Are racism, nationalism and violence what ‘define’ us?

I have mixed feelings about Australia Day. On the one hand I am proud of my country. I think it’s a beautiful place full of wonderful people. I think that should be celebrated. I’m also partial to the annual festivities at my local, Parramatta Park, which start with hot air balloons in the morning and culminate with a concert and fireworks close to eighteen hours later.

But my pride is not blind. For all the wonderful people in Australia, there are a fair share of dickheads too. They were out in force again this year, with brawls, attacks and abuse occurring around Sydney’s beaches, and also on the Gold Coast.

The majority of the sentiment was directed against people of Asian, Middle Eastern or Sub-continental appearance. One woman, originally from Hong Kong, said that after being abused last year, she spent this Australia Day inside watching TV.

Another might have been exaggerating a little when she compared what happened in Manly on Monday to the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in Nazi Germany, where 91 Jews were murdered and 25,000-30,000 were sent to concentration camps over one night. But then again, the woman was actually at both events. She said: “The last time I saw such scenes I was a little girl. It really was Kristallnacht on the beach: the same faces, the same hateful expressions. I never thought I would experience this again but I just did, on the other side of the world.”

Yes, the dickheads doing these things are a minority, but the views they share are not as uncommon as we might like to think. Racism in any form is a blight on human civilisation. On Australia Day, when I saw young people dressed and draped in Australian flags, it didn’t remind me of the great things about my country, it instead made me think of all the ignorant racism out there.

Gerard Henderson, in the Herald yesterday, wrote an article entitled ‘Settle down – it’s our defining day‘. It was in response to comments by Australian of the Year Dr Mick Dobson regarding the way many indigenous Australians (and others) regard the 26th of January as ‘Invasion Day’ and so a national dialogue should be opened about potentially changing the date.

I’ll wade into that issue properly at a later date, but the title of Henderson’s article made me pause. Sure, the whole country enjoys a public holiday on this day, but only since 1935. There’s a sense of ironic synergy that on the day Europeans sailed into Sydney Harbour to take possession of an already occupied country, the descendants of those Europeans celebrate by directing hatred at fellow ‘unwanted’ immigrants.

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3 thoughts on “Are racism, nationalism and violence what ‘define’ us?”

  1. A movie about raceless friendship…
    You'll like it…

    Gran Torino

    So tenderly
    Your story is
    Nothing more
    Than what you see
    Or
    What you've done
    Or will become
    Standing strong
    Do you belong
    In your skin
    Just wondering

    Gentle now
    The tender breeze
    Blows
    Whispers through
    My Gran Torino
    Whistling another
    Tired song

    Engine humms
    And bitter dreams
    Grow heart locked
    In a Gran Torino
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long

    Realign all
    The stars
    Above my head
    Warning signs
    Travel far
    I drink instead
    On my own
    Oh,how I've known
    The battle scars
    And worn out beds

    Gentle now
    A tender breeze
    Blows
    Whispers through
    A Gran Torino
    Whistling another
    Tired song

    Engines humm
    And bitter dreams
    Grow
    Heart locked
    In a Gran Torino
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long

    These streets
    Are old
    They shine
    With the things
    I've known
    And breaks
    Through
    The trees
    Their sparkling

    Your world
    Is nothing more
    Than all
    The tiny things
    You've left
    Behind

    So tenderly
    Your story is
    Nothing more
    Than what you see
    Or
    What you've done
    Or will become
    Standing strong
    Do you belong
    In your skin
    Just wondering

    Gentle now
    A tender breeze
    Blows
    Whispers through
    The Gran Torino
    Whistling another
    Tired song
    Engines humm
    And bitter dreams
    Grow
    A heart locked
    In a Gran Torino
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long

    May I be
    So bold and stay
    I need someone
    To hold
    That shudders
    My skin
    Their sparkling

    Your world
    Is nothing more
    Than all
    The tiny things
    You've left
    Behind

    So realign
    All the stars
    Above my head
    Warning signs
    Travel far
    I drink instead
    On my own
    Oh
    How i've known
    The battle scars
    And worn out beds

    Gentle now
    A tender breeze
    Blows
    Whispers through
    The Gran Torino
    Whistling another
    Tired song
    Engines humm
    And better dreams
    Grow
    Heart locked
    In a Gran Torino
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long
    It beats
    A lonely rhythm
    All night long

  2. Have only just come to your piece and do agree. Of course ‘Gran Torino’ was a while ago but a good movie. However, Clint Eastwood appearance talking to a chair at US Republican conf was somewhat of a shocker.
    Maybe the Australian attitude is simply one of over complacency as we have never been occupied and think that all the worlds multitude of miseries are somehow ‘out there’ and sadly, that leads to ignorance and a sort of knee jerk racism when our isolationism is challenged in any way.

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