HAPPY, HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY!
Should we change the date of Australia day? My answer will surprise you… and annoy everyone.
On the national day of BBQs, one issuing is shaping up as the BBQ stopper of the year – unless Tony Abbott gives the queen an honorary library card at the last minute or something.
Should we change the date of Australia day?
It seems I'm like most people in Australia (according to survey data). I don't really care when it is, as long as I get my public holiday and fireworks display.
I mean, I don't have much connection to January 26. What was it? The day some inbred monarch set up a penal colony at the end of the earth, 100+ years before our actual nation was formed?
Hardly much to puff your chest out about there.
So why does the topic touch such a nerve?
I can relate to both sides. For indigenous people, it marks the beginning of dispossession and relegation to fauna status. It's a day that gave birth to a lot of sorrow over the years.
For white people (acknowledging that this term is so broad as to be almost meaningless), it feels like an attack on one of the few cultural touchstones we have in Australia.
I get it.
When we hear all the bleeding hearts and social justice warriors going on about how culturally insensitive we are for putting some sausages on a BBQ, it feels like another attack on our identity.
So you feel guilty about your history and who you are. Fine. But do you have to force your shame down our throat?
We're a young country. I know we don't have a lot to point to to be proud about. (January 26 is also the celebration of Indian independence – when they finally kicked out the British. Some bragging rights there.) For us January 26 celebrates the moment an empire became so efficient at fecking over its poor and working class, that it had to start exporting them, and misery, across the globe.
Hello aboriginal people. We brought gifts. This one's called dispossession. This one's called despair. This one's called small-pox. This one's called neck-ties in summer. And coats.
And though we got off to an inglorious start, we still feel there is a lot to be proud of.
We're a plucky nation. We punch above our weight on the world stage. Those that survived the labour pains of this nation came out tough and resourceful, pragmatic and street or bush smart.
We are by nature generous and friendly, egalitarian to a fault, and fair. Fair because we've been on the receiving end of enough toffy-nosed snobbery and injustice.
These are things to be proud of.
And an attack on Australia day, where ever it comes from, feels like another attack on our right to feel proud of who we are. Like it's the same as that elitist BS that says unless you've conquered at least half a continent, you're not really allowed to feel proud of yourself.
Unless you're driving a BMW with a weekender in Mosman, you're not really a man.
And in an economic culture that systematically undermines our pride in the name of selling us more deodorant or hatchbacks, it's just one push too far. It's impossible to stomach.
“They want to take Australia day away from us. Let 'em try.”
I get this. It's this plucky courage that I love about Australia.
And at the end of the day, while I think you have to be wilfully blind to ignore what the date actually means to indigenous people, I don't think changing the date helps.
Moving the timing so we can have mindless good times, free from any pangs of guilt, is an opportunity missed.
Think about it at a personal level.
No individual gets through life without doing things they regret – things they aren't proud of. Things that might have seemed right at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, actually weren't that cool.
I could give you 40 examples from my chequered past.
But if I were to celebrate myself (and we should all be celebrating ourselves because the only alternative is hating ourselves, and hating yourself invites all sorts of misery and misfortune into your reality – social justice warriors, looking at you.) – and so if I were to celebrate myself, it'd be empty BS if I just glossed over my mistakes.
My mistakes are part of who I am. And if I can't find peace with my mistakes then I'm afraid of making mistakes. And if I'm afraid of making mistakes, I'm a do-nothing coward.
That's no road to greatness.
And so with Australia Day, I see it as an opportunity to integrate all of our history – the good and the bad. It's childish to want to have the happy-happy joy-joy celebration all the time – or to think that happiness can even exist without sorrow.
Our national celebration should be a time to both reflect on the things that are hard to face, and on the things that we love about ourselves.
An individual who can do this is mature.
A nation that can do this is great.
So leave the date where it is. And if the social justice warriors can stop demanding that I participate in their orgy of self-hate, I can say to indigenous people that I can face up to our complete history.
Things were done that should never have been done. There is hurt and suffering that can not and should not be ignored.
Our nation was not perfect at inception. It is not perfect now. But we are on a journey together.
Greatness comes from accepting who we are. That's what Jan 26 should be about.
And just because something is a time to remember and learn from the past, does not mean it is not also a time to be grateful for what we have, and to celebrate our future.
Stop telling me its one or the other. That's the same muddled thinking that says you can't love yourself unless you're perfect.
At the same time, if you're going to say that it's a date for all Australians, then you've got to man-up and face the fact that for a lot of Australians, the date is painful.
Or, just go and change the date to May 8 (maate). Cos that's funny.
Are you facing up to your past? Are you celebrating or hating yourself?