credit to John Birmingham (@johnbirmingham) for his suggestion earlier this week. He made me think.
Birmo made me think about what 26 January each year means to me, and I have to be honest & say absolutely nothing. You see, I’m of a generation which didn’t kid itself, didn’t try to convince itself that it was better than it was. Didn’t run around with flags tied around it’s shoulders as capes, or thought the flag was more than what it is, a piece of cloth stitched into a pattern. We knew what we were. A young nation-state with a long way to go and a belief in how we ought to get there. Time was no constraint. The only consideration being that we arrived at a time in the future which suited us, and in a form which said precisely who we are. The Australia I see today tripped over it’s own feet in a bid to catch up to others, constantly running after others and shames itself because it feels like it’s been left behind.
Let’s consider what 26 January actually commemorates. The landing of foreign nationals on what would eventually become, some 113 years later, Australia. 26 January 1788 recalls the day eleven wooden sailing vessels gathered in what would be later named, Sydney Cove. 1,332 persons, of which 753 were ‘convicts’ and families deported from their home countries, for most often the most trivial of ‘crimes’ of the day, but primarily because they were of a class deemed unbefitting of a burgeoning, upper-class dominated, British Empire. Our progenitors were, effectively, Great Britain’s cast-offs. Colonisation came in the following decade beginning in Western Australia, and continued until the present day. Today, Australia accepts immigrants from every nation on the globe. I find myself asking whether our heritage, as a dumping ground for a class-oriented society’s detritus, is really worthy of any form of commemoration? Surely the only true Australia Day is New Years Day, as that was the day in 1901 when this nation became a federation, independent of the former colonial master.
Those who rested a guiding hand on the Good Ship Federation’s tiller were far from respectable men & women – by today’s standards – in any event, as extremely well defined by Peter Brent in yesterday’s Murdoch rag. Sixty-six years of Federation before, as a nation, we recognised that those people who had lived on this island continent for 40,000 years before European colonists arrived, actually accounted for something. As a society, we continue to struggle with the existence and recognition of a people and a culture older than any other on the planet. Just how disrespectful and self-centred are we?
Today’s Australian society does not adequate represent the Australia I’d really like to be a part of, but I was born here so I have little choice than to – as my Mother would tell me – ‘like it or lump it’. That is not to say that I can’t criticise it, or want for something better, which I do on both counts. The current generation of younger Australians, by which I refer to those of the oft declared Generation Y, in my view has lost the ideal of what a real Australian is, or at least ought to be. Who is to blame for that? Well, the parents of Gen Y are my generation. Tail-end Baby-Boomers. My own children are Gen Y. In the main, Gen Y wants what it wants right-fucking-now and refuses to accept anything less. It is gullible and easily manipulated. Most likely because we, the Boomers, have shielded them from want because our own parents did just that for us. Remember, our parents came through a global conflict and the deprivations at home. Dad was born in 1921, Mum in 1936. I had a comfortable upbringing, hardly lavish, be we boys never needed for any of life’s necessities and received a sound, basic, public-school education. I always wanted my own kids to have more than I had, and so it must go with each succeeding generation I suppose. I’m not claiming ALL persons born between 1980 & 2000 are selfish prats, but in my experience, a great many are. It’s Gen Y’s kids this nation will really have to watch carefully in decades to come. I believe we, the Boomer generation, have failed to adequately instil the essence of the real Australia in our children.
In my estimation, it’s Gen X and Gen Y which hold the most promise for this nation, and the most detriment. They’ve never had it so good, and they can’t see it. They’re being led around by political representatives elected – in the main – by those of us aged 50 & over. Parents influence their children’s attitudes and philosophies so while the age demographic in Australia is weighted as a median towards 36 years, those median attitudes have been influenced by the demographic which bore them. Us, the Boomers. A reality which makes me inordinately sad because I’d always believed that my generation understood the ethos of the greatest good, for the greatest number. Egalitarianism, the ‘fair-go’ and ‘to each their own’. Clearly, based on the sharpening societal and attitudinal divide which exists in this country presently, as a nation we no longer believe in such trivialities. We seem to be far more interested in ‘Australia for Australians’, telling folks to ‘Fuck Off, We’re Full’ and jingoistic constructs such as borders, flags and the worn-out anachronism, ‘National Interest’. Surely, the national interest is all about building this nation as one that accepts all races, beliefs and opinions, moving into a brighter future with positive attitudes, instead of bemoaning pallid economic outlooks which don’t exist and shunning those who aren’t white, Anglo-Celtic, Christians as somehow a threat to the continuance of a culture which really doesn’t understand itself anyway.
Our politicians are at fault, of any stripe or philosophy. We elect them, yet they are self-absorbed in their own ideological power battles, as opposed to leading and providing right & proper examples of the true Australia. I’ve voted Labor all my life because to me, it represents those qualities I elucidated above, and are so dear to me. The ALP of today is a sad and faded shadow of what I grew up with, believing in. It may claim to be the party of the working man, but Labor abandoned the worker sometime in 2000, as I recall. Liberalism is no longer Liberalism as projected by Menzies or Burke or Mill. Liberalism in this country is asleep. A sleep of the catatonic. What purports to be Liberalism today is in reality, Social Conservatism, and a particularly bloody-minded brand of it. Social Conservatism is anything but ‘social’ and cares nothing for the greater societal good, only for the elite believers in a status quo of their own creation. Labor, the once powerful voice of the little people, the 99%, has seen fit to mirror social conservatism in areas it feels most politically tactical. In doing so, Labor has abandoned those it purports to support and sullied the ideals I had instilled in me by my parents, and their parents, right back to the Stewart descendants my family rose from. And we should celebrate a society which has become the anti-thesis of what I’ve worked towards all my life?
In a great many ways, and this occurred to me just this morning as I pondered this piece, Australia is in many ways like Douglas Adams’ Golgafrincham ‘B’ Ark. An eclectic combination of disconnected beliefs all striving for the attention of the Captain, who simply wants to continue with his bath. Readers of this tome will understand what I mean, especially in relation to the studies I’d made of attitudes run up against in social media. There was a time when opinions & attitudes were exchanged and engaged with over a piece of charred meat, a bun, salad vegetables & a cold alcoholic drink. There was a time when people could actually talk to each other without questioning each others parentage or threatening legal action because opinions differed. These days, with the advent of technology which doesn’t require real people to interface other than from behind a keyboard & flat-screen monitor, a new form of courage has arisen which is most definitely NOT of the Australia I know. The Internet Troll has arisen, intent on either disrupting civil discourse, or ensuring only one brand of opinion is ever aired. No fairness, no egalitarian tolerance.
Today is UnAustralia Day. The day we should bemoan what we’ve become. A mob of semi-literate, angry, bigoted, intolerant, racists with next to no real desire to change, happy in our ignorance of what we could be if only we’d pull our collective head from our collective arse. “What’s that, head-up-arse?? Come here & say that, you fat-arsed prick!”. Yep, that’s what we’ve become. That, and plastic flags on cars, draped around shoulders, copious amounts of mass-produced beer, ‘mates’ who think exactly like we do and sheila’s with poor vocabularies, open legs and attitude. We’re a land of bogans, content to be bogans, led around by the nose by bogans we’re happy to elect. It is surely Un-Australian to accept something we could so easily change as society du jour, while we have so much potential to become the Australia I grew up believing we ought to be.