Sunday, January 20, 2008

Caricaturing Australia Day

The Age is pre-celebrating next Saturday, 26th January - Australia Day - in its usual asinine, hateful way with two entirely negative commentaries on the occasion.

According to these commenters there is nothing much to celebrate – we Aussies are a rotten lot and those who do celebrate are jingoistic, racist and drunken slobs who have wandered off-stage from a Barry McKenzie script.

Waleed Aly identifies the great ‘Australian tradition of patriotic awkwardness’ by emphasising Australia’s interest in sport, by describing Australia Day as a celebration of invasion, by claiming that pride in the Australian flag is ‘assertive patriotism’ that is ‘quintessentially the stuff of neo-conservative politicians’. He makes snide remarks about ANZAC Day, the (exclusively non-immigrant) ‘Cronulla rioters’ and some banal references to Ricky Ponting’s ‘aggressive’ behaviour during the recent cricket test with India which, to Ali, suggests a deeper national malaise. He has absolutely nothing positive to say about Australia. Nothing. I can only conclude he has elected to live in the wrong country.

But thanks for the social commentary, Ali.
Now I know.
Now I know, what you think.

Even worse are the comments by Rachel Hills the ‘wanker Diet Coke’ lefty associated with ‘’ – I cannot find a link. She associates Australia Day with a drunk pissing on a bus seat and ‘shit-head’ opportunists at footy matches and racial riots. This is of course a ridiculous misrepresentation and exaggeration of what happens on Australia Day. Indeed the anecdote she describes sounds false and contrived.

Hills does not seem much of a journalist. She claims to be a supporter of that ‘leftie’ Australian-ism which respects Cate Blanchett, the Aussie-hating Germaine Greer and our new ‘nerdy’ Prime Minister. To Hills the conventional Australia Day celebrations are ‘myth’ – the lefties she identifies are the people who ‘best’ reflect ‘Australia’s ‘reality’.

I assume Hills is happy enough living in Australia acting out a leftist-drone-life of complaint and misery. It is the standard psychopathology of the left.

Rachel should return to writing articles for GirlFriend.

These articles are low-interest, low-effort journalism by miserable, troubled people but it is surprising that a major newspaper sees these commentaries as an appropriate antecedent for Australia Day. I cannot see any justification for seeing this day of national celebration purely as an occasion for self-hatred.

You might conceivably want to ignore the occasion and play golf or watch the cricket but why unequivocally put it down.


conrad said...

I couldn't see why you were complaining about Waleed Aly's article. I thought it was fine -- too mild in fact. In addition, I thought his complaints about the Cronulla rioters and the flag were fine. If you grew up in Australia as a minority group, you would might well think that the average Australian is a dull racist slob also. Note that the third of these is statistically true, if we use BMI as a measure. The first is true amongst white groups according to IQ tests (cf. Germans), and in terms of anti-intellectualism (what other country in the world do people say you are wasting your time at university?).

So that only leaves the second one to debate.

If you can think of a good reason to have what often turns into an uber-nationalist Australia day celebration, then rather than critize others, perhaps you should say so yourself.

hc said...


For a bunch of dull, racist slobs we are doing pretty well. At current exchange rates we are one of the wealthiest countries on earth with an open immigration policy. We are a major exporter of educational services so I guess others think we are not doing too bad in that department either.

For a country with a small population we always do disproportionately well in international sport.

I think Aly's argument relies on stereotypes that have nothing to do with reality.

I disagree with your assessment of the Cronulla events - assaulting surf life savers and harrassing women at the beach is unacceptible behaviour.

Who last said to you that you are wasting your time at university? Which specific person? I think again you are employing stereotypes that have no basis in reality - more kids than ever before go to university.

Australia Day is a celevbration of being part of a fantastic country with enormous personal freedom and opportunity. I have never myself witnessed 'uber-nationalism'.

I think aly's diatribe is outrageous and close to racism. It relies on the same type of stereotyping that racisdm relies on.

conrad said...


1) I don't doubt Austraila is a rich country (which shouldn't be too hard given the natural resources that are here), but that is only a correlate of "dumb" and "slob". I offered two easily quantifiable measures, one of sloblyness and one of dumbness.

Slob = eats too much, doesn't excersize. Well correlated with BMI.

