Friday, April 25, 2008

The Sacrifice (Part 1)

Last September I spent five days in the heart of Sydney.

Early every morning I walked for what seemed like miles. I was taken aback by the symbolism of that city, the statues, buildings & artwork. I did not have a camera with me, but then I was not expecting the life changing experience it turned out to be.

I was reading Matthew Deloozes 'Is it me for a moment', and his descriptions of extracting respect & energy were most enlightening.  One place in particular resonated very loudly - Hyde Park. For five nights I slept beside this park, in a room from the Matrix -Room 303.

Around the perimeters of Hyde Park (named after the original in London), are such prestigious buildings as The Supreme Court of New South Wales, St Mary's Cathedral, St James's Church, The Downing Centre, Hyde Park Barracks & the Australian Museum.

On my second morning walk I was ambling through Hyde Park when I drew up sharply at what I first took to be a huge brown slug with a devil's head. It turned out to be the Minotaur with Theseus posed ready for action. It apparently represents sacrifice for the good of humanity.

This pair is part of the Archibald Fountain, unveiled in 1932. The fountain also includes Diana avec deer & a youth portraying the good things of the earth. Atop the design is Apollo, looking for all the world like he is giving a Nazi salute.

A 1940 black & white photo shows the full symbolic placement, the eastern side leading directly to St Mary's Cathedral. A sunburst, though not visible here, is set in the pavement around the hexagonal pond.

Most Internet sites I've checked out, sing the praises of this fountain, I found it oppressive & sinister, but I may just be imaginative. Nevertheless it aroused in me a curiosity about the rest of the park.
Running in a southerly direction from the 'devil slug' is the Avenue of Figs. This path leads in a straight line to the south end of Hyde Park where the ANZAC Memorial resides (officially opened 1934). ANZAC stands for Australia & NZ Army Corps, most notably made famous at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915.

I visited this memorial twice. The first time I went alone.
A notice on the steps informs, in no uncertain terms that it is an offence to sit or loiter on the steps. This irked me, for surely a memorial is for contemplation. Suitably hastened, I entered the Hall of Silence and noted what looked like an Egyptian design on the wall. There was an ornate balustrade in the centre so I went to see what I could see.

What I saw was 'The Sacrifice' & it repulsed me.
"The Hall of Silence is designed in such a way that visitors are compelled to look downwards, causing their heads to be reverently and naturally bowed”, in other words you are forced to pay respect to this symbol whether you like it or not... I am happy to honour people who gave their lives for what they believed in – but I have never pictured them looking like this.

Apparently this is art, so it is to be seen subjectively. You of course, will make up your own mind. It is indeed symbolic, but of what. My subjective soul was certainly moved. For me this remains the most blatant symbol I have ever experienced of the 'darkness' that seems to run this show that we call life. To me it symbolises the expendability & sacrificial value of the human being - you & me. If you are at all familiar with Australians or Kiwis you would never, never visualise or depict them like this.
Antennae twitching, I walked down some steps near the head of the figure and came face to inverted face with The Sacrifice.

Sorry I can't post this image but this link will take you straight there.,0.jpg&imgrefurl=

The words at my feet said "Let silent contemplation be your offering" - had I not been so disquieted I'd have been more inclined to offer an expletive.
"The main focus of the interior is a monumental bronze sculpture of a deceased youth, representing a soldier, held aloft on his shield by three female figures, representing his mother, sister and wife. The male figure's nudity was considered shocking at the time of the monument's opening, and it is said to be the only such representation of a naked male form within any war memorial." Actually it is linked with the naked figures at the other end of Hyde Park in the Archibald Fountain - at their time the only public naked statues. If viewed as Greek mythological figures the nakedness is no longer out of place.

"The use of the female forms as a archtectural support is known as a caryatid. The Greek term karyatides literally means "maidens of Karyae", an ancient town of Pelpponnese. Karyai had a famous temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis." Back at the Archibald Fountain Diana/Artemis comprises one of the three arms of the fountain.

Later that day I took along my fourteen year old son for an objective appraisal.

He did not like ‘The Sacrifice’ at all, but was interested in seeing the relic room on the ground floor, a glass pyramid being visible from the balustrade upstairs in the Hall of Silence (the Sacrifice's right hand indicates it's direction).

