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Australia Day OR Fun With Flags…

Flags are strange things.

Or rather, that should be: people’s attitudes to flags are strange.

For example, if you’ve been given the role of carrying your nation’s flag, it’s generally considered poor form to let the flag touch the ground. On the other hand, some people consider it very patriotic to buy thongs with the Australian flag and walk all over it, which – I probably don’t need to point out – would probably rile those same thong-wearers if one put the actual flag on the ground and walked all over it…

I’m not sure how they’d react if you had a welcome mat in the shape of the Australian flag at your front door, but I’m pretty sure a large number would scratch out the word, “Welcome” if you had it on a sign. Whatever, if it’s disrespectful to put a flag under your feet, what can one say about Australian flag underpants?

As we approach Rum Rebellion Day – or as some like to call it Australia Day – I”ve been thinking about flags. We’ll have the usual outrage from some who like to complain about what they call the outrage industry where they try to argue that anyone calling it “Invasion Day” is part of the Stalinist school of history revisionism because it was quite reasonable to claim Australia on behalf of the British Empire because the Indigenous population, lacking a flag, had never run their standard up a flag-pole and said, “This belongs to us!”, so any suggestion that it was an invasion overlooks all the things that we brought with us. And, if you point out that they’re the ones who are regularly paid to be outraged, or that the phrase “brought with us” does tend to suggest that there’s an exclusion of the Aboriginal population, then suddenly you should just thank your lucky stars you’re in the sort of country that values free speech and just shut up.

I know that this may seem like a pedantic point in the midst of so many important ones, but wouldn’t you like to see a Vox pops with a cross-section of people where they’re asked exactly what is being celebrated on Australia Day?

Now, I know that some would say that it remembers the circumnavigation of Australia by Captain Cook, but I wonder how many would actually know. Answer, before you cheat and look at the answer at the bottom of the page.

And I know that some would say – as our PM said a while back – that it marks the beginning of Australia as a country. This view completely overlooks the fact that Australia didn’t begin as a country until 1901. Immediately prior to that we were a number of states which had been British colonial outposts. And prior to that, there’d been a long history that I know almost nothing about because we’ve pretty much pretended that nothing happened before the Europeans “discovered” it. While most of you know that the day only became a national holiday in 1994 so the idea that changing the date that we celebrate is hardly changing years of tradition, it’s hard to argue that there’s something special about the date because someone turned up in a boat carrying a lot of lawbreakers, and refused to adopt the local customs. Is this a celebration of the first people smugglers?

Whatever one thinks about the date, I can’t help but wonder why there are so many yobbos running around with Australian flags on their back. The flag wasn’t in existence on when Captain Phillip landed so they should really be running around with a British flag if they wanted to be traditionalists.

Yes, someone once said that patriotism was the last refuge of the scoundrel, but we’ve moved on since those days. Political figures often use it as a first refuge, well before they’ve hit their last one. These days the last refuge of the scoundrel is to refuse to accept the premise of the question!

Answer: No, it’s not the day the First Fleet landed. It’s the day that Captain Phillip raised the Union Jack in Sydney Cove and began the British colonisation.

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  1. Ill fares the land

    A study I read found that those who, for example, had an Australian flag fluttering from their car as they drove around on Australia Day were measurably more likely to be racist. Flags are both a symbol of “inclusion” and also of “exclusion”, when the flag, in truth, can’t really define “us” in the same way that money has no intrinsic value beyond our belief and confidence in it as a medium of exchange. But flags invariably promote rampant jingoism – “if you don’t revere ‘our’ flag, you can’t be one of ‘us'”. They provoke fear – the refusal to allow the Indigenous flag to be flown above the parliament; the symbolism simply being to much for the LNP’s collection of right-wing fruitcakes to process. We let President Morrison’s phony reverence for the flag distract us from his deeply flawed behaviours and that he is patently unqualified for the role that he covets – but we are fooled that he is “one of us” and ignore his rampant predilection for authoritarianism. We define many “us’s” in our headlong rush to be part of one or more tribes. If you revere Holdens and hate Fords and the vice versa. Political parties. Ideologies. Football teams. Religion. Affluence. And we find it within ourselves to routinely despise those who are part of a different “us” – and often, so the excluded also despise “us”. Trump’s rampaging cult-followers revere the US flag as a symbol of power, democracy and freedom – all the while Trump and his rabble of followers are trashing those things the flag supposedly represents – and steadfastly failing to see the irony.

