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Saturday, 26 January 2008

Australia Day

Australia Day has caught up on me this year - lost track that it was coming. I also have to confess a degree of distance from it as an event for celebration.

Tom Cranitch in a column in Eureka Street (21 January 2008)
captures some but not all of the reasons for my distance:

As a fourth generation Australian male approaching middle-age, I must confess I do not like Australia Day. Not even the public holiday gets me excited. I am certain at some point, perhaps when I was a late teenager around the time of the bicentenary celebrations, it may have meant something to me. No more!

Critical analysis skills garnered in undergraduate Australian history subjects started the rot. The dawning realisation that the date of white settlement was not an occasion to inspire national reconciliation was a further incentive. Credible research that suggested the first few days of settlement were a veritable orgy of rapes and murder did nothing but crystallise my private loathing for the date.

What has finally tilted me ardently against the day is its growing use by Australian nationalists for the purpose of reviving perceived certainties of a rather dubious monoculture. Instead of being used for a forward-thinking and inclusive dialogue on our country's future, it heralds an opportunity for populists to hark for a return to 'good old days' Australian values with their inherent, yet cleverly disguised, divisions and power imbalances.

Aside from the white arm-banding of history evident in trying to create a national day out of a moment of imperial violence, a further element of unease arises from the fact that I am allergic to flag waving per se.

As a Christian committed, however falteringly to the way of peace, I am critical of the church's historical alignment with power to enforce the faith. On the same grounds I am critical of the record of nationalism as a justification for the sacrifice of lives on a scale that is frequently ignored.

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