Intelligence = measured by IQ scales and other potential behavior for a broader definition (crime, rates of drug addiction etc. -- something Australia tops the OECD for).

I'll bet that on any reasonable definition of these terms Australia comes at close to the bottom of rich countries.

2) Who cares about sport? Its just a good distraction from reality.

3) Hassling women, life savers etc is bad. But so is beating up random people based on racial characteristics.

4) Who last said to you that you are wasting your time at university? Which specific person?

How about, have you had a look who is in all the hard courses these days (e.g., electrical engineering etc.)? What percentage are Australian born? What percentage of the post-graduates even in things like economics are?
Clearly the message is out.

5) What other country allows some of the dullest people to become primary school teachers?

6) "Uber-nationalism" -- you didn't watch the Cronulla riots?

7) I agree that Australia offers great personal freedom. But thats not an Australian thing -- many countries do, so why not have "liberal" day instead?

whyisitso said...

For all we know, Harry, conrad may already be living in another country. But one of the great things about Australia is that we don't have a Berlin wall to keep people from escaping. In fact one of the few positive things you can say about Greer is that she doesn't live amongst us. Good! As for some of the others you mention, it's not self-hatred. It's hatred of their fellow citizens. They feel morally superior to us all. Perhaps the warm inner feeling they get from this moral superiority is one of the reasons for staying. They don't want to emigrate to somewhere that will force them to live among people as morally superior as themselves (ahem!), as it would destroy their competitive edge.

Anonymous said...

The average Australian is very much less racist that the average human being. Anyone who has lived and worked in other rich nations, as well as developing ones (particularly in Asia), as many of us have, knows this first-hand. That doesn't excuse ugly racism or nationalism in Australia, but it ought to colour the views of minority groups within Australia. In my experience, the most racist members of the Australian community are immigrants, or second-generation immigrants, who have chosen to bring or maintain their ancient ethnic hatreds. But then I've never lived in Cronulla, so perhaps I've lived a sheltered Australian existence...

BTW, conrad seems to think natural resources = rich nation. No serious person believes this. History shows conclusively that an abundance of natural resources is neither a necessary precondition to, nor a guarantor of, wealth.

hc said...

Anonymous please read the comments policy. You must in future use a unique recognisable pseudonymn to post on this blog.

conrad said...

I don't hate the average person, I was just pointing out that if you are going to call some group something, then you may as well have a look at the truth value of it. Thats why I didn't put racism in, because I doubt Australia falls at the bottom.

As for Australians being less racist than others -- I wouldn't know. Personally I lived in HK for 3 years (where I don't look like a local), and it was better than Melbourne.

I agree there are lots of good things about Australia -- thats why I asked. I was interested in knowing what people think that isn't to do with the typical media potrayal. As HC said, a liberal society -- and I agree. Being able to escape is good too, but that isn't specific to Australia. So I'll ask again, whats good about Australia specific to the Australian people? Perhaps there is nothing specific, in which case the "good" is just pointing to a broad range of criterion.

davidp said...

Hi Conrad,

The natural resources question is very interesting. The fact that we have developed and not squandered our resources says much for our institutions (though the fact that we didn't exploit them earlier also says something too!) If you look for journal articles by Paul David and Gavin Wright in the 1990s there are interesting discussions of the role of resources in the rise of the US.

One 1996 paper in Industrial and Corporate Change in particular makes an international comparison. Wright has written further, with Jesse Czelusta, around this issue.

Anonymous said...

The resources schtik is bogus. There are plenty of countries with large resource reserves that are basioally poor. There are many nations with little or no resources that are very wealthy.

It's how a nation organizes itself that makes the difference between being rich and poor.

This is where Australia basically trumps almost everyone else.

We are good at organizing ourselves, have a decent legal and poltical system respect the market place.

For a nation that is 200 years old we've done bloody well and ought to be proud of our achievements.


burrah said...

Personally I have a problem listening to anything an Islamist such as Waleed Aly has to say. Actually that should read that I'm offended that The Age even published his da'wa nonsense.
This is the solution Aly has in mind for what ails Australia.

hc said...

Burrah, That's wrong burrah, Ali is a liberal Muslim who would not - as you suggest - endorse sharia law.

Its not his views on law or Islam I am drawing attention to but his attitude to his fellow Australians.

Smokin' Joe said...

