The Australian Belligerence
It should be called the Australian Belligerence. This belligerence is the refusal to accept our history, the loutish impulse to mock the reality of what happened.
It is this belligerence that saw John Howard refuse to apologise to the Stolen Generations, and saw Coalition members turn their backs when an apology was finally given.
It is this belligerence that punishes councils for responding to community concern over the celebration of January 26 as our national day, that pleads Stalinism when ahistoric monuments are questioned for their dishonesty.
It is the Australian Belligerence that programs a radio station such as Triple M, which announced a January 26 countdown this week to replace the broadcast cancelled by Triple J after that network finally accepted its insensitivity. “So, the taxpayer-funded FM has decided that there’ll be no soundtrack for Australia Day…” Triple M said in a statement. “At Triple M, we’re going to give you what you’ve asked for. The perfect Australia Day soundtrack. We want ‘Triple M’s Ozzest 100’ to include all the songs that define Australian music.”
Next year will mark half a century since the anthropologist W. E. H. Stanner used his Boyer Lectures to name the Great Australian Silence – the omission of Indigenous Australia from this country’s historical discourse. “What may have begun as a simple forgetting of other possible views turned into a habit,” he said, “and over time into something like a cult of forgetfulness practised on a national scale.”
He saw change, though. He saw the “melancholy footnote is turning into a whole chapter of Australian history, and the codicil is becoming a major theme in the Australian story”.
That change did happen, but it did not happen for everyone. There were holdouts and they are angry.
Triple M operates in the same paradigm as Keith Windschuttle and John Howard. It is a paradigm of white mediocrity, anxious that admitting any flaw in their world would see that world fall apart. These are people who live in the past and yet somehow remain ignorant of it.
The Australian Belligerence is a drunk speaking louder and louder to make the same point. Its senses are numbed, its reasoning diminished. It is angry at its impotence.
The Australian Belligerence knows that it holds on to a fragile world. It is fragile because it is based on a series of lies, on land taken by violence and legal fiction, on privilege maintained by exclusion.
The Australian Belligerence is Mark Latham. He has launched a campaign called “Save Australia Day”. His preferred acronym is SAD.
“The West is under attack from Islamic terrorism at one extreme and from cultural Marxism at the other,” he says. “It’s the cultural Marxists who want to wipe out Australia Day and move it off January 26. I say, Save Australia Day. It’s no offence to the Indigenous people. It’s a celebration of the things we’ve achieved in our exceptional continent, this great country of ours, Australia.”
He says: “Let’s fight back to save Australia Day. We know in 2018 the left campaign to abolish or move our national day will be the biggest yet. We can’t sit here doing nothing. We’ve got to fight back. We’ve got to take action. We’ve got to defend our great national day.”
There is no strong argument to celebrate Australia on January 26. Until 1994, there was no national holiday. Before then, it moved from weekend to weekend.
But the Australian Belligerence holds on for fear that to question this date would be to question the mistruths on which their power is based. This should be questioned. Australia Day should be moved. Until it is, Australians should ask to work on January 26. Because that date does not celebrate Australia; it celebrates dispossession and the belligerent few who refuse to see that dispossession for what it is.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 23, 2017 as "The Australian Belligerence". Subscribe here.