4 Feb. 2007

Australia Day: rotten celebration of racist imperialism

Over a week has elapsed now since 'Australia Day'. What I witnessed that day was something new. The cues for a new Australian patriotism were taken directly from Cronulla, 2005. White people wandered drunkenly through the streets wearing Australian flags as capes. Where does this flag-as-cape device originate? It seems to me that it was at least popularized by Cronulla.

There is a certain tendency to write of the flag-waving in Sydney as a healthy contrarian reaction to the PC dictat of the organisers of the Big Day Out music festival not to bring flags on Australia Day. This, it seems to me, is sheer nonsense. Firstly, the organisers merely suggested people should leave flags at home, so there was no order to defy. But more importantly, the Big Day Out were reacting to the fact that the previous year, a month or so after the Cronulla Pogrom, the audience had been festooned with flags à la Cronulla. The attempt was to avert a similar display of racist-nationalism this year. This attempt was a failure, but had it not been attempted, there would have been a display anyway, and any attempt to problematise it would have been decried as unpatriotic political-correctness-gone-mad.

A man I know, of Mediterranean heritage, was passing through Woy Woy, on the very white Central Coast, on the 26th January, and stopped in a bar to use the ATM. He was subjected to a torrent of racial abuse. The patrons of the bar were already geared up to abuse any 'wog' who passed through there - they already had a flag up emblazoned with the slogan, again popularized by, and possibly invented at, Cronulla, "You flew here, we grew here".

The Big Day Out is itself an almost-all-white event. It's a festival based on the rock music popular primarily among Australian whites, far more popular among the dominant community than minority communities. As such, the event is a natural venue for racist-nationalism. In such a gathering, when young whites get together in such a concentration, we see nothing less than there emergence of a mass-racist consciousness among them, which has indeed always to some extent existed (people like to blame Pauling Hanson for this, but there was something called the 'White Australia Policy' in this country for well over a century, which people tend to forget), but which has received new impetus from Cronulla. The attempt to clamp down on this phenomenon can only backfire if there is already something to clamp down on.