I have nothing against Australia Day! I am very thankful that my ancestors decided to risk life and limb to get here by boat in the mid1800s, and the couple of convicts that have turned up in the family tree. I also empathise with the Indigenous Aborigines that the first settlement landings were an invasion that impacted greatly on their lifestyles and tribal systems. However, there is little I can do about that now, as here we are, and here we stay. So maybe it is just a matter of everyone agreeing that yes, these things happened, and moving on, albeit to separate ways of commemoration.
I live in one of the world’s most livable countries. We are financially sound, have low unemployment, great social welfare and medical systems. We were, until our current government – who will not be around much longer hopefully – the envy of the world! But we still have our “cringe” factor, though it is no longer a convict ancestry!
In fact, none of it is even Australian made. Our new “cringe” is an over-abundance of flag, and flag-inspired accessories and accoutrement. It is people wearing flag tee-shirts and boardshorts, almost undoubtedly with polyester Aussie flag boxer shorts underneath, topped with a Daily Telegraph (how hypocritical) free-with-every-newspaper flag bucket hat on their head, sitting under a flag umbrella, with a flag tablecloth, eating off flag paper plates, and wiping their mouths with flag paper serviettes. Their kids will be running around in identical outfits, with the addition of flag thongs, and waving made-in-Asia flags. In fact…it is all made in Asia. How perseveres these Asian manufacturers must think we are! Out in the ‘burbs, young etHnic boys, thinking they are showing off their Australianism, will be wearing the flag as a cloak, and clutching their Australia flag towels as they head off to the beach. It is all so kitsch…and cliche! Is this what being an Aussie has been reduced to! And to not do it!…well…that is just “unAustralian”!
No, I don’t hate the flag! I’m not overly keen on that little bit of Britain in the left top corner (in heraldry, known as thecanton), but that will be changed soon enough! I don’t object to people lining the routes for Australia Day parades, or watching the evening fireworks waving their little hand held (Asian-made) Aussie flags…though in all truthfulness I would rather see both the Australian and the Aboriginal flags together, as a show of respect and unity. It is the cheap commercialisation, the shoddy disregard and outright disrespect for the flag that I object to. To reduce it to an article of clothing, or an implement to slap some over-cooked steak and sausages on is, to my thinking, untenable!
I don’t even like people flying the Australian flag outside their homes. In my experience, those that are loudest about their patriotism are also the ones who are loudest about racism, discrimination, sexism, stigmatisation, prejudice, intolerance and racial “purity”…as if being a bogan – which they are – is something the majority of us aspire to. I remember an Australia Day street party held on the kerb outside a good friends home about 12 years ago. My friend was so glad that myself and my partner – male – turned up, as her next door neighbour was a bigot and homophobe. He was the only one there flapping a huge Aussie flag around. Yoboism is alive and well, though the yobo generation will soon have died out as well.
Whatever happened to quiet, fair patriotism? When did being an Australian – meaning someone who promoted a fair go for all, standing up for the poor, the oppressed, those suffering injustice, those being stigmatised and hated, – stop? Since when did we start to hide our compassion under an over-blown guise of patriotism? Did we learn nothing from Woomera, from Cronulla, from Manus Island? Being an Australian is not about waving flags, or purchasing over-priced supposedly patriotic products – dumped into the shopping trolley along with everything else – from your local supermarket! It is not about draping yourself in flags and dragging them through the dirt! It is an attitude, an innate “feeling” of belonging to something great! It is saying “no” to those robbing us of our freedoms, it is standing up for other peoples rights, fighting prejudice and intolerance! It is allowing everyone a “fair go”, fighting the hypocrisy of bad government, giving everyone the same rights as you expect for yourself! It is inviting your neighbour in, irrespective of colour, race, religion or sexuality! It is saying to them…welcome, and I respect you, and trust that our diversity will help us grow. It is throwing three-word-slogans to the fires of ignorance.
That is the Australia I want! Not the cliche! Not the yobo or bogan!
This Australia Day…pull it back a bit, willya! And have a great day!
Tim Alderman (C) 2015