My grandfather was a fitter and turner in the RAAF in WWII. He is considered a hero. My father lived as a child in Ipoh during the Japanese occupation. The assistance of these people against the Japanese occupiers is completely unrecognized and he is instead one of those Chinese people who came to this country. I still always think of Bruce Ruxton when I think of the RSL and ANZAC day. Which is of and in itself probably biased. But you see, I lived in Melbourne. I remember how much they Asians immigration. After all, how can you hate those people over there if that nice fellow Hong from down the street is one of them. I know that I have both Malaysia and Australian parentage. I despise the fact that one side is considered heroes and the other maligned.
But on the RSL. One of the strange things about NSW (and Queensland, but here I speak of my experience in NSW) is the existence of RSL clubs with drinking and gambling. The clubs originally started at the end of WWI. I know from my grandparents that there was some bitterness in Australia at the end of the war (WWII) about the treatment of service people. The government, as it always does, wanted to limit the vast amount of money it was already spending on the war. So it came up with a bunch of schemes like the soldier settlement scheme my grandfather was part of. It seems to me that the RSL clubs are another non monetary method of reward. If you are a returned soldier you can have some special privileges in return for potentially putting your life on the line in combat. It also works as a self help group for a government than cannot or does not want to afford the medical cost of the mental effects of the war by creating self help groups. What I do not understand is why in QLD and NSW the clubs went on to become over-sized pubs.
Of course these wars (WWI and WWII) were a long time ago. And the conflicts since then have been mercifully smaller. As a result, these clubs are now a bit anachronistic and in a few generations hopefully we will have no wars and people will wonder why they exist. Society always contains this type of flotsam and jetsam in it’s psyche. The clubs mean while start to branch out into new fields of endeavor to keep their clients. For example some around here run singles nights.
ANZAC day is also a hang over from WWI. It has done an amazing job of reinventing itself, but I suspect that much of the original significance about a country finally realizing the brit’s are a bunch of self interested gits and that it should go on it’s own way are mostly lost in the fog of time. In fact I know it is lost, because we choose not to realize, that at the end of the day, the prime driver of USA policy is self interest. Or perhaps we are wise enough to know a good thing and to ignore the downsides. Now ANZAC day is all about pomp and ceremony (which interests me not) and that surprisingly easy task of killing people to protect yourself seem like a noble thing to do. I do not think that it is noble, but I accept that it is sometimes necessary. Better to kill than be killed. Better to conquer than to be conquered. Even better to live in peace, but.