January 26 – Australia Day
Invasion Day, Survival Day, Moor-Your-Boat Day – an arbitrary dot on time’s spectrum was chosen as lucky little Australia’s modern, Gregorian, anniversary date. That’s when HMS Supply moored in Sydney Cove one choppy morning in 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip and a small crew rowed ashore, and claimed the continent in the name of Mad King George III.
There are roughly three camps who pitch their tents on our National Day – those who hold 26/1/1788 sacred; those who hold it as profane, and the great silent majority who view it through the lens of beer and barbeques. The genuine and perhaps occasionally insincere people in the middle camp, those who would see us choke on a snag or frothy for our racist, supremacist arrogance, are like the joke Jewish-American princess who insists on intercourse ‘doggy-style,’ because she can’t stand to see anyone else enjoying themselves.
Those of us who embrace the black-armband version of history choose to characterise Phillip’s landing as a precursor to genocide and see any non-indigenous person in occupation of the country as an invader. If we really hold this view, even if it cannot objectively be just, or even plausible, why don’t we leave? If people come to this country, even be they arrivistes, why don’t we make them leave, too? Why don’t we join them? Or who are the select few to be packed into the next boat?
There’s a campaign about called “Change the Date!” It contends, as we understand it, that 26 January 1788 was a date marked by infamy – annoyingly, the locals had just got the place looking right when some monstrous floating vector retched into view, bone in her teeth, lusting for dry land and croaking with violent anticipation. Whilst much more benign, arguably, than stout Cortez (who according to printed sources, planted his feet on Central American soil and said ‘between us and VD these bastards don’t stand a chance‘), it was an assumption of territory without so much as a ‘by your leave’ or the handing over of beads.
But what of it? Does anyone now really, REALLY care, and if so, why?
Bruckner wrote in The Tyranny of Guilt:
Progressive thought is blind when it suggests that there can be no anti-white racism or an anti-Semitism among the formerly oppressed or the young people in the projects because they themselves have suffered from this evil. They are the victims; they are exempt from the prejudices that affect the majority of the population. But the reverse is true: racism is multiplying at exponential rates among groups and communities, taboos are collapsing, and everything is explained in terms of physical characteristics, identity, purity, and difference. And this is a racism that is all the more certain that it is right because it is regarded as a legitimate reaction on the part of the persecuted.
As for a new date, that is problematic because if you want to please everybody, forget it. We have seen only a handful of suggestions: (a) 1 January, to commemorate Federation (an act of colonisation on steroids); (b) Apology Day, 13 February (2008), when Prime Minister and suspected Fruitcake Kevin Rudd said “Sorry” for having let our indigenous brothers and sisters down (a contentious matter unlikely to garner majority support); (c) 3 June (1992), when the High Court decided to write some novel law in the Mabo decision (too cold in June anyway); (d) 27 May, the day of the 1967 referendum, a matter of significance to a small portion of the populace; and (e) 11 April (1973), the day that Gough Whitlam abolished the White Australia policy. (This last one looks attractive – after all, we’re one great big melting pot now, like the Blue Mink song says – but it suffers from the fact that Harold Holt abolished the policy by virtue of the Migration Act 1966.)
We like 1 February (1981), celebrating the day when Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl the last delivery of the day underarm, to negate any chance of the New Zealand batsman getting the 6 needed to win. That about sums-up modern Australia, and has the added advantage of enraging the Kiwis.
So changing the date looks like something we can all argue about till the sun blows up. That’ll bring us all together, will it not? We note that in 2018, Noel Pearson suggested celebrating on both the 25th and the 26th, to celebrate the passing parade of our history, so that none need feel excluded. A quixotic gesture we think, although seeking to make a public holiday into a full extra weekend – there’s a true Australian for you.
On a related topic, there’s been more treaty talk of late. Unfortunately, the alleged doctrine of terra nullius has become the received wisdom, so international experts suggest that before we can have a treaty, we’ll have to have a war.
In any case –
“Oh, the daily press will grovel as it never did before,
There’ll be many flags of welcome in the air,
And the Civil Service poet, he shall write odes by the score –
But the men who made the land will not be there.”
(Henry Lawson, The Men Who Made Australia)
Why don’t we chillax for a day, try to live and let live?
“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!”
(Dorothea Mackellar, My Country)