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Monday, January 25th, 2010 06:31 pm
Tomorrow is Australia Day. On 26 January 1788 (in the Gregorian calendar of Western Europe) the landmass now known as Australia was invaded by a group of boat people. Since permission to land was not granted by the existing occupants of the landmass or the traditional owners of the area where the landing occurred (and has yet to be either sought or received by any of their subsequent descendants) it would be reasonable to describe these persons as illegal immigrants, and the persons who organised their transportation to this landmass as people smugglers.

If you look at things from this perspective, the current Australian fusses about border protection seem just a tad hypocritical. (Not that anyone in the Liberal party is going to stop and consider things when protecting folks from the yellow/black/red/[insert $OTHER here] peril is perceived as being such a sure-fire vote winner).

But then, we're yapping along in the cultural shadow of the US, which means we're starting to treat Australia Day as a Big and Special holiday for Celebrating Our Patriotism. Which, more and more, tends to mean putting Australian flags on anything which can hold them, shoving those Aussie flags on the car, installing your own flagpole in the front yard and similar. Now, call me an unpatriotic bitch (I don't mind) but I can't really see the point. I've lived in Australia for nigh on thirty-nine years now, and so far not a morning has gone by when I have woken in a panic, uncertain as to which country I'm living in. I don't get moments of existential angst on the freeway, wondering whether I've suddenly been transplanted to New Zealand instead. I don't find myself suddenly questioning whether I mightn't have taken a wrong turn on William Street and wound up in Albuquerque, or somewhere similar. If ever you're leaving Australia, the signs are pretty damn obvious, because there's a lot of ocean involved.

To me, being an Australian is about being aware of the variety of different stories available, rather than just focussing on the White, Anglo-Celtic, Protestant one to the exclusion of all else. It means taking lots of different elements from lots of countries around the world, and fusing them together as we work together against a landscape which varies between hostile at best through to actively and malevolently homicidal at worst. It means being proud of our inclusiveness, and somewhat ashamed of our past history with regard to the traditional owners of the continent. It means being more practical than idealistic; sensible rather than passionate; and willing to go the extra distance to help others out, rather than saying "I'm all right Jack, stuff you!". There's more to being a good Australian than just waving a flag; and there's more to be debated about what being Australian means than whether the flag people are waving should or shouldn't have the Union Jack of the United Kingdom in the upper left corner.

But then, what do I know? I'm only a second generation Aussie (three out of four grandparents emigrated to Australia) without a history of sporting success or military service to point to. One of my grandfathers (the Australian-born one) spent WW2 in a conscientious objector camp (religious grounds; he was Christadelphian). The other was a gold miner who'd lost an eye in an industrial accident. My father was born too soon to be selected for service for Vietnam (1941), and I had the incredible bad taste to develop a fondness for history at a fairly young age, and learn a little too much of the truth of the so-called strategy behind the ANZAC engagements (let's just say the term "colossal cock-up from go to whoa" is probably a mild description here) to ever see them as particularly glorious.
Monday, January 25th, 2010 11:16 am (UTC)
And there I was thinking that the sudden lack of vast hordes of poisonous and venomous animals was the big give-away that one was no longer in Oz.

But, yeah, the passing over oceans at hours (or days) at a stretch ought to be a pretty good give-away too.
Monday, January 25th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
Aye, for the "days" (and possibly "weeks" or "months"), I was more thinking of "boat" than "car" ("hours" to "days" is a niche reserved for fast jets).