Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day

January 26 is Australia Day, our national day on which we commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the entire eastern seaboard of Australia. To some it is a controversial occasion - they see it as a celebration of the destruction of indigenous culture by British colonialism.

However, most Australians embrace the day as an opportunity to gather with friends and family, to go to the beach or out into nature, to share a barbecue, maybe to reflect on our good fortune in living in such a blessed, affluent country. If we have any pangs of guilt, they are assuaged by the thought that the colonial invasion took place over 200 years ago, when the strong oppressed the weak as a matter of course.

One phenomenon which has gained traction in recent years is the flying of the Australian flag from little flagsticks attached to the roof or windows of the family car. I can't help but feel a little uneasy at this trend, at this seeming need to proclaim one's patriotism. Such displays are rife - 365 days of the year - in Occupied Palestine: blue and white Israeli flags fly from settlers' cars, from settlers' homes and from street-posts on settler-only roads throughout the colonised areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a never-ending, arrogant display of possessiveness.

This overt, in-your-face Australinity (see masculinity) coincides with an upswing in intolerance towards Australians of Middle Eastern origin, particularly Muslims. The fires were fueled during John Howard's years at the helm, but they show no signs of going away - it serves the interests of too many politicians, journalists and radio shock-jocks to emphasise our differences rather than what we have in common.

Am I being too sensitive? Does this proliferation of flag-flying and flag-waving matter? I'm not sure, but it's up to all Australians to be on our guard against jingoism and ultra nationalism. After all, each and every one of us comes from migrant stock. (Of course, the indigenous Australians were here a lot longer.) This is still a lucky country. Don't let the haters take that away.


Johan Donald said...

Happy Australia Day!!!!
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