We had only been there about a minute when a guy behind the desk boomed out (like an army sergeant) that it was 11.00am and time for the daily commemorative service. Loud music boomed and we were ordered (there's no other word for it) to face east… maybe this is standard practice, but I have never come across it before and coupled with the revulsion I felt for that place I took off as fast as possible – something inside me refused outright to be a part of what I felt was going on there. My poor son followed with great embarrassment.

Such was the feeling of doing something 'illegal', I was half expecting someone to come after us and arrest us or give us a hell of a dressing down. While this may sound like exaggeration, I can only say that the feeling of repulsion & unease has remained with me & has led directly to my 'coming out of the looney closet' & creating this blog.

I talked with my son this evening to check that he was happy to be quoted. He made some further interesting remarks. He said that he thought the statue was sadistic, and if he died at war he would not want to be remembered like that. He would want to be remembered as a hero and have a movie made about him. He also said that a sacrifice means that your death is chosen by someone else, whereas if you choose to die for yourself or a mate, then that is heroism.

In the past few weeks my attention has been repeatedly drawn to ANZAC symbolism. There is a memorial near me on a busy intersection, I have driven past it many times & thought it was simply an architectural monument. Just a few weeks ago I had cause to wait for my son close by so thought I'd have a look. I'm presuming as I write this, that, in true Bill & Ted style I will, in the future (which will be later on today) pick up my camera & take the picture that will appear below.

Ominous looking black banners with big red poppies also started appearing a few weeks ago & books have been laid out reverently at the library. Combined with my memories of the Hyde Park memorial I felt that something was urging a closer look.
Having been thoroughly immersed in Gallipoli for some time now, I'm very pleased at last to be able to get some of this out of my system because it has made me heart sick.

Gallipoli was an eight month campaign that started on 25th April 1915. For Kiwis & Ozzies this is our Remembrance Day. In this part of the world the 11th November can slip by unremarked.

From an eight month campaign a legend was born that in a sense created two nations identity. Personally I feel this is stronger with Australians than New Zealanders.

The hype surrounding this day seems to be increasing with each passing year. This year footage of Gallipoli has been restored (by none other than Peter Jackson) & is being played in true ritualistic style on the three nights leading up to the 25th. The giant screen being used is the front wall of the Auckland Museum.

It has even become customary for thousands of Australians & New Zealanders to make a pilgrimage to Gallipoli.

I do not like war, and previously I have not focused my attention on it. I had a basic understanding of Gallipoli as a defining point in our history, something to be proud of. The words 'epic' and 'heroism' are synonymous with it. In the eyes of the world we 'did good'.

But the more I've looked, the less good I feel. The Sacrifice started a chain of thought that came full circle when I looked closely at Gallipoli. So here goes.

I believe Gallipoli was a symbolic reenactment of Troy & a huge symbolic sacrifice.

I can't tell you why & I can't prove it, but that's no reason not to set spinning wheels in motion.

There seems to be a general consensus that Troy existed and that it's ruins are close by the Dardennelles, the setting of the Gallipoli 'camapaign' or shall we say 'siege'.

I have come to the conclusion that whether or not something happens in 'reality' is less important than whether or not it has taken root in our psyche. This is my personal opinion & allows me to follow threads that might otherwise get snipped.

I'm not going to go into the mechanics of the siege, I'll give you a link at the end if you're interested. We'll just see if we can see where the seams of the story have come loose, and have a look underneath.

First off lets look at the creation of the ANZAC 'legend', for most assuredly it is one.

It was an English war correspondent who almost single-handedly gave birth to the myth. Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was in Gallipoli for the landing on the 25th April. His dramatic accounts, the first to be published in the Australian press, stirred the blood of those 'back home'.

“They waited neither for orders nor for the boats to reach the beach, but, springing out into the sea, they waded ashore, and, forming some sort of rough line, rushed straight on the flashes of the enemy’s rifles.”


"There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and storming the heights, and, above all, holding on while the reinforcements were landing. These raw colonial troops, in these desperate hours, proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Aisne, Ypres and Neuve Chapelle."

