Monday, 25 January 2010

the last refuge of the scoundrel?

According to the dictionary, I'm a patriot.
According to my heart, I'm a patriot.

Why, then, on the eve of Australia Day, do I feel so disconnected from so many fellow-travellers?
Why do 'Aussie patriots' almost invariably piss me off?
You know, the ones who 'protest their faith' so loudly, so colourfully, so trenchantly … so feverishly?
The ones who believe love of one's country can be expressed only in terms of hate?
The ones who express their national 'pride' by using a national symbol as fancy-dress while getting shit-faced drunk and declaiming 'love' for a nation which has never really existed?
Why would I happily ship these xenophobic oxygen thieves to a yet-to-be-invented Australian version of Gitmo Bay, never to return?
Coz, you know, FUCK OFF! WE'RE FULL.

I must admit, I've never really liked 'our flag' for aesthetic reasons.
Sorry, I don't think it's 'beautiful'. Despite a couple of redeeming features, it's ugly.
But I understand it. I acknowledge its history. I respect it as a symbol for many things, bad and good.
I've never seen it as a weapon (or a fashion statement) to be used for purposes of team-bonding, intimidation and exclusion.

Appended is an extract from recent article (posted up this morning) by Marieke Hardy on a 'newish' phenomenon (fad?) which I feel has really gained traction over the past 10 or 15 years - and, perhaps, is yet to peak.
To paraphrase, The Ugly (confrontational exclusionist) Australian is enjoying a new lease of popularity.

I have little doubt John Howard sowed the seeds - standing on the shoulders of an hysterical sacrificial lamb known as Pauline Hansen - but seriously, folks, Honest John's broader target market had every opportunity to turn away, ashamed at the divisive, supremacist agenda of a national leader.
This era of Fugly Nationalism may well prove to be his most pervasive legacy.
Yes, more recently, his successor Kevin Rudd has had ample opportunity to publically disown the fugliness devolving from the Howard model.
In not doing so, he's a collaborator.
Yet this really isn't the time for an argument over who to blame … it's time to grapple with the matter, to strive for a better quality of 'patriotism'.

Blue singlet patriotism gets a little off-colour

Walking down the main street of Tamworth the other morning - gamely dodging yodelling couples in his 'n' hers double denim begging for loose change - I passed a man wearing a rather fetching navy blue singlet. Written on the front were the following words: "THIS IS AUSTRALIA. WE EAT MEAT, DRINK BEER, AND SPEAK F-CKIN' ENGLISH!" My first thought - outside of "I wonder if he's single/looking?" - was that it must mean January 26th was just around the corner. Of course, I realised with a start: Australia Day is upon us. Time for those racist t-shirts to be dusted off and paraded about by small-dicked rednecks.

It may be frowned upon to burn the Australian flag, but wearing it as a cape whilst off one's face on Bundy and dry is fine, apparently. So is wrapping it around your head as a turban, pinning it around your tits as a boob tube, and writing "If You Don't Love It - Leave" underneath to deter pesky gatecrashers threatening your way of life (said product advertised as follows on a shopping website: "A fantastic way to publically (sic) show your pride in our great country ... with ATTITUDE!"). It's not racism, god forbid we call it that. No, it's patriotism, a thumb in the face of those fussy UnAustralianlt;sup>(TM) types, a way for true-blooded men and women to unite against a common enemy: fear.

And overall it's a great pity, as I am very fond of my country. I like the people in it, I like the frank, robust way they speak. I like the inimitable, flat, overcooked air of our childhood summers and the impetuous, heart-on-sleeve way in which neighbours rush to assist others in times of natural disaster. But the last thing I'm going to do on Australia Day is wave a flag or get some sort of idiotic boxing Kangaroo tattooed to my calf. Because the very idea of national pride has been soiled by the t-shirt wearers who disguise hate in the name of allegiance. And I don't know if we'll ever get it back.

Yes, I agree with Ms Hardy.
We're not alone. Many others have noticed this trend.

What are we going to do about it? What can we do?
Is this cultural shift, indeed, the shape of things to come?


Chilliwitch said...

I completely agree, on a less intense note, I was eating a curry in an extremely multicultural food court the other day, and commented to my friend " I hope all the idiots who get drunk and berate anyone who isn't their definition of Australian, stop to think what their diet would be like without the wave of brave migrants who gave us a try? no gyros when coming home drunk, no pizza to watch the football, no falafels etc etc, or do they just think that these things appeared like magic?
Every time I try a new ingredient or new recipe I thank these people and hope they realise that there are a great many of us, who welcome them and wish them well- we just don't happen to be wearing Australian flags on every possible surface- Tamara

Conroy'sNemesis said...

Cheers Tamara.
There's no doubt our 'shared' culture is becoming more robust, interesting and enjoyable over time, thanks to such a diversity of influences.

Some further thoughts which I recorded yesterday …
To be honest, I think it's taken a while to comprehend what's going on. (It certainly has for me.)
Aside from the dumber-than-dumb, exclusivist and aggressive nationalism that, year-by-year, shows no signs of abating, there have been a few hints that we are flirting with some pretty dark stuff.

I saw the One Australia Party as representative of the death-throes of racist policies. I was wrong.
Boat-people presumed 'guilty' without trial by 'an advanced democracy': by its executive; by its electorate.
I saw the Cronulla riots as an aberration at the time … but find myself waiting for the next series. We'll see.
I saw the Federal 'intervention' in the NT as an act of vision and compassion by a benevolent government, but now have serious doubts about those motives too.
And so on.

I've noticed a groundswell of concern over recent years – largely from people who feel too intimidated to speak out.
Admittedly, in the great Aussie tradition, apathy plays a role as well. ;)

What concerns me most is that the flood of 'Fugly Patriotism' continues to sprawl and is yet to peak.
At present it is largely distinguished by unsophisticated symbolism and serial displacement activities – noisy, self-satisfied bravado by a pack of under-achievers – but has demonstrated potential to do real damage.