BLOWN TO THE LEFT IN A COLD WIND OF CHANGE
Until recently the only concept I had of being ‘left’ in any sense was being left handed. Since I am not a violinist it has never caused me huge problems, except when signing books at author functions. Nobody wants an ink smudged title page.
It is quite a shock to suddenly find myself labelled a political ‘leftie’ on social media. Honestly, I have never attended a political protest or a demonstration in my entire (quite long) life. This is not something I’m proud of, just a fact. I have simply floated along as a far too complacent ‘small l’ liberal. My Facebook posts are usually about the birds and flowers in my garden. However, I now appear to be getting up more noses than the musician in the cartoon.
What has caused this shift? One issue is the feelings I expressed over Australia Day. It has long been celebrated on January 26, the day of the arrival in Port Jackson of the First Fleet. Now understandably, many of our indigenous people regard this in a very negative light. For those who watched them arrive , those ships brought all manner of horrors, which I surely do not need to catalogue here
I feel great sadness and yes, shame, for the ongoing disadvantages the first Australians continue to suffer. However, I don’t feel any personal guilt about white settlement. After all, it was the British who claimed the land as theirs, for the purpose of establishing a distant dumping ground for their convicts. But this doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate the celebration of January 26 as our national day.
Seriously, what is the big deal about changing the date? I don’t mean in a practical sense, but ideologically? I simply don’t understand. We changed the White Australia policy. We changed the words of our national anthem to make it more inclusive and relevant. We overwhelmingly voted in the 1967 referendum to include Aborigines in the census ( dear me, how shocking that this took so long). We voted overwhelmingly for same sex marriage. The following is worth remembering too;
1994! I must admit I was surprised by this…… hardly an age old tradition. I was aware that my Baby Boomer generation did not grow up celebrating January 26.
I found Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s reaction to the suggestion of change childish and offensive;
Just who was he referring to when he said, ‘They don’t like Christmas’? I have a horrible feeling that I know.
More broadly, I find myself speaking out against the rise of nationalism and the far right around the world. There is increasing support for people such as Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and our own Pauline Hanson. It makes me frightened for the future, well perhaps not so much for my own future, but for the younger generation. I understand that the issues of immigration and the refugee crisis are complex , but surely we can try to act with a bit of humanity.
I am the administrator and founder of the Facebook site, Australian Social History. If someone applies to join and their profile pic is an Australian flag I feel an immediate frisson of alarm. With a bit of luck I am able to check their personal page. All too often there are hateful, racist memes posted there. It’s sad, but I no longer feel the same pride and affection for our flag. I am tired of seeing it wrapped around drunken louts on Australia Day and ANZAC Day, or appropriated as some jingoistic banner. Do I condone the radical element who set fire to the flag on Australia Day? Of course not. I was infuriated with them, and sick at heart. I feel the same way when anti Australia Day protestors damage public property or scrawl hateful slogans on buildings.
Comments under this repulsive meme suggested that Pauline Hanson would get our country back. Really? Back from where …..and from whom?? To be honest, I want it back from intolerant, jingoistic people.
How times have changed since I set off to the 2000 Sydney Olympics proudly decked out in my Aussie gear. I would never do this now, and not just because I looked a bit of a goose! By the way, I’m not suggesting that other people should feel differently about the flag., just explaining why I do.
FOOTNOTE – Mr Joyce, sometimes you have to differentiate between political correctness, and simply the correct thing to do. And if you disagree, perhaps you could do so in a more measured and respectful way. Warren Mundine, as chairman of the Australian Government’s Indigenous Advisory Council, argued the case for change in the date of Australia Day with contrasting grace and dignity. Here is the piece he wrote, We must stop celebrating Australia Day on January 26.
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