Australia Day. Oh, you most horrible and wonderful of celebrations. Wonderful was sitting under the lush trees of the Carlton Gardens, drinking cold cider, reading Vanity Fair, picnicking with my beloved and watching families, couples and friends play bocce, cricket and hand out gingerbread cookies in the shape of Australia.
Horrible was watching our PM and Opposition Leader be dragged ungainfully into cars by rough security, in what amounted to a giant PR and management cock-up. Left-wing pinkos like myself dance Rumplestiltskin-like around Australia Day and Anzac day, confused and repelled by the mastubatory nationalism that has curiously pervaded our culture. To voice concern places one at risk of being labelled treasonous, ‘un-Australian’, disrespectful of the dead. Since the Keating era (when we were encouraged to find security within Asia, rather than from it), our cultural inquiry has steadily degenerated. Howard’s era gave us permission to really let our own personal ‘rednecks in the cupboard’ out to play, wheedling us to nurse our hatred for refugees, migrants, gays, teachers, nurses and academics close to our hearts. Like some kind of dodgy boyfriend your parents warned you about, you quickly found yourself behaving abominably and mimicking his style – he’s given permission to. Now you’ve been behaving horribly for so long, you can barely remember what it was like to be kind and well-mannered.
There are ‘lights on the hill’, still. For those who live in the Greens Melbourne seat, you could well forget any other Australia exists outside of our educated little fish-pond. A quick half-hour on Facebook on Australia Day will put paid to those notions. Again and again, I saw commentary from young people quashing concerns about Australia Day celebrating colonial invasion with noxious sound-bite postings of “if you don’t like it, get out” and “harden the fuck up princess”. This isn’t simply a case of not understanding national identity – it’s a full-force moshpit of revelling in one’s own ignorance and lack of inquiry.
When hearing Paul Keating speak (the pin-up boy of the Labour movement, a bloke of vision we’re unlikely to see again in local politics) at the Wheeler Centre, he made clear the difference between nationalism and patriotism. He declared himself a patriot. Patriotism, said Keating, is inherently inclusive and celebratory. It’s a gathering together, a fond look at achievement. Nationalism – its most dangerous cousin – is at core exclusionary. A tool to divide, to exclude and to categorise.
So how, now, to celebrate? Please, celebrate often – celebrate wildly – celebrate with gay abandon! We’ve got much to be grateful for, with an incredibly rich creative community and high quality of life. We DO have a national identity. But it’s not one which is singular. I don’t think it’s clad in an Australian flag, BBQ’ing and getting pissed. Not everyone is gathered to the warm bosom of ANZAC’s bloodied soldiers. That story, and the Australia Day landing story – they can’t be our core tales of origination. We’re a migrant nation, and our diverse cultural background can’t be limited to just a couple of tales of colonial subjection and slaughter-for-Motherland.
Be brave. Enquire.
Weddings Parties Anything – Anthem.