Monday, 21 April 2008

Post #6 Hire a Hall/Everything (An Australian Name)

Multiculturalism is a word that I would like to burn/cut out of the Australian lexicon with flamethowers and chainsaws. It's an idea which was apparently imported from Canada in the late 1960's and found fertile ground under the Whitlam and Fraser governments in the period 1973-1982 . When the Hawke government superseded the Fraser regime in 1983, this deceptively anodyne word had become embedded in the national political discourse. In the years since, it has become a dubiously sacred cow which has become anything and everything to those who want to draw sustenance from it. To those who are weary of it and its increasingly bogus incarnations it's a chook's neck well past its chopping date.

What is this multiple-culture-ism that we are supposed to pledge our support to? It seemed, originally, to mean allowing non-British immigrants to Australia to have pride in their national origins and to not be coerced to be ashamed of their surnames or accents. It meant supporting them in blending their cuisine, songs, dances and traditional arts into the lifestyle of Australia. At least that is what I believed it meant when I first made its acquaintance.

Now it seems to mean some things to some people that are hardly constructive. It is used as a justification/podium of defiance for failing/refusing to become fluent in English; for maintaining racial/ethnic/religious animosities from "the old country" and attempting to propagate them in Australia; for trying to drag the entire Australian polity into interventions in foreign squabbles; for sucking up money from the public trough for narrow-focus programmes . The main problem with it is that it's drifted from the truly cultural and the anchor-point of being Australian first. This is fine by some of the self-appointed "community spokespersons" who get to spend the budgets for those ethnically-targeted programmes. It also provides a nice handle for branch-stacking in political parties, which suits some candidates just fine too.

Culture is about behaviour and belief, not genetic traits which we call racial or ethnic. It is about discretionary behaviour, not the things bestowed upon us by our DNA. Now, I accept that it can be argued that using sun-shield cream is a behaviour and that it has a genetic origin. People talk about "deaf culture" and other disability cultures. I'd just make the distinction that there are physiological bases for these behaviours which, to some degree, mandate them. The kind of culture I'm talking about here is all about choice. Although most people acquire their first religious beliefs (if they have any) through infantile indoctrination, anyone can make a choice in their own head to change their beliefs. Race and ethnicity can never be changed.

Yet, when you criticise multiculturalism, the first shot that comes back is an accusation of racism; millions of people have now been brainwashed to believe that it is a synonym for multiracialism and/or multi-ethnicism. I see this word as a wedge between Australians, serving the exact opposite purpose of the original intention.

The saddest part of all is this: I see and hear people who were born in this country, even some whose parents were born here, saying: "You Australians..." or "These Australians". They usually say it to or about people of British Isles ancestry, who have now acquired the exasperating nickname "Anglos". Apart from displaying an abysmal ignorance of the ethnic history of Britain and Ireland, it shows that the sayers of it have been persuaded to believe that they are foreigners in their own country. I usually respond to this by asking, as moderately as I can manage, "Who are these third-party 'Australians' you're talking to or about? You are an Australian." Some are amazed to hear me claim them as compatriots. Others are hostile: "No, I'm (fill in the nationality)".

We used to have "New Australians". We should bring that back. The Ethnic councils and other organisations of that ilk should find all their funds by means other than governmental subsidisation. The word "multiculturalism" and all variants and derivatives of it should be purged from all official communications.

Reluctant as I am to point to the USA as a model in anything, particularly community relations, there's one thing I like about the place. When some nuisance/bigot is sniffing around some newly-met person with an "ethnic" name and says, "Karabodski? What kinda name is that?", the answer comes back, strong and proud: "It's an American name."

That's what we should be striving for: an unquestioning and unquestioned primary identity as citizens of our own country. That's what I want to hear: "What kind of names are Mokamba, bin Suleiman, Papadopoulos....?"
I'll tell you clear and proud: They're Australian names. And don't forget it, bastard.

1 comment:

Margaret Evans Porter said...

Glad you popped over on my blog. I didn't make it all the way to Perth, I regret to say, when visiting Australia.
Bugs I've got--plenty of them. But you can keep your Indian crickets.
Acidic soil--oh, yes!
Congratulations on your launch. I enjoy Ratbag Rantings, so I'll be stopping in frequently, I'm sure.
It's been a long time since I viewed The Duellists. I watched it so many times that I needed a good break. Now I'm getting the urge to see it once more....