January 28, 2010

Australia Day and patriotism gone mad

Walking through Melbourne's city centre the other night on our way to see David Sedaris, my best friend and I popped into Target in pursuit of a warm pair of socks. 
It was a chilly Melbourne night, or at least chilly by my northern NSW standards and I knew I would not be able to concentrate on the musings of my favourite writer when my toes were threatening to snap straight off my feet.
The first thing we noticed upon entering Target's city store was a family of mannequins dressed casually in an array of knickers, shorts, skirts, shirts and bandanas, all manufactured from fabric depicting the Australian flag. 
Suspended from the ceiling was a large sign saying 'True Blue Fashion' that looked as though it might topple down at any moment should a slight breeze find its way inside.
It must be said that absolutely nothing in that clothing line warranted the word 'fashion' in its description, and rather, the fabric was cheap and nasty and the technique used to assemble these items had less to do with the fashion industry and everything to do with blind Taiwanese slaves.

Quite frankly Target's True Blue Fashion line made us both want to vomit in our hands, but instead my friend decided that she would like to take a photo. 
I was mid-transaction when I overheard the ruckus. 
It turns out the in-house security guard did not take kindly to the attempted photographing and was cautioning my friend over her highly suspicious behaviour.
Neither one of us could quite figure out why she was not allowed to photograph the mannequins - was it a security threat or were they more worried that we might try to recreate the collection?
On the tram, my friend and I both remarked that we could not recall another time leading up to January the 26th so drenched in national pride. 
How and when had Aussie patriotism become such a marketable commodity? And why were so many Australians suddenly ready to jump on board? 

Ever since the racially motivated riots in Cronulla in 2005, the Australian flag has become more than just a symbol of national pride; it has become a cloak in which to thinly disguise hate in the name of allegiance.
But you don't have to go to Cronulla to see this type of white supremacy patriotism in action, Facebook is littered with groups following in the footsteps of the infamous 'F*ck Off We're Full' brigade and in Taree, on the way down to melbourne, I actually saw that slogan tattooed on some sick f*cks back. 

But hey, what better way to publicly display your 'national pride' than by having it permanently tattooed on your body?
Driving home from Melbourne on the eve of Australia day I was dumbfounded by the comments made by callers to a talk back radio station. The topic for discussion was 'Should we change the Australian flag?'  The response was wholeheartedly - NO.
One caller suggested that unless you fought and died under the union jack then you had no business even talking about changing our flag... {?}
While another caller suggested that the immigrants who come here and whinge about the flag should go back where they came from. There was only person with an iota of intelligence who called in to support a more inclusive flag, and she was subsequently shot down for being Un-Australian.
If you think about it, the Australian flag has always been a symbol of racism - what else could it possibly mean to an Aboriginal person? Today however, its racist connotations are more wide-spread.
The thing about racism is that it is completely driven by fear and until we are able to get past that - until we are able to open our ignorant little minds to the rich diversity of this nation - then the more 'patriotic' this nation will become. Once upon a time Australia Day meant getting pissed at a BBQ but now it reeks of something more sinister.
Don't get me wrong, I love my country as much as the next person and I am proud to be Australian but If patriotism now means stabbing an Indian student or getting involved in race related scare tactics then I shall gladly refrain from wearing my pride on my sleeve.

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