Later in the campaign we are told he became increasingly critical of those in charge and wrote a letter to Asquith the Prime Minister. Apparently this letter was intercepted in France & never delivered, and Ashmead-Bartlett was given his marching orders.

The history books says that his outspoken comments led to the dismissal of the commander-in-chief, Sir Ian Hamilton and the eventual withdrawal of troops.

All this only gives a nice edging to the heroic tale, but I have not been comfortable with it. How come if the letter to Asquith was destroyed we find it's transcript in the above link. OK maybe he made a copy, but he's a writer, and knows he can write something similar & most probably better if called upon again.

I just keep getting a niggly itch about the whole mythic creation of what actaully was an extended slaughter.

Lets get on.

The ANZAC's developed an almost god-like dimension with descriptions of their tall bronzed bodies & gung ho attitude, and indeed many were taller than their European counterparts. Wafts of epic poems seem to hang in the air ...'into the valley of death rode the six hundred'.

The tale of youthful heroes & tragic death. Stirring stuff indeed. And what fabric would we use to line the coffins of these boys had they not been left to rot where they fell. Why something beautiful of course because this battlefield is named for beauty.

Gallipoli comes from the ancient Greek Kallipoli which means 'beautiful city'. The word Kalli means beautiful and it is one of our links to Troy.

It started with a woman & an apple. Doesn't it always?

Eris, the goddess of discord, angered at being left off the guest list for the wedding of Peleus & Thetis, threw a golden apple onto the floor at their wedding reception. Upon the apple was the inscription KALLISTI (for the fairest one). Hera, Athena & Aphrodite all thought they should have it, so it was decided that a wee shepherd lad called Paris would have the deciding vote. Aphrodite's bribe of Helen made her the winner & set the siege of Troy in motion.

I've never quite figured why these women are so attracted to apples.

At the base of the Gallipoli peninsula is Cape Helles, where Helle is said to have fallen to her death fleeing from yet another destructive female.

In 482 BC, King Xerxes of Persia had two bridges built across the Dardanelles between the Greek cities of Abydos and Sestos to carry his invading army into Greece. In 332BC, the army of Alexander the Great set off across the Straits on the trail of conquest which led him to India.

The crossing from Abydos to Sestos is also where Leander swam nightly across the current to his lover, Hero (a title used without restraint when referring to the ANZACs). When one night she failed to leave a light in her tower to guide him, he drowned. Finding his body next day, she threw herself into the waters and joined him.

Such is the setting for our legend, where beauty & the death of youth go hand in hand in the ancient Greek ideal of heroism.

I would suggest that the apple of discord for the second siege of Troy was lobbed by England when she confiscated two warships that had been commissioned by Turkey (but built in the UK). The money was handed over & a ceremony due to take place when the British declared that the ships had been requisitioned. No compensation was offered.

On 5th November 1914 Turkey allied herself with Germany, the same day & Britain & France declared war on her. Two days prior to this the allies had indulged in a little gunpowder plotting themselves with some preliminary bombarding to the entrance to the Dardenelles.

Wherever I have looked at this story I find apparent poor planning, much stopping short of victory, lack of leadership and criminal stupidity. Into my mind has crept a nasty feel of stage-managed defeat.

The other day I was part of a surreal incident. I add it here because I believe it is meant to be a part of this narrative. I have been walking my sister's two dogs for the last few days while she is on holiday. The youngest, Maya is a border collie, & fast as lightening. The first day I took her out she was very interested in a hedgehog huddled in the long grass, I figured it would be fine. The next day, she found the hedgehog again, only this time I realised it was dead, and judging by the smell as she picked it up and ran off with it, it had been for some time. I'm grateful my son was with me, but the resultant chase is not one I will easily forget. It was thoroughly revolting & yet we laughed at the hideousness of it - a way to deal with it I guess. It was only yesterday that I realised how like Gallipoli the bush tracks where I take them walking must be. With their bleached white clay paths and the blue green sea visible through the scrub. Then I remembered the rotting corpse of the hedgehog and how horrible that one rotting body was.

The beautiful coast of Gallipoli was herself bloated with rotting corpses. There is such a discrepancy between the tales told and the experience. It is not heroic to see images of naked men picking lice out of their clothes, or hearing tales of drinking seawater because of desperate thirst.