Harry, yours is a very strange reading of Waleed Aly' article indeed. He didn't describe Australia Day as a day of invasion. He noted that many do, and that there's a debate about this ever year, which there is. He didn't say anything about his view on this.

He didn't say pride in the Australian flag was "quinessentially the stuff of neo-conservative politicians". He said "assertive patriotism" was after he discussed Howard's defence of the Cronulla rioters' use of the flag - which is a very different thing to simply having pride in the flag. As you will recall, Costello was very critical of the rioters for their use of the flag. I doubt he doesn't have pride in the flag.

I didn't see any snide remarks on Anzac Day. He notes that it was revived under Howard, and that this went along with a militarisation of culture. But he doesn't criticise Anzac Day itself at all.

And I don't think he is very negative about Australia generally. It's a pretty mild discussion of the changing nature of Australian patriotism in my reading. In fact, I sense he's quite fond of certain things about Australia. He seems to like our understatement which he says is summed up by the nature of our constitution.

It seems to me like you're looking for something to be enraged about.

I haven't read the Rachel Hills piece, so I can't comment on that, but I hope you've represented it a little more fairly.

hc said...

smokin' joe, Aly's comments are overwhelmingly negative. Where are the positives? What cause does Australia have to celebrate on its national day?

Aly trivilises Australia and the snide references are derogatory.

rabee said...

On the 26 of Jan I will be remembering the indigenous Nakaba.

I simply find any notion of national celebration repulsive.

My feelings are not confined to celebrations in Australia. I would rather be in constant morning than celebrate for one second a "nation's'" achievements.

Spiros said...

Harry, nobody compels you to read the Age. If you find it so painful, read another newspaper.

whyisitso said...

The Age is supposedly the "paper of record" in Melbourne, as the SMH is in Sydney. It's very legitimate for anyone including Harry to read it (or some of it) to inform themselves just what is being passed off as "serious" commentary and to criticise it.

The rather extreme, one sided views expressed in each paper are representative of views held by a substantial portion of the Australian public - those who consider themselves better educated and more moral then the mainstream, whom they find rather contemptible on both fronts.

Chade said...

The article sounded more like a critique of the previous governments' chest-beating over a "national identity", and that it took 8-10 years for this to filter through, rather than any inherent "hate" of the day itself...

Spiros said...

"The rather extreme, one sided views expressed in each paper"

Such as by Gerard Henderson and Miranda Devine.

As opposed to the balanced commentary one finds in the Murdoch newspapers.

hc said...


I don't necessarily read newspapers purely for entertainment value but also to find out what is going on and what others are learning about what is going on.

I find it incredible that The Age is so uniformly negative and pessimistic about what it means to be Australian. Not completetely incredible because so many moaners on the left have the same attitude.

I am so greatful to be part of this fantastic country. I earn a good living, enjoy good wine and a great environment.

There are imperfections but I see the glass as very much half full not half empty.

Spiros said...

Harry, don't whinge, do something. Get in touch with the Age opinion editor and offer to write 1000 words on why this is a great country.

whyisitso said...

Cop this Young Arry:

hc said...

whyisitso, I always enjoyed "Men at Work' and this sort of humour doesn't trouble me. It is positive if crude.

I get called 'young Arry' by you and Homer but by noone else - Ijust got a number 2 haircut to get rid of the abundant grey hair. But keep it up.

Smokin' Joe said...

Harry, you ask where the positives arein Waleed Aly's article. Well, for starters, how about his statement that Federation was one of the most remarkable achievments in modern political history.

I don't think he has trivialised anything. The article isn't even about Australia Day, for God's sake. It's about the way Australians have usually gone about patriotism - that is in a very different way to the Americans until recently.

I'm sorry, but there just aren't any snide references here. You really seem to be doing your best to be offended. Perhaps it's your pre-conceived anger at The Age.

And your accusation that he's close to racism is bizarre and close to defamatory.

FXH said...

"Cop This Young Harry" is a wonderful australian saying /catchphrase from taken from Mo McCackie of Macackie mansions.

Young Harry was played in the radio series by Harry Griffiths.

Henry van der Sluys (Mo) was a Christian brothers educated dutch jew who was a freemason. A typical australian.

hc said...

FXH, That revives nostalgia. One of my earliest memories was listening to Mo with my Dad in front of one of those large combo 'radio-gramophones'. My guess around 1956-1957.