The Last Post makes every hair on my neck sit up to attention, ushers in tears and delivers a salutary blow to me each and every time I hear its sombre call.
I know that’s hardly news – I am one of many, many thousands whose grandfather fought in the Second World War, who has friends who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, who holds the First World War in such grave reverence as to be utterly in awe of what some of those men and women went through. War has horrific and dark consequences.
It’s a special, and deeply grounding, testimony to human spirit that Anzac Day continues to be held in such high esteem.
But I also love the break in my mindset that it affords – the distance from the here-and-now pursuit of success, fame and fortune; from ads, from political scandal: from the stuff that surrounds us.
It’s bigger than the latest Slipper ripper, The Voice’s predictable standings, the front page of Cosmo.
In an era of second-to-second news updates, Twitter feeds, wilted attention spans and Kony’s Jason Russell, it’s easy to occasionally… forget. To Instagram and update a status, to ‘like’ and re-tweet. To reduce the permanent to fragmentary, to imbue the flippant with gravity.
Facebook, Pinterest, celebrities, reality TV, and most fads – be they diets, memes, pop songs or miracle cures – out there are, of course, to be taken with a grain or two of salt.
Even some of the most apparently well-intentioned causes can be blown out of all proportion by the power of our addiction to the ‘like’ button.
Look at Kony 2012 for just one example of how a lag-time of, oh, barely 46 days, was enough to turn a monstrous upwelling of support and fame of gargantuan proportions into nothing more than an embarrassingly damp squib.
It failed not simply because one of its conceivers was, bizzarely, unable to keep his trousers on in public, nor because the message was ultimately founded on shaky semi-truths – lies, that is – but because a month was just long enough to allow 150 million people to forget. As the pitiful turnout to Friday’s Kony Action Day has it, attention spans have never been shorter.
Invisible Children, it turned out, was enough to make many want to forget. To throw a cynical focus onto the harsh realities of war.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Anzac Day – a moment that is worth remembering, each and every year, without a viral video, San Diego drunkenness and global trending.
It’s saying something that the events of nearly 100 years ago still ring loud and clear in our ears – and hearts – each April. It’s saying something that young and old come together, unprompted by Twitter, Facebook and the like to pay respects to those who fell many generations ago.
(It’s also saying something that some modern day wars need web campaigns to get them noticed – but that is another story altogether.)
Not for tomorrow is the momentary, too-easy and often empty desire that social media and advertisers exploit so well. Kim Kardashian’s arse can bugger off, frankly, for 24 hours.
The things that really matter, that indelibly shape who we are, go beyond hashtags. Our collective memory of the First World War and its timely reminder of those who have fallen in all wars since puts much into perspective.
Its message endures. It reminds us not just of lives lost, sacrifices made and entire generations dented, knocked and dazed, but of the fleeting impermanence of so much we pay disproportionate lip service to these days. Tweeting has its place (I, for one, love it as a news source), but stepping away from a screen, away from the roar of modern life, away from the ego-massaging addiction that so much social media seems to stimulate in us all is one of – if not the only – way to gain a modicum of peace, to stand back, reflect and remember those who have gone before.
Wednesday’s dawn service will be my first Anzac Day ceremony in Australia. And I won’t be Tweeting as the sun rises on Martin Place.