ANZAC Day and Social Pressure
More than just giving thanks to those who went to die in World War I, ANZAC day is a day to remember the crippling effect of peer-pressure and social ostracism. Looking back, I am horrified to think of the choice faced by young Australians. Go to a war which would probably be the death or maiming of you, or stay behind and face derision and ridicule everyday with no promise of respite.
When news of the struggle reached home, the government pushed for more volunteers and were helped by hordes of people who lived fat on the corpses of those who their pressure sent to die. White feathers abuse and shame all pushed young men to the enlistment line. The government also tried to bring in conscription via two referendums. PM Billy Hughes failed both times, but the ANZAC story is not one of volunteerism and freedom.
Just as powerful as government conscription was the social pressure to enlist. Indeed, when Britain brought in conscription they found that most of the people left to enlist were so firmly against going that they often preferred to be gaoled. Their pro-enlistment society had already sent most people to the front.
Peer-pressure can do horrible things to a person. The ANZAC story is proof of that. Life should be lived based on the choices you want to make, not for your neighbour or your government. If we learn anything from the horror of the ANZAC story, it is that we must all be careful not to misuse the power we have to pressure others.