gallipoli note, I guess. @davegraney

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