Saturday 5 July 2008

I feel majorly uncomfortable on Australia Day. All the flag waving. It's so selective about what it sees as "Australian culture". A great deal of it doesn't even exist anymore. In the same way we rode on the sheep's back for so many years, we also ride on the cultural sheep's back as well. But Australia 2008 is a vastly different place to Australia 1958. Culture is a fluid and changing thing. No country stays the same for very long, and indeed, it shouldn't. But of course, tradition is a powerful thing, and looking back has great value.

But I can't barbecue and celebrate Australia Day because I feel a total disconnect in celebrating the "founding" of a country that was in all actuality a "stealing". I would feel the same way if I was American. I'm sure that's probably pretty extreme sounding, but to me, in my paradigm shifts, it makes perfect sense. Those foundations feel rotten to me. Pretending they're different just because you don't want to see how some of the floorboards of your foundations are rotten is something akin to insanity. It is the place where the very things you fear end up coming upon you.

Of course, this could be considered a rather black and white view of things. Maybe. But it doesn't mean that you can't pick up and say, well, okay, fine. That's what happened. That's the history of my country. I didn't have any say in that - I wasn't even here! Do I need to feel guilty about what was out of my control? And this is my country, my homeland. If I can't live here, then where can I live?

I don't think those two things are different spaces. I actually think they're two sides of the same coin. You can exist in your Australian or North American country in peace even while acknowledging the usurption that went on to get you to where you are. Wheat and tares and all that, right?

In fact, I don't think you can really do the first without acknowledging and facing the second.

And this doesn't mean that people all over the US right now shouldn't be hanging out together and celebrating what they have. But it's always good to factor in the ugly into the story as well. Makes it real. Guards against propaganda.


  1. Sue, the land that I live in was stolen also and then a lot of it developed on the backs of people that weren't allowed to an equal share at all actually.

    I had a conversation with my brother today about not wanting to live in denial any longer about the fact that I am living in the belly of the beast...yes America is as much a part of the beast (world system) as any other country. It just took me a little longer to get there than it did for me to realize it about everywhere else.

    I have been at home all day today on our independence day. tonight the girls are going to a movie and I am having a quiet evening at home. No fireworks celebration tonight for any of us.

  2. In my recent readings of Austrlian History, (which is still limited to only 3 or 4 books) it seems that much of the stealing was done in ignorance , and at least a little bit, by pure accident. When John Batman started landed at Port Philip and met with the Kulin at Merri Creek (My favourite creek in the world) He actually thought that he was buying the land from them. They thought they were just giving him permission to hunt in their land. a miscommunication with catastrophic consequences. thats not to say that Melbourne and Australia and other colonized parts of the world werent taken with the express intention of exploitation and greed of already fat Empires.

    In fact, it is said in the two books I have read about the first fleet that Aurthur Philip was given direct orders by England to not take the land with out first "negotiating" with the "natives."

    Thats why I love History.

  3. Kent - at least you're living in the belly of the beast rather than the bowels I suppose. And yet, that is part of the whole problem, isn't it? For us to live the way we do, costs someone somewhere else.

    But of course the way I'm describing it here, it sounds somehow preplanned and controlled and contrived and it's not that either. Like you describe Monk, a lot of it is in ignorance. Can we really all get about doing or not doing things in terms of how it fits into the great globalness?

    I wonder, how responsible are we for what goes on? Where do we end and the system begins?

    "Negotiating" with the "natives". Isn't it funny how many quotes we can put around tings to justify our actions? But then too, it's easy to look back through the lenses of 2008 of the actions at people in different ages and judge them by our criteria. I don't think that works.

    Actually, I think it's probably more the other way around - history informs us much more than we inform history.

  4. very well said Sue.

    I remember hearing NT Wright say that we need to ask ourselves what our descendants might be shocked about with how we were colluding with the surrounding culture of our day.

  5. I think the bottom line is we dont really know how what we are doing now will affect the future. Theres no way you could have convinced the English that what they were doing was catastrophic culturally and environmentally, in Australia, America or anywhere else. They really did believe that this land was free for the taking under the(ir) law of "terra nullius" Neither did they have an idea of creating a "society". Like most everything humans do, it was hopelessly short sighted.

