Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Australia Day: A day we can all celebrate

People like myths. They seem to be so re-assuring. But always look who advocates myths. There’s always an aim behind a myth creating/creator.

Take Australia Day, yesterdays’ public holiday, when the country commemorated the day the first fleet arrived in Sydney Cove. I don’t mind that some indigenous Australians call it "invasion day". From their point of view, they are right, their ancestor’s country was invaded and a long suffering began. But for some 97 % of the population 26th January 1788 marked the start of the immigration of which we all took part in some form or other.

What today’s Age made of yesterday’s events was ludicrous. One letter writer demanded “A day we can all celebrate” and what kind of day was meant said another letter: “I know a date that will not bring us shame and sadness: the day we get over our obsession with Britain and become a republic.The editorial supported that rubbish: “When a republic comes into being this nation will have a date that all citizens can truly call Australia Day.”

Myth "republic day"
It is a myth to think, a “republic day” would unite all Australians. Why should it? No matter which figure you believe, either the 55 % of the 1999 referendum who opposed the politicians republic or the 28 % in the ALP commissioned biased opinion poll, fact remains: There is a substantial number of Australians who do not want a republic and will always oppose a republic as well as a “republic day”.

Do Australian republicans think that the Monarchists would disappear into thin air or agree with a form of state they consider wrong and inadequate for this country? Or will the victorious republicans outlaw all Monarchist activities? Will we face a ban freedom of speech and freedom of thinking just to uphold the chimerical picture of a uniting or united republic?

I know of no republic that is actually uniting people. A classic example could be Germany, where today the 150th birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm II is commemorated by Monarchists. The official national day in Germany is 3rd October. It should remind Germans of the unification of East and West Germany in 1990. But neither East nor West Germans are happy with that day and would like to change it to either a date in November or in May. However, there’s no agreement, if it should be changed and if so, to which date. It is only clear: Nobody likes the 3rd October.

Or take the French republic.

To this day many French royalists wear black armbands on 14th July. Not because they oppose civil liberties, but because of the republican ideology connected to this date. Royalists commemorate instead the killing of King Louis XVI on 21st January. This year all over France thousands gathered to pay homage to their (!) murdered King.

Even 138 years after a republican system was permanently installed in France (due to the division within the Royalist factions in the National Assembly, where they formed a majority until 1875), up to 20% of the French are Royalists. The opinion poll was commissioned by the party Alliance Royaliste, but is at least as credible as the ALP financed poll.

I have no figures for Portugal, but since a military coup proclaimed a republic in 1910 the country still has a considerable number of Monarchists and the Monarchist People’s Party (Partido Popular Monárquico – PPM) has deputies in the national assembly. The Portuguese Monarchists oppose the official national day and celebrate Portugal’s independence instead on 1st December. Under no circumstance would they join their republican countrymen in celebrating on 5th October, the day of shame. I could continue to give more examples.

Another myth: Party unity
The call for an all Australian embracing day comes at the same time, as reports emerged of the deep divisions within the Victorian ALP. A party should have a common aim, but this ALP state branch’s only aim is to stay in power. Very much like the NSW ALP, which is better known outside Victoria. It goes without saying that the Victorian Liberal Party is split in as many factions as the ALP.

There you have a day-to-day myth of a party united to work for ideals bursting like a bubble.

And these divisive politicians should be able to glue up all divisions on a republic day? Just to be nice to each other once a year?

I don’t give a cent for the myths The Age editorialists support every day. The Age ceased being a serious daily newspaper long time ago. The republican line the journalists have to follow has nothing to do with serious impartial reporting.

To sum it up
So the present Australia Day displeases some, because a minority feels excluded. As demonstrated, Australia Day embraces 95% and more Australians. I can not see any other day that could be equally embracive.

However, it could be asked: Why do you want a national day at all? I don’t need one to be re-assured that I am part of the Australian people. I don’t believe in the myth that we are all one and united behind a common aim.

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