Jan 24, 2014

Posted by in Ramblings

So Why Can’t We All Rejoice?

So Why Can’t We All Rejoice?

Sorry, been away, been busy, not slacking, shut up.

So, in a couple of days it will be Australia Day.  A day that celebrates the country Australia.  If you’ve not heard of it, it’s down the bottom.  It’s where Rupert Murdoch’s from, but there’s also koalas, so swings and roundabouts.

Australia Day itself is on January 26th.  Now, my international friends, to the significance of this date.  It’s a bit different to other national days.  No, it’s not like July 4th, the day of independence.  It doesn’t mark the beginning of a revolution and unity like they do each July 14th in France.  And it’s not something a bit fun and nuts either, like celebrating a Christian who slayed a dragon like the English do, albeit without a day off.  No, it’s the day the First Fleet arrived, in 1788, and raised the Great British flag on Australian soil.  If you ask most Australians, and by that I genuinely mean more than 50%, they will say January 26th 1788 is when Australia was first discovered.

Australia Rock ArtThis is a piece of rock art discovered in the Northern Territory.  It’s been dated to around 28 000 years ago.  Now, I’ll grant you, maths has never been my strongest subject but I think that predates 1788.  There’s no argument there.  Australia was not discovered in 1788.  End of story.  In fact this week you could buy shirts from a major retailer that said Australia est. 1788 on them.  You can’t buy them anymore as, thankfully, there are just enough right minded Australians to cause an online storm.

So the question is, why is that Australia’s National Day?  The argument is generally boiled down to, ‘Well it’s just Australia’s Day, the date’s not important.  It celebrates all Australians’.  Ripper.  Bonza. Other strine words.  So if the date’s not important, move it.

‘Can’t mate.  It’s always been January 26’.

‘But you just said the date’s not important’.

‘It’s not.  So tell that to the abos’.

‘Ah, right, sorry, I didn’t see the Southern Cross tattoo on your face earlier, but I see it now, as you were’.

‘Are you fucking UnAustralian or something?’

‘Well I don’t really like lamb but I do like Aussie Rules ‘.

Then his or her bogan head would probably explode from the paradox leaving behind nothing but a tattered, smoking Jack Daniels singlet.  Tennessee whiskey is Australian by the way.  It’s a complex, fluid system.

Anyway, many people view January 26th as Invasion Day, not Australia Day.  I am one of them.  I am not aboriginal.  To celebrate the nation on this day, to me, is flat out unnecessarily offensive and embracing of a dark period in world history.  It’s always sat uneasy with me.  Yes, when I lived in that brown land I attended fireworks and barbeques on January 26th, because that’s when it was, but I always felt it an odd date.  I was always a bit grumpy about it and not just because I don’t really like fireworks.

Why not pick a new date that isn’t offensive or indeed celebratory of an invasion and mass slaughter of other humans?  How about January 1, the day of Federation?  ‘Can’t mate, that’s already New Years’.  Ok, fine, April 25th, when all Australians come together to remember those lost in conflict.  All conflict, not just WWI and II.  ‘Nah, mate, ANZAC Day needs it’s own day’.  Ok, sure, how about a random new date in the middle of the year, and then really call it Australia Day, a randomly selected day for all Australians. ‘Nah mate, we can’t have fucking fireworks in winter can we ya daft prick’.  You’re right.  My priorities are a disaster.  I honestly cannot grasp what the problem with moving the date is.  Keeping it as is seems utterly indefensible under any sort of logic or common decency and yet people fight tooth and nail for it.

My point is not about Australia Day itself, it’s about a national attitude to Australia Day, and things like it.  This ridiculous sense of earned pride based on the country your Mum happened to birth you in.  Like you worked thirty years in a field so you could go back in time and be born in a particular place.  It’s bollocks.  If you were born in the Middle East, you wouldn’t still have a V8, you’d have a veil.  Environment determines these things, not some sort of latitudinal genetics.  Nationality is useful in terms of fun rivalries in sport and paperwork for taxation purposes.  And probably some other stuff but they’re the main ones.

Ok, take a look at the current allegations of torture levelled at the Royal Australian Navy by asylum seekers.  Most of the country, the damn government included, have taken the attitude of no investigation being required.  The RAN said it’s all good and that’s good enough for most people.  What the utter fuck?  ‘Did you torture those people?’  ‘Nup’.  ‘Fair enough then’.  

Last year after Adam Goodes, a star AFL footballer, was racially vilified by a young fan, it seems most of the country thought he was a ‘fucking girl’ for getting upset about it.  ‘She’s only a little kid, man up’.

Look at the fact that over 60% of the country, LAST YEAR, voted for Tony Abbott.

