ANZAC Day and Uncomfortable Truths

Posted on April 26, 2016 by Richard Goulter
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“Ethics is advertising” presents a fascinating model: people signal in all kinds of ways various things about them. Ethical attitudes can be used as a signal for distinguishing social class. – I think the model is compelling, (at least in the presented context, Buddhism in the West), though the term can be overused, to try and reduce an opponents belief as “virtue signalling”.

ANZAC Day serves as more of a national-day for NZ than Waitangi Day.
It seems those on the left can’t resist gnashing teeth over it:

For example, this reporter last year who described ANZAC Day as “Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these brave Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan”. (FWIW, while the remarks are despicable, losing your job for wrongthink is worse).

This post also came up on my newsfeed. For the most part, it’s pretty good. War is bad, “lest we forget” is for remembering that. – The post is also dripping with contempt for imperialism; a “this caused all subsequent wars”; and portrays the majority of New Zealand as nationalistic and proudly militaristic.

The favourite thing on my feed was this from Pencil Sword: Why is it that a day for commemorating the ANZACs (who fought overseas) ignores the New Zealand wars?
The answer, obviously, is racism; that the majority avoid the “uncomfortable truths”.
– I feel there’s a kind of optimism in that pessimism: to say NZers don’t care about New Zealand Wars seems to give the impression that there are important things that NZers would care about as a whole. Everyone says “but my thing is important, people should know about this”. – I suspect NZers sketching NZ history (even the “white” parts) would do little better than people sketching bicycles.

Pencil Sword is being a bit disingenuous, in a way:
I can agree that discussion of racial issues (especially in context of history) can be uncomfortable for some; that there are tough issues to mention (like the impact of colonialism to current racial issues). Just as I’d say there’re “uncomfortable truths” (or uncomfortable questions) folk like Pencil Sword would rather not ask or touch upon. (Of course not all differences in outcome are due purely to nature; but besides history, what other factors play a role?). – Ideologues can’t be trusted by themselves to represent the truth.
– We’d all benefit from more knowledge/education, more facts/statistics. Show the numbers! – But also worth keeping in mind is how ‘falsifiable’ claims are. How would you show the claims to be wrong.

It’s kindof interesting.
I’d say even knowing the phrase “Tino rangatiratanga” signals “I’m a good person”. It seems using terms like “Aotearoa” or “pakeha” serve the same purpose. If someone uses these words, you also know what other political opinions they’re likely to hold. – I wonder if using these words is a kind of inessential weirdness. (Which is fine to use if you’re the majority, but recent polling indicates otherwise). – I wouldn’t say that such people ‘signal’ explicitly/consciously.
With the aforementioned opinions, it’s not really so clear. You could pick any day of the year to say “it’s a shame parts of our history aren’t well known; white privilege etc.”, picking ANZAC Day feels like trying to attack a sacred cow. – But the aforementioned opinions all come from held-beliefs (albeit, beliefs blandly belonging to the in-group, rather than independently found), so any signalling isn’t more than secondary to the point.

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