the usual topics of conversation are appearing in the press -"national pride"/Invasion Day/Honours List/barbecues/events/Australian of the Year (Geoffrey Rush).
There are also comments on a rather odd piece of research which claims to have come to the conclusion that Australians who fly little flags on their cars are more likely to be "racist" than other Australians. I have not read the actual research so I cannot comment on the methodology or the conclusions of the researchers. It is quite possible that the research is being mis-reported I suppose. Newspapers often seem to get things wrong. I should know. I have been the victim of misreporting more than once.
However it seems an odd sort of topic to research - and how on earth do you go about it. Is it really possible to measure levels of "racism"/"nationalism"/"tolerance"/"multiculturalism"/ "diversity" etc. I acknowledge that the most extreme versions of some of these things are recognisable and they can lead to dreadful things but how do you actually measure them? By membership of a group deemed "radical" by a majority and/or by actions which harm others? Or is there some other measure?
Australians do not fly their flags the way Americans do but the number of Australians flying flags on their cars for Australia Day has increased in recent years. Does this mean "racism" has increased? People have been encouraged to do it. Does this mean "racism" is being encouraged? Small flags (usually made in China) are much easier to get than they once were. I could have bought one hundred or more small flags in the local "cheap" variety shop. People were buying them too.
Children get their faces painted to look like the Australian flag. People wear "flag" clothing and carry their beer to the beach in a "flag" cooler - travelling in their "flag" decorated car. I doubt racism enters their heads and they are probably no more or less tolerant than most Australians.
So, what was the research actually about?
Australia apparently has a problem with its flag. Well, it has two flags. That is perhaps part of the problem.
There is a flag which has been adopted by "indigenous" Australians. It is black/gold/red. It is simple. It is distinctive. It is a political statement and, even among indigenous Australians it causes some controversy but it is flown, in among other places, in Victoria Square in an indication that it is "accepted". I do not think those who say it is theirs would be too happy about all Australians adopting it.
There is also the flag with the Union Jack in one corner and the Southern Cross. It reflects the history of the majority of Australians - or the history that people have chosen to adopt. It is this flag which seems to cause some problems. There is a small minority of people who want to see this changed. They have run competitions to design a new flag. They tell Australians that their flag is "a relic of our colonial past" and that "it does not reflect the values of the Australian people". They say a great many other negative things about the Australian flag and those who support it. There is even the suggestion that Australia cannot become a nation in its own right until it "becomes a republic and has its own flag".
Australia already is a republic of course. It just happens to call the president a Governor-General and that person is appointed by the parliament rather than elected by the people - although republicans insist that the Governor-General is appointed by the Queen. Australia already has its own flag. It reflects the history of modern day Australia. It acknowledges the past but the Southern Cross places it squarely in the present, looking to the future. We could change it to something green and gold with a kangaroo and a boomerang in the middle but it would not change the past, merely deny it. It is not a good thing for nations to deny their history.
So, if flying the flag is "racist", is this perhaps more to do with the perceptions of those who
find the flag offensive?