It's Australia Day today.
Let me tell you about it.
Australia Day is when people have barbecues, eat baby sheep (because apparently it's "un-Australian" not to), flock to the beach and temporary tattoos are given out in the local papers to be pasted on children's cheeks.
Australia Day is a manufactured day that marks the day that white people came here and dispossessed, oppressed and murdered in large numbers the Indigenous peoples that had lived here for 40,000 years.
Seems a twisted day to "celebrate" does it not? This is why we choose not to celebrate.
Any time we have an occasion that encourages national pride a really rather ugly side of Australia comes out. It happens on ANZAC Day, during any international sporting event and Australia Day. Xenophobic Australians drape themselves and their cars in flags and drink lots of beer and generally act like meat-heads. (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie Oi Oi Oi). This is apparently patriotism.
Why is this?
I think that one of the problems is that nationalism has been usurped by people who wear T-Shirts with slogans like, "Speak English or Piss Off" and the rest of us shrink from patriotism.
We feel the cultural cringe when a cartoonish version of ourselves is flaunted to the world. The brainless "G'Day Mate" blokes who sound like Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin. We are confused that sporting heroes are given more cultural recognition and status than pioneering Australian scientists, thinkers and humanitarians. We are perplexed as to why we still have a flag with the flag of another country in it's corner and why we don't have a constitution that recognises Aboriginal people and protects all of our civil rights. We feel the inappropriateness of fostering a singular national pride in a country of immigrants and in a world where national distinctions are broken down by multi-cultural cyberspace communities based on commonality not division.
And most of all we feel enormous sorrow and shame of our past and continued treatment of Indigenous Australians, immigrants and asylum seekers.
There are times I have felt swelled with pride at being an Australian, it's when we've been brave. When we finally had the cathartic "Sorry Day" to apologise to Aboriginal people for past wrongs. When we brought in tough legislation to control gun ownership. When we elected a woman who chooses to be single, atheist and childless as our prime minister.
If we one day: became a Republic, changed our flag and paid scientists more than footballers, I would happily celebrate that positive day.