Thought-Factory.net Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion philosophy.com Junk for code
parliament house.gif
RECENT ENTRIES
SEARCH
ARCHIVES
Commentary
Media
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
Cartoons
South Australian Links
Other
www.thought-factory.net
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Australia Day nationalism « Previous | |Next »
January 26, 2012

At the street level at Victor Harbor the flag waving celebration of Australia Day is pretty close to being one big barbie and drinks with friends and family. The flags flying on Australia Day were more noticeable this year than last year. They were on cars, on flagpoles, draped over balconies and on t-shirts. I saw a young woman sporting an Australian flag bikini on the beach. The shops were selling all kinds of flag-emblazoned merchandise, that more often that not, were made in China. Attached to some flags was the slogan: “Love It Or Leave It.”

Is this nationalism----a love of country--- a counter to the triumph of global markets: a way of adapting to, and living with global capitalism? A re-assertion of the nation-state? A pride in being Australian? It's a puzzle since the Australian flag has a Union Jack in the top left corner. That signifies the country’s colonial status.

Australian flag.jpg

It's also a puzzle because January 26 is an odd day to celebrate a National Day--belonging to the nation with which we identify--- since it is the day of the arrival of the first fleet and therefore the establishment of the colony of NSW—what meaning does that have for Victorians or South Australians? Or West Australians? Or Tasmanians? How do they respond to 'love it or leave it'.

Australia Day is less about a date and more about national unity, national identity, and belonging. In nationalistic rhetoric the nation is often represented as living within a specific natural territory that has nurtured its people which in turn have gained special national characteristics from living off the land.

Often this understanding of love for country is coupled with the assertion that there are “real Australians,” as opposed to others who are held to be driving the country into a ditch. We could call this a Tea Party nationalism, as it is an ethnic based nationalism that excludes those deemed not to be ‘real Australians’.

Groups tend to define themselves not by reference to their own characteristics but by exclusion, that is, by comparison to “strangers.” The exclusion of the other in Australia has historically fractured along racist lines. This maybe a minority view, but its there, and it constantly surfaces around Aboriginal-Australians, Muslim-Australians and asylum seekers.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:24 PM | | Comments (7)
Comments

Comments

That some expressions of nationalism are crass and pointless and even aggressively racist can be conceded without fatally damaging the idea of the nation-state or denigrating Australians' national feelings overall. There are also deep feelings of national identification and pride in what Australians have created over the last 200-odd years. I am not about to throw that baby out with the bathwater of silly fireworks and too many beers.

I would certainly, however, like to see Australians' nationalism re-focussed on real national achievements, like the creation of a more egalitarian society than most in the so-called "West", an achievement which we seem intent on throwing away.

And let us not forget that it is the nation-state which affords what democratic institutions we have. With all their flaws (which are many), our democracy is intimately associated with the nation-state. An attack on nationalism can easily be translated into an attack on democracy.

"That some expressions of nationalism are crass and pointless and even aggressively racist can be conceded without fatally damaging the idea of the nation-state or denigrating Australians' national feelings overall."

The Cronulla race riots in Sydney come to my mind.

It appears that it was the flag burning by a few aboriginal demonstrators -that really brought out the anti- aboriginal rights prejudice in the mainstream media.

Australia Day 2012 does reflect one fundamental divide in democratic Australia and it expresses the unease about cultural diversity by those place a strong emphasis on national identity, national purpose, or a national culture.

There were few Aboriginal flags flying in 2012.

The blue ensign became the official Australian flag in 1954. As Henry Reynolds observes at Inside Story the Britishness of the flag was re-emphasised in 1954 with the passage of the Flags Act, which for the first time declared the blue ensign to be Australia’s national flag. He adds:

But in doing so the preamble of the act declared that the Australian flag was the British blue ensign. And if it was the British blue ensign then it must still be so. No other interpretation seems possible. It is, therefore, a very odd symbol to be carried about and worn by true-blue patriots who demand you love it or leave.The Union Jack in the quadrant declared that Australia, though federated, was still subject to British sovereignty.

He adds that the flag displayed the reality of the constitutional relationship between the two countries. It was an entirely appropriate flag in 1901. It ceased to be once the Empire fragmented.

It was for this reason that so many of the British colonies took down the old colonial flag and ran their own distinctive banner up the flag pole at independence. On any objective assessment the blue ensign is a very strange flag for an independent, self-confident middle-sized power like Australia.

George, changing the flag wouldn't benefit Australia or Australians one iota. And as for it's being a blue ensign, well, it maybe was once but it's the Australian flag now.

http://www.australiaday.org.au/australia-day/history/beginnings.aspx

 "So strongly did some emancipists feel about being Australian that the anniversary dinner in 1837 was for only the Australian-born"

Thought it worth sharing.

"The shops were selling all kinds of flag-emblazoned merchandise, that more often that not, were made in China."

no matter. What is important is that there is no end in sight for the mining boom driven by China's growth. They--- those who say we have gained special national characteristics from living off the land---believe that they are protected against the problems in Europe and elsewhere.

Anyone who points out the risks--eg., mining booms are finite and end suddenly--- is dismissed as a pessimist and doomsayer. They are unAustralian. Love it or leave.