AUSTRALIAN HISTORY - ANZAC BISCUITS
The Anzac biscuit: from
hard tack to soft sell
An essential element in the application
of force is the willingness of people to risk their lives. Discipline
and training aim to prolong morale under fire. The success of those
efforts is proportional to the distance between life at war and life at
home. The military options available to First World governments are
shaped by the expectations for a Zegna, not a bodybag.
Seventy-five years ago, the deaths of
60,000 Australians did not topple the Hughes government. Indeed, the
pro-war mood ensured its landslide victories in 1917 and again in 1919.
Nowadays, politicians are as wary as NCOs about sustaining fatalities.
Commentators agree how lucky the Howard government has been not to have
had a fatality among the Australian troops in Iraq.
What caused this change? The explanation
begins way outside military strategy or parliamentary tactics to be
pursued through the illogic of capitalism. To escape the deflationary
cycle of the 1930s, capital needed to expand production and hence
consumption. In addition, public support for capitalism could not be
restored without full employment at good wages. A permanent arms economy
helped to absorb the surplus as did a welfare state. The success of
these moves became the affluent society that J. K. Galbraith identified
in 1958. Meanwhile, the pursuit of commodities had required a drift from
an ethic of thrift to one of debt. Indulgence was now a moral good.
Abstinence became un-American. By these devices, life got easier,
softer. The result has become acute in the rates of childhood obesity.
Physical fatness is the outward sign of the ME-mentality inculcated by
The fulfillment of capital’s need to
survive by expanding consumption had subverted the morale of US troops
in Vietnam long before they heard of the liberal media or anti-war
protestors. Sixties Radicals often allege that the advertisers stole
“Revolution” as a marketing logo. To the extent that that theft
happened, Madison Avenue did no more than cash in on the mentality that
its agencies had created in the 1950s. Those campaigns, for instance,
installed Father’s Day as the opportunity to market electric shavers
and get real men to try after shave. Advocates of universal military
training now find it harder to win support by promising that the parade
ground will “Make a man of him”. For a start, definitions of
maleness are now more fluid. Even the hard men of Rugby League are on
six-figure salaries, not to mention contracts to promote fashion goods.
Another example of the transformation is
seen in that Australian troops were once categorized as “Six-bob-a-day
tourists”. Right up until Korea, going overseas with the armed
services was the only chance the vast majority of Australian men ever
had to see the world. Now Gallipoli and the Western Front are stopovers
on packaged tours.
[Anzac biscuits, according to the Women’s
Weekly cookbook, are a mixture of rolled oats, golden syrup, baking
soda, sugar, flour and coconut.]
Key Concepts and Issues
Booklet on the economic and social
history of the mass market in Australia.
List of Primary
Reading items, with annotations
The popular recollections of a farm
worker who fought through Gallipoli and France to come home a pacifist.
The selected pages give an account of bush life before 1914.
Rhys Pollard, The
Cream Machine, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1976, pp.1-3. A
lightly fictionalized memoir of a working-class conscript to Vietnam.
The title is ironic.
[The extracts from Facey and Pollard can
be contrasted for their first-hand responses to life before the army.]
Humphrey McQueen, “Gallipoli’s
Shadows”, The Age, 26 April
2003, p. 8.
Humphrey McQueen, “Father’s Day”, Bulletin,
7 September 1999, pp. 48-49.
A. P. Rowe, “Anzac Day”, Australian
Quarterly, 29 (1), March 1957, pp. 67-73.
Thoughts on the drift in values by the
vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide.
Richard White, Inventing
Australia, George Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1981, Chapter 10.
Tracks attitudes during the growth of the Affluent Society.
Thomas Frank, The
Conquest of Cool, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1997.
Indentifies the US advertising and male
fashion industries in the 1950s as the seedbeds for the social and
cultural changes of the 1960s.
Leslie Kilmartin, “The militarization
of adolescent males”, Don Edgar (ed.), Social Change in Australia, Cheshire, Melbourne, 1974, pp. 441-464.
A study by a psychologist attached to the
Department of Air of 142 recruits to RAAF Technical Training School,
outside Wagga Wagga.
Jenny Macleod, “The Fall and Rise of
Anzac Day: 1965 and 1990 compared”, War
& Society, 24 (1), May 2002, pp. 149-68.
Alan Seymour, The One Day of the Year,
Three Australian Plays, Penguin, 1963.