Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Australia Day

Australia Day. The 26th of January, a public holiday Australia-wide. It commemorates the day, back in 1788, that Captain Arthur Phillip rowed ashore from his ship, the HMS Supply, and formally claimed this land in the name of King George III. It is clearly an important date in this nation's history, and in the history of all Australians descended from Europeans. It is the date that got us here in the first place.

Yet I find myself unwilling to celebrate our national day, or even care much about it. I look around and I wonder what this Great Southern Land would be like without us, and sometimes I can't help but conclude it would be nicer. I'm not talking about Aboriginal rights or the fact that they were disregarded and slaughtered by white men, although that is also pretty heinous. I'm just talking about what we've made of the country, our culture, our contribution to the world stage.

We are, in European terms, a young country. Our history is short, although glorious - our contribution to worldwide efforts such as World Wars I and II was pretty awesome. We are an isolated country, geographically; we are (at least in our minds) hard to get to and hard to communicate with. We are a country of wide open spaces, and sprawling cities.

We are also a nation of beer-swilling bogans, self-important nobodies, and nationalistic racists. We so strongly believe ourselves to be the best country on earth that we behave in a way that negates any merit that idea had. We are proud of our "Australian values" which in reality are shared by people worldwide. We don't want to become like America, but we are doing exactly that more and more each day.

I read the news most days, and accordingly I find it very difficult to be happy about my country or my countrymen. For such an apparently great nation where everybody is happy and we're all mates, we do an awful lot of shitty things to each other. We hurt and endanger each other daily, we are rude and inconsiderate, we even kill ourselves to get away from it all.

Let's not allow patriotism and the Australia Day celebrations to blind us to the problems we still face and the issues that must be addressed. We could indeed be a great country, and we could meet our own expectations, but only if every single one of us wanted to.

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