Australia, like many countries to be fair, has a horrific past when it comes to racism.  From the treatment of refugees to the stolen generation and so on.  But Australia seems to have an utterly bewildering reluctance to acknowledge it.  People got annoyed that the last government apologised to the Stolen Generation.  People, including the media, got very publicly furious the government apologised that previous governments had taken children from their mothers to ‘breed the black out of them’. That’s like someone in America going on Letterman and saying it was better when they had slaves.

Now much of the media runs a campaign of lies, bullshit and a complete lack of evidence about the ‘hordes of boat people’ invading Australia.  People say things like, ‘They’re coming over here, taking our jobs and living off benefits’.  How’s that work then genius?

If you divided the country into three sections, the racists, the ‘I’m not a racist but Australia isn’t a racist country, we just have a lot of problems with immigrants’ and the people who aren’t aresholes, that third group could basically book a small table in a pub and all have lunch together on a Sunday.  Am I generalising?  Yes.  Massively.  Let’s see if that particular irony is picked up on…

Which brings me back to Australia Day.  There is a large amount of either indifference or intolerance to changing the date. Why, why, why, why, why would you not be in favour of doing something that removes some real, genuine pain for people?   Why would you openly say, ‘I don’t care’.  Why would the government want to offend people?  This not like a Ricky Gervais show where if you’re offended, you can change the channel.  It’s a NATIONAL FUCKING HOLIDAY.

Who in their right mind is emotionally attached to the day a few boats of British people turned up unannounced?  And why do the people who want Australia Day to stay on January 26 also seem to hate other boats of people arriving announced?  They can’t all have been hit with the irony stick or dropped on their heads as babies surely?

No-one wants to take your public holiday away.  No-one wants to take your ute away.  Or stop Triple M playing ‘Sounds of Then’.  Or your thongs or your VB or even the right to be a racist fucking arsehole in the privacy of your own home.  It’s the same as religion.  Pray to whoever you want at home.  This is not a complicated idea.

Stolen+Generations+Accept+Apology+Kevin+Rudd+WAet_3yLD5mlBy moving Australia Day what it does is it sets a precedent.  It puts a marker down.  It shows Australia, as a nation, gives a shit about reconciliation and racial harmony.  No, Kevin Rudd saying ‘Sorry’ in parliament didn’t change everything overnight but it sent a message to Australians, and the world. Moving Australia Day is a simple thing that would do the same.  It sends a message to kids that things are changing.  That calling Adam Goodes a ‘monkey’ is not ok.  That maybe our parents, and here I mean the parents of the country, have got it a bit wrong.

The national anthem decrees that Australia all lets us rejoice.  So why can’t we?  All of us.  On a random day that celebrates all the good things Australia has to offer and has given the world throughout history.  Aboriginal cave art.  The Great Barrier Reef.  Tim Winton.  Wombats.  Clapperboards.  Yes, the clapperboard was invented by an Australian.  See, that’s awesome.

I invite you, in the comments, to give me one ironclad reason the date should not be changed.  Just one.

Just last week I went to a ceremony where I was granted British citizenship, so I am now a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Australia.  I have lived in London since 2005 and genuinely regard it as the greatest city in the world.  Does this mean I now actively hate Australia?  No, I’m a dual citizen.  I’m not angry Australia, I’m just disappointed.  Is London so perfect then? Hell no.  Is it a place of racial harmony?  Not at all.  The difference is there a sense that we, being humanity, are trying to get better.  We are trying to stamp out the hate, the intolerance, and worst of all, the indifference.

One of the main questions I get asked by British friends here, often before they visit Australia is, ‘Is everyone really as racist as I think they are?’  The answer to the question isn’t as important as the fact that that is the first question asked.  This is the international perception.  That we are a country that has a national holiday marking an invasion with genocidal overtones.

And I’m guessing a lot of people, fronted by the international accusations of racism would sya something along the lines of ‘If they don’t like, don’t come then’.  Which is wonderful.  In fact, I remmeber not long after I moved here the whole Hey Hey It’s Saturday black face thing happened.  Now most of Australia had the predictable, ‘it’s only a joke’ reaction to it but there was one comment I read under an article about it that really summed it all up for me.  Harry Connick Jr, who was on the show, had been rightly outraged by it and had spoken up.  And in this news article about that, someone had written in the comments section, in all truthfulness, ‘Australian’s aren’t racist and if Harry Connick Jr thinks we are he can fuck off back where he came from’.

For we are young and free.  Apparently.

  1. Well said. I, too, find it unsettling that people celebrate this particular date, and that they call it Un-Australian if anyone raises a well-pondered objection. So, apparently, being Australian means celebrating ignorance, indifference, and intolerance. Don’t forget, however, that some of these conscientious objectors (to changing the date – they clearly don’t object to warfare or genocide), will gleefully post “Sorry” to their Facebook pages on May 26th. Hmmm, is that a sorry for our Settlers’ actions & attitudes, for our past governments’ attempts at racial cleansing, or is that an apology for celebrating that ugly past by calling that celebration “Proud to be Australian”?! Yep, well done Australia :-/

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