Jan 252011

January 26, tomorrow. Apparently Australia Day, but what is it really?

January 26 annually is supposedly the day our nation was founded. WRONG! If history is correct, it’s the anniversary of the day a collective of criminals, according to a draconian culture and legal system, and their jailers disembarked from their ships on the shores of this land. Australia, as it was to become, began as a penal colony with bugger all support and even less responsibility on behalf of the mother country, Great Britain. That we who descend from those first colonists, jailbirds, and subsequent immigrants have progressed this nation to statehood, albeit under the continuing supervision of Great Britain’s monarch, is a superb feather in our own caps. But is it something worth celebrating on the anniversary of one nation dumping it’s criminal underclass on the shores of what we, immigrant descendants, have made? I don’t believe so.

My sentiments don’t and cannot encompass those of the original Australians. The Aboriginal. Stupid nominative for a culture older than any other on the planet. The word itself means original inhabitant. I often wonder what the original inhabitants of this country called themselves. Is January 26 “invasion day” as some among the original inhabitants would have it? Pretty much so in my view, but as I say, I can’t encompass their sentiments into my own. I’m not of them, and never will be.

Do I disdain Australia Day? Yes, I do. It’s jingoism at the expense of a culture. It’s ardent nationalism which among the human species only ever leads to conflict. “we’re better than you, because we are who we are”. What a load of horse shit! The ‘we’ such morons tout is the exact same ‘we’ as Homo sapiens sapiens, yet as a species, we persist in telling others of our own kind that some of us are better than others. Where is the rationality in that? Quite plainly there is none. Ergo, celebrating irrationality, jingoism, rampant nationalism is illogical. Even moronic.

I’m not a patriot. Patriotism has no meaning for me. I’m a citizen of the planet, a member of a species. One which is flawed, ignorant and arrogant so really, what is there to be patriotic about. What we ought to be doing as planetary citizens is the best we can for our fellow human beings, and all other inhabitants of this planet. Carl Sagan said it best as he described our planet caught by Voyager 1 as a mote of light from beyond the edge of the solar system.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

Makes patriotism so insignificant, doesn’t it. For me, Australia Day is a day off work, a sleep in and probably a little yard work followed by a cold ale. It’s just a day.

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