Sister Alice Kitchen who was onboard the hospital ship Gascon at Gallipoli wrote:

"To leave injured soldiers in the blazing sun for days without dressing their wounds or giving them water is mass murder. Our poor boys. If only the world knew how badly they are treated."

A banned account of the campaign included the following;
"Other taboo topics were the lack of drinking water, the stench of rotting corpses which were breeding grounds for flies which spread dysentery and typhoid, and the lack of lavatory paper at the latrine pits, topics blue-pencilled out of letters home..."

For for full transcript go here;

The historical cleansing of Gallopili is not something a great deal of people are aware of. The prevailing feel is one of national pride & a staunch belief that the blood of these soldiers somehow created a base for our nations. This is not ok. How much resentment & heartache & fear & desperation is generated on a battlefield and where does it go. If we hold to a myth instead of truth we become accomplices.

I recalled an episode from Sapphire & Steel, an amazing & frightening tv programme from my childhood. I felt that it touched upon an issue seldom looked at, the energy surrounding needless death.

"At a disused railway station, the Darkness is feeding upon the resentment of people who have died prematurely. These include a WWI private blown up on Armistice Day, three workers suffocated in an experimental submarine and a pilot killed one flight from being demobbed. Together with an old ghost-hunter called Tully, Sapphire and Steel attempt to contact the beings. Sapphire is taken-over by the Darkness and tries to kill Steel with a bunch of flowers! Steel finds himself trapped in barbed wire on a battlefield. Time is advanced twelve days and Steel offers a bargain to the Darkness conditional to it returning time to its proper course and freeing its victims. It accepts the last few years of Tully's life. This makes Time itself resentful thus providing the energy the Darkness needs".

I've been a wondering if when two emotion soaked versions of an event coexist can this create some sort of split in the energy fields of the world and is this on purpose. I don't think anyone would doubt the energy generated by Rememberance Days, and this energy is cultivated in both hemisphere's in the Fall.

Sifting through the internet I have come across others who noted the similarity between Troy & Gallipoli.
The poet Rupert Brooke who actually died en route to the Dardanelles, linked his pending experience with those of Homer’s heroes;

They say Achilles in the darkness stirred ...
And Priam and his fifty sons
Wake all amazed, and hear the guns,
And shake for Troy again.

Welsh scholar & poet Patrick Shaw-Stewart felt an ominous sense of 'deja-vu at the association-saturated spots'

I saw a man this morning
Who did not wish to die;
I ask, and cannot answer,
If otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
Against the Dardanelles;
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
Were cold as cold sea-shells.

But other shells are waiting
Across the Aegean Sea,
Shrapnel and high explosive,
Shells and hells for me.

O hell of ships and cities,
Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
Why must I follow thee?

Achilles came to Troyland
And I to Chersonese:
He turned from wrath to battle,
And I from three days' peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
So very hard to die?
Thou knowest and I know not -
So much the happier am I.

I will go back this morning,
From Imbros over the sea;
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
Flame-capped, and shout for me.

The other day I was deeply moved by a photo of a statue of a Turkish officer carrying a wounded Australian soldier. I had read that there had indeed been such incidences.

I mentioned to my father that I was writing this article and he said to me "you know my Uncle Harry was at Gallipoli. He was lying wounded in a ditch when a Turkish soldier found him. As he lay there expecting to die the soldier took off his backpack with his rations in it and laid it down beside him and walked away". His uncle would never talk of his experiences and it was only through his brother, my grandfather that the story was known.

I don't know how I did not know this story, maybe I forgot. Had my father or his uncle been an ANZAC it would be something special, but he was Irish. There were many nationalities at Gallipoli but the legend is tied to the ANZACs, the untried & heroic 'virgin' soldiers.

There is much more to this than can be told in one sitting, so I have called this Part 1.

In six hours it will be dawn here, and as the dawn parades happen across the country I shall post this article as a tribute to the beauty of Truth, I think the greatest need we have at this time.

Additional 26th April:

I forgot to add a link to a more detailed explanation of Gallipoli. Here is a link which shows how seriously ANZAC day is taken

Some excellent images of ANZAC memorial inside & out

Wikipedia on Gallipoli