Tuesday, 26 January 2010

I keep wondering why

some Australians are so keen to deny the past. There has been a lot of it around lately. There usually is in the lead up to Australia Day.
Now I confess Australia Day (today) does not excite me. It will be another routine day in our household. I will be getting on with some work. I will try to find time to write more than the blog post. My nephew will surface at some point and mooch on over to the shed to fix something for his mother. It will probably be an ordinary day. I really think we should give up on Australia Day.
What bothers me though are things like some people wanting Australia 'to be a republic', wanting to change the flag. and the insularity of the Honours List.
Australia is already technically a republic. This surprises many people. "No, we are not!" they will yell. They get hot under the collar and claim we are ruled from Great Britain and by Queen Elizabeth. Try and explain the legal reality and they refuse to listen. (For anyone who does want to know Australia is what is known as a 'crowned republic'. It is an entirely independent nation. The head of state is the Governor-General. The Governor-General is chosen by the Prime Minister in consultation with others. As Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations the Governor-General has a dual role and will represent the Head of the Commonwealth (Queen Elizabeth) on the appropriate occasions.)
It is often these same people who say Australia should change the flag. That Union Jack in the corner is dreadful. How can Australians allow themselves to be reminded of the colonial past?
Perhaps it is the very thing that Australians should remind themselves. Keen to remember the convicts and first explorers and to acknowledge the prior indigenous ownership of Australia they want to forget the other history of Australia, indeed they know little about it and are less than interested. They want to change the flag because it screams 'we are a colony' in their eyes. They want to blot out any reminder of the past, ignore history and tell the next generation that there is only the future. Even the present is important only so far as it impacts on the future.
All of this is supposed to help Australia take its place in the world. The current Prime Minister still behaves as if Australia is a major world power. Many of the foreign policy initiatives under his government have been aimed at getting Australia a seat on the Security Council at the United Nations. Even if Australia did (and I hope Australia does not) it would have little or no influence.
When we turn to the Australia Day Honours List it becomes clear why not. No doubt those on the list were worthy recipients. There is the usual sprinkling of businessmen, sportspeople, and 'service to...' both sport and charity with the occasional academic thrown in. (The joint winner of the Nobel now lives in America but gets a gong.) While 'multi-cultural' Australia - a concept designed to emphasise diversity rather than cohesiveness - gets a good look in there is nothing, that I can find, that emphasises or even acknowledges Australia's connection with the world.
"Becoming a republic" will not change that, in fact it will have the opposite effect. Changing the flag will not change it. That too will have the opposite effect. Some Australians seem hell bent on denying the past and ignoring the present so that they can refuse the future. They want the very opposite of what they claim they want.
It is by having a past that you have a future. Australia cannot have a future without having a past.


Rachel Fenton said...

It's much the same with families, too...

catdownunder said...

Very true!