Nationalism isn’t about unity; it’s about division. It’s about impressing a stereotyped view of the majority onto the entire population as an ideal for who they should be. Here in Australia, those that don’t fit this caricature (nearly everyone when it comes down to it) are criticised as un-Australian.
There’s only one thing that makes you an Australian:Australian citizenship. You don’t have to drink beer. You don’t have to watch cricket. You don’t have wear double pluggers. You just have to have been either born here, born to Australian parents, or naturalised after immigration. As an Australian your only obligations are to observe the law, vote in elections, and pay your taxes. You don’t need to speak with an Australian accent or share the same views as everyone else.
The concept that there are some things that are Australian and that these must be preserved reeks of prescriptive cultural superiority. Isn’t a good Australian simply a model citizen? Surely a naturalised Iraqi-born immigrant who strictly obeys all laws is a better citizen than an ocker fifth-generation larrakin who routinely commits minor crimes. Which one is more Australian? Some would argue that the larrikin is exhibiting Australian cultural characteristics, but not adhering to Australian Values.
Aspiring to possess Australian Values is misguided. We should be considering how to be good people, rather than good Aussies (with a strong monocultural bias). A “fair go” and “mateship” are qualities to aspire to, but they are better described as “justice” and “solidarity”. Unnecessarily Australianising fundamental moral concepts gives the false impression that they are unique to Australians (when they are actually universal).
I was compelled to write this post after yet another distressing Australia Day. Aside from the awfully hot weather (over 40 degrees celcius here in Perth) and my being sick at the time, I was again confronted by the abhorrent racism and xenophobia I’ve learnt to associate with Australia Day.
At Australia Day a few years ago I was on a train and saw a bunch of young men (wearing Australian flags as capes) lean over an Asian lady with two young children. One of them yelled to her face:
This is Australia Day, not fucking… China Day!
and was greated with cheering from his mates (while most other people on the train did their best to try to look away).
This year, I was walking through Perth with Heidi and a young woman prodded her boyfriend when she saw some Asian Australians celebrating Australia Day:
Haha, look at the Asians! With their Australian flags.
Many people say that this sort of behaviour is racism or xenophobia under the guise of nationalism. I assert that nationalism is necessary divisive and gives creedance to such attitudes and behaviour. What the difference really? Isn’t it really just saying we are better than others rather than saying others are not as good as us?
Pride in something you have no control over (eg. the achievement of other Australians, or the natural beauty of a country) is absurb. Linking morality and personal value to a cultural stereotype is absurd. Promoting “being Australian” as anything more than simply being a good citizen is divisive and grossly irresponsible.