Saturday, 26 January 2008

It's Australia Day

It’s Australia Day, so it’s timely to look at our national identity.

In answer to the question – “Who are we?” this piece in The Age Online is interesting,

The truths are all around us. The recent years of drought, accompanied now by great floods in the north, have reinforced the essential knowledge that Australians survive in a tough environment by personal resilience and a willingness to help each other.

There’s an irony in the discussion itself. I’ve always understood that one of the most attractive aspects of the Australian psyche is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. As a baby boomer, I’ve grown up with this. We don’t celebrate our national day with the kind of fervor evident across the Pacific. In my street, it’s the exception rather than the rule to celebrate today.

I’m perfectly happy in this. To me, being Australian is almost matter-of-fact. I don’t need to get in anyone’s face about it. For me, to do so would be un-Australian.

Nor do we get hot under the collar about the issue. Again, this is part of the deal. This is why I regard what happened in Cronulla a few years ago as un-Australian.

Unfortunately, from my point of view, there is a manufactured pseudo-nationalism being forced on us. It originates in commercial and political interests. In the former, it’s about making a dollar – in the latter about wrapping politicians in the flag to gain kudos.

Both are completely ersatz. Again, from The Age -

The ability to change, thus, may prove to be our most worthwhile characteristic, for it speaks of the hope that we can be better, whatever we might argue about around the barbecue today.

If we are comfortable with change – if it’s a national characteristic - perhaps our national symbols need to be changed (our national flag, and our national anthem). The current flag has the flag of another nation imposed. It’s only a symbol, but I‘d suggest that any nation that displays another country’s flag on its own hasn’t grown up. The Eureka flag is my nomination.

Our national anthem should be God Bless Australia, to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. Why? – Because of its authenticity, and also because it’s a great and simple tune. Any digger will tell you that it’s a phenomenal marching tune – no matter how footsore you may be.

I’m not too fussed about the words – currently they’re banal. Maybe there should be a competition to create something a little more contemporary.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...