I was moved by, “The
standard you walk past is the
standard your accept.”
And now the rest of
Australia hears your voice!
You little bew-tee!
There was, in fact, another story I heard second-hand from Australia Day, and seeing the Egyptian flags draped across the distressed citizens of Cairo has reminded me of it.
Australia Day and the unrest in Egypt prove without a doubt how much flags carry the cultural weight and fabric of national identity within them.
Imagine then what might have been going on in the mind of the owner of the car with its attached flags, parked alongside many others near the South Perth foreshore on Australia Day, presumably for the fireworks.
Nothing strange so far, except that the flags weren’t Australian, including either the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flags.
As I heard the story, the flag was recounted to be, “one with a few stripes, and a star or other symbol or something.” I was busting my memory to try and figure out which country it might have been:
But it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t Australian. And to some of the people who walked past it on the way back to their cars after the fireworks, it was clearly inappropriate – and fair game. By the time the storyteller walked past it again, the car had had food and drink smeared across all the windows, and the flags ripped off. Not completely trashed mind you, but a clear message nonetheless.
And that message was intolerance.
I’m saddened that perhaps, just perhaps, the owner of this car thought through the gamble to put another country’s flag – maybe the country of their birth or ancestry – on the car in a spirit of multicultural tolerance on our Big National Day, only to be sorely disappointed, probably embarrassed and definitely out of pocket.
Perhaps someone was taking the piss, or it was a prank on someone else’s car?
Perhaps the owner was being deliberately provocative?
Perhaps it was a few years too early. That’s what I’d like to think.
Either way, it’s a pretty sad tale about how far we’ve still got to go.
It was all a bit of an anticlimax really.
On the day before Australia Day I drove into the city with the kids and gave them the activity of counting flags on cars. We’re a 45-minute drive from the city, up and back on the freeway, and through my flag-flying neighbourhood – and what was our total when we got home?
Woeful! As a friend pointed out, perhaps last year’s prevalence of plastic patriotism was as a result of flag giveaways in the newspaper, and this year people weren’t prepared to splash out on a couple of bucks to display their ‘national proide.’ Probably saving for the flood levy.
Although, having said that, I would like to thank my friend who though it would be hilarious – just hilarious – to be an Australia Day ratbag, and sent me this email and photo early on our Big National Day:
Yes, my friend and my husband had conspired, while I was at work the previous weekend, to patriotically pimp my little Subaru and take a pic. Oh how they all laughed. She, however, is going to be Brownie’s teacher at school this year, so I’m just going to bide my time ….
I want to leave Australia for the next few weeks and come back around the end of February.
By then I shouldn’t see as many plastic Australian ‘flags’ fluttering stiffly from the sides of cars, or the Union Jack emblazened unevenly from items of clothings barely covering ample tanned and tattooed flesh at my local shopping centre.
It’s occurred to me that, for the first time, I’m dreading Australia Day. And that’s pretty sad. Although I was already concerned about jingoism two years ago, I’m even more disappointed now because the ‘sign’ of the Southern Cross has been appropriated into the bogan Aussie imagery and changed it forever. This is what I wrote in 2009:
I have a navy blue coffee mug which has the Southern Cross constellation on it. And looking at it this week made me think about whether this is jingoistic consumerism.
But no, it’s not the flag and all its cultural signifiers that I identify with (including the Union Jack), but the patch of earth I live on in relation to the sky above, and how – as Australians – we can be anywhere in our country and see this reassuring celestial pattern. Having travelled in the northern hemisphere where it’s not visible, to see the Southern Cross means that I am home in this great southern land.
Wearing a bikini top with the cross on one side and the two pointers on the other doesn’t make me feel any more Australian – if anything, just a little unbalanced ….
I bought that cup in 2007, but in the ensuing four years the cultural shift on the Southern Cross image means there’s no way I could wear or display it now without it signifying an element of the current “Fuck off we’re full” attitude. How has that happened – and, what’s next? What’s left? There’s not much to play with around the green and gold, and I suspect that the flag/southern cross shenanigans are more accessible as ‘traditional’ Australian images to latch on to for those who are doing the latching.
I’ll be watching, unfortunately, over the next few weeks to see what trends emerge.