14 October, 2014

'straya knuts

If you don't love it, LEAVE Australia, if you don't love it leave! Simple enough statement and one which (it seems) a lot of people think is perfectly innocent when worn on a t-shirt. "Political correctness gone mad" I hear people say, when it is suggested a major chain might like to rethink selling said shirt.
I have read "If you don't love your job leave, if you don't love your relationship leave" Not awful advice, but perhaps not your only option. If you don't love your job, quit and go on the dole? Or is their benefit in working a job you don't like because you are working towards a better one?
Don't like your relationship? Sure give up, but there might also be a benefit in working to make it better. You know, a bit of counselling and that sort of thing. Might not work, but perhaps you won't take your same flaws to the next relationship without some awareness.

So, I could leave this post with the final thought "Australia, love it or work within the system to improve it" (and then co to cafe-press and start selling a t-shirt with that slogan on it).
But that is not the whole story, because like it or not there is underlying racism in the idea. What?
Noooo, not racism in Australia, I hear you say.
Sorry, but yep. Because more often than not the " 'staya, love it of fuck off" is tied to the "go back where you came from" sentiment. Now, I know that YOU reading this are not like that, but stay with me here...

There are plenty of people with legitimate complaints about Australian society. If (like me) you are lucky enough to be pale of complexion and capable of speaking strine, then no one questions your love of the country. If I decide I am going to start a fast food franchise and I will replace the meat with tofu, people might call me a wanker. But, if I am opening my store in an area where the customers are all ironic vegan hipsters it might be a good business decision. But if I were brown and my store was to be in Lakemba and I decided that rather than tofu I was going to use halal meat... Then I might hear "if you don't like it, leave" (although, given what I have been reading I think I would hear a lot worse than that).

To this debate, let me add to your thinking that there are many in our indigenous community who have things to say about our society which might indicate they do not always love this nation the way blokes with flag capes and southern-cross tattoos might demand.

What is that? Free speech, I hear you cry! Sure, free speech it is. But doesn't free speech include the freedom to point out the things which are wrong? Doesn't free speech include to right of people to say "dear Woolies, your shirts suck, you suck and if you keep sucking so hard I might forgive coles for their stupid down down ads"?
Likewise, the same free speech which lets you wear that shirt, includes the freedom for me to express the belief that, if you do you are a racist bogan.

Australia, you were either lucky enough to be born here or lucky enough to have come here. Either way, you didn't create this society, so if you want to be proud of something...
be proud of the fact that you are not unquestioningly jingoistic
be proud of the fact that you have worked to change things which you think are wrong
be proud of the fact that you are working to maintain a society which allows those "who come across the seas" to put their stamp on our society (sure, if you want you are free to continue with meat and three veg while drinking international roast, but you are missing out).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My family hands down an apocryphal story of my grandfather, departing Italy for Australia on the cusp of war, having to pretend to be French to avoid internment as an enemy of the State.

Scarcely a warm welcome. And yet, by the 27th of September 1945 he placed an advertisement in the SMH announcing an intention to naturalise; an act which abnegated his Italian citizenship exclusively in favour of Australia.

Was this an act of cultural loathing? Manifestly not, as he went on to found the Marconi Club as an Italian/Australian social club. He retained a love of his culture and actively sought to cross-pollinate the best of both Italian culture and Australian culture together.

He, like the waves of immigration pre-Whitlam, understood that Citizenship was to be keenly desired as an expression of adoption of a cluster of values and mores that stood in stark contrast to the fascism, sectarianism or classism prevalent in migrant's countries of birth.

If confronted with the sentiment on the shirt pictured, I am confident his reply would have been "Bloody right. Aussies don't know how lucky they are".

I mention this in order to contrast it with the situation that seems to prompt the message on the t-shirt and those like them.

The phenomenon my grandfather would really have struggled with would be people arriving in Australia, or perhaps even the children of such arrivals, who aren't merely ambivalent about the constellation of values that make up the imagined community of "Australia", but people who practice and promote an active antipathy to those values and, although unlikely to convert that sympathy to action, nevertheless condone and sympathise and justify those who do.

These values include obvious and oft-repeated things like egality and fair-mindedness, but also extend to things like the rule of law, separation of powers, universal suffrage, Laïcité, and the Idea of Progress... Australian values. Western values.

I see a world of difference between so-called "multiculturalism" and the attitude my grandfather's generation was encouraged to adopt, which was to love, yes love, the advantages of what Australia represented and offered. And I think Australia is entitled to that love.
I think this arises from a crisis of confidence in the objective value of Western Civilisation as a whole, but that would be a whole other essay.

People always deserve courtesy and civility. Ideas deserve no such respect. And some people have ideas that stink, because they are barbaric and violent.

So: those people? I too think they are the ones who can fuck off. And I think that the t-shirt says it with admirable succinctness.