To celebrate or not to celebrate…

  (25 January 13)
  by Greg Spearritt

A degree of ambivalence is in order, surely, for Australians on January 26.

We have a lot to celebrate, not least the evolution of a stable, reasonably egalitarian society from unimaginably violent beginnings where inequality and prejudice were entrenched. Inasmuch as we and our families or acquaintances have contributed to that, we can and should be proud.

But January 26 is also Invasion Day (or Survival Day), and the stats on indigenous disadvantage are still shameful in 2013. That said, the fact that there’s now a place for Bonita Mabo in our Australia Day honours list is a gratifying indication that progress, however slow, is being made.  

Then there’s the problem of nationalism. Ben Groundwater puts it well:

I dislike the whole concept of nationhood, the way people support their country like it's a football team playing in a grand final. Like we have to choose sides. How much better would it be if we'd all stop taking pride in the little slices of the globe we happened to pop out in and starting just being citizens of the world?

Much of what we see around Oz on January 26 is nothing more than tribalism writ large. For some there’s a fervency about our national identity – at least as they define it – which borders on being religious. The fluttering of Aussie flags from our car doors (a sound appropriately reminiscent of flatulence) is one such sign, and is unwittingly ironic: it shows what good American citizens we are becoming.

For mine, a different date to celebrate would be a good start. Then ditch the car flags and leaven the outbursts of Aussie pride with some good old Aussie self-deprecating humour and even a little sober reflection on where we need to do better.

………..

2 comments

I am tired of apologizing for the failings of my Anglo-Saxons ancestors in this country. I take time on Australia day to honour my own very English ancestors who were mostly honest, hard working, adventurous, family oriented and very civil. I am very grateful for the the originally British now with an Aussie adaptation, institutions of paliamentary democracy, the legal system, education,health care, scientific research , unions, social welfare, the lovable,infuriating silly old Anglican Church and much more. I note that the indiginous population has not apologized for spearing women for infideity or knocking out their front teeth as a sign of marriage and possesion. The Italians have not apologized for bringing the Mafia with them. The Moslem migrants have not apologized for their treatment of women and those from the horn of Africa have not apologized for female circumcision. My partner is Vietnamese. The Vietnamese here are very proud of their country of origin and culture and are not self concious about it at all. Nor do they yet see any need to apologize for the Vietnamese mafia which runs protection rackets, illegal prostitution, gambling and drugs right here in your own backyard. Wake up Greg. Be proud. There is no such thing as a "citizen of the world" . it's an oxymoron. Cheers, Noel.

Posted by Noel Warren

In terms of worldwide history, the most notorious examples of "secular religion" are Nationalism, Fascism and Communism. These three give an imagined assurance of superiority to the in-group, be it based on nationality, race or class. And they often express intense hatred toward the out-groups.

Posted by David Miller

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