    Perhaps thats why there are strange folks the Jews called Prophets. WHo have their ear to the ground and their eyes on the horizon, and their heart battered by the ugly truth...But then again, they just end up being killed or ignored for speaking anyway:)

  6. An interesting side note...

    If America was not celebrating the 4th of July, Australia may not have been celebrating their vegemite and Barbees on the 26th Janurary.

  7. I understand the mis-sightedness of the English in the way they environmentally stuffed everything up, but I balk at the thought that there wouldn't have been guilt twinges, terra nullius or no, at wiping indigenous cultures almost off the map, regardless of the paradigms of the day. Surely?

    But maybe not *shrug* It would be interesting to know what the things are, in some future age, that they would shake their heads in disbelief about. Global economy, maybe.

    I watched Lateline the other night, and at the start they're talking about the giant bits breaking off in Antarctica, and then, as per usual programming schedule, the last half was about the fucking economy, and how consumer sentiment was down or up or whatever it was, and the juxtaposition of those two things made me want to smash my head against the wall.

  8. excellent post sue. my boys and i are renaming the holiday here in the u.s. to "blow shit up day". that is what gets them excited.

  9. Rob, you crack me up. That is funny and is a perfect name for the day.

  10. yep kent - that is what gets people excited here in republic. some do go to the "god and country" events, but those who stay in town spend a bunch of money to play with fire and explosives. it was a trip, and it has been for the last four years. people spends thousands of dollars to experience that sense of childhood wonder.

  11. haha blow shit up day. you guys are so testosterone-y.

    are fireworks illegal in the States? You used to be able to buy them over the counter here in Australia, but since the eighties they've been banned. like everything else in this wowser world :)

  12. sue,

    it is up to the state and then varies even by locality in the state. in missouri fireworks are not illegal to sell and buy year round. by it is only permissible to deploy them on certain dates. in my town, the 4th is the only day it is permissible.

  13. It's illegal in most places but it is a testimony to the effectiveness of law....I mean ineffectiveness. hehe :) My dogs were freaking out all night and peeing all over the place because it sounded like a war zone in our neighorhood.

  14. Well it's illegal in your more urban areas and suburbs. Rob lives in the sticks.

  15. Oh, your poor doggies. Yes, my puppy doesn't like New Year's Eve, when there are many safe, officially sanctioned bouts of fireworks going off.

    Rob, if I was in the States yesterday, I would have come over and blown shit up with you guys cause that just sounds like FUN :)

  16. kent,

    sticks are cool too bro.


    we would have loved to have you join us. :)

  17. Interesting post Sue. Patriotism is a funny thing. In the cold light of day I take a very reasoned approach to it, but put me in the right (wrong?) circumstances and its a whole nuther thing.

    I was out on Friday with my new workmates and after a few drinks the rebel songs started to be belted out. I joined in with the best of them extolling the virtues of the dead IRA heros for whom blowing shit up day was a lifestyle.

    It amazes ans scares me how qucikly I can tap into that type of emotion.

    There was a peace process here that took ten years to work out, twenty or thirty if you include the behind the scenes work. So much hard work was put into it and real and tangible dividends for the whole country as a result. Yet nobody will ever wave flags, march or sing songs commemorating the peace. I actually heard a song one time that somebody wrote which tried to do it and it was bloody awfull.

  18. ((Stu)) Hello

    We all really want to belong, don't we? The cameraderie that comes from fighting against a common enemy - somehow it's easier to define ourselves over and against something else. Then when there's peace, you're right, we don't wave flag and march and sing about that.

    Which makes me wonder - are we just a bunch of warmongers in the end? Or is it something else that makes peace something we just take for granted?

  19. we are just a bunch of warmongers in the end. It's the defining act in all of humanity and as far as the fallen fearful mind goes, there nothing that is more powerful in holding people together in a cohesive group.

  20. That's a bit depressing, isn't it? I wonder how much Rene Girard would have to say about that. He would say that it's our imitative desires that cause our warmongering, that we desire what someone else has and that's what creates 'enemy' status in our minds. (I've probably just bastardised his theory off the planet, but it makes a lot of sense to me).

    I think Jesus might have said something similar. I know buddha did ...


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