  2. Andrew J. Smith

    Conservatives or the LNP are clever at using the bait and switch promoting the flag (by wearing as a Superman cape) or shoving in our faces continually, national anthem at any opportunity, nebulous WASP ‘values’, First Fleet etc. which excludes the same for a large proportion of Australian citizens; while promoting freedom of speech etc..

    However, when the concert organisers of ‘Big Day Out’ about fiftenn years ago were compelled to ban the flag due to aggressive behaviour of flag wavers e.g. demanding non Anglo types kiss the flag, Howard stepped in condoning the behaviour of the perps….. like Coogee riots, ‘just letting off steam’….. the media thne call it ‘leadership’.

    Worse is when normal Australians worship the flag (including a Union Jack), in a US way like it’s a religious relic, become angry at what they view as disrespect, and lose all sense of proportion….. but lack the same zeal when it comes to actual protection of human rights etc.; symbols are easier than reality?

  3. wam

    What a great read, rossleigh.
    I am prone to riling up ‘patriots’ with the desecration of the flag we fought and fight under, by suggesting we cut the little coloured foreign square out and put in the design of a fellow ethelton primary student(although that is no longer possible without a great copyright cost). That gets the child-like followers of the rabbott foaming at the mouth and shouting(caps lock) obscenities and physical threats.
    Of course the flag is proudly attached to the golf carts of the clp pisspot patriots on jan 26th
    remember the bali 9 with drugs?? How about the Malaysia 9 with arses???

  4. wam

    Thanks for the link, Joseph,
    I am unskilled at writing but WTF was I trying to say 3 years ago??
    It is our 55 anniversary today so my darling deserves a gong???

  5. Geoff Andrews

    Well ya learn sumfing new every day: Captain Cook circumnavigated Australia, eh?
    We wuz tole Matthew Flinders done it.
    O’coarse back in the 1940’s an fifties, the edjacation system (particularly here in Qld) wasn’t as good as today – we done history real good an lotsa chanting tables an where all the countries of the world wuz.
    OK Rossleigh, I’m pretty sure you’re a banana bender from way back. What did they tell you about Point Hicks?

  6. Ross

    As some wag once noted, “it’s great to see little Australian flags out of car windows, it shows you who the wankers are”.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Is Scott’s mask on upside down?

    “Do not fly the flag upside down, even as a signal of distress.”

  8. Phil Pryor

    Remember that this flag was gazetted in 1953, and it was known at the time as a Menzies/Liberals Stunt to put up their colours and to aim at identification of this flag with conservative/imperial attitudes. “We” Australians fought in the Great War under the union jack. We fought in W W 2 under the RED ensign, triumphant under ALP administration by Curtin and later Chifley, which followed the treacherous failures of Menzies and scraps under Fadden. So, red was out as a favoured colour by the despicables of succeeding years. Ignoring our long accepted colours of green and gold, at times by nearly everyone, is itself bordering on despicable, and if we are to have a flag, (why?) it might as well be the unique outline of Australia in yellow, on a green background, with Tassy remembered. Flags should have gone out with cavalry charges, and those horrible posing royalty with rows of unearned medals on their fancy camp dress.

  9. Kaye Lee

    Speaking of unearned medals, I wonder if ScoMo will wear his Legion of Merit on Australia Day….or maybe save it for ANZAC Day.

    A top US military honor bestowed by a draft-dodging twice impeached lying insurrectionist known for bestowing rewards on sycophant ‘yes’ men. How proud SquirMo must feel. A tad ungrateful for Donny’s ‘”man of titanium” not to ring to say bu-bye.

  10. Matters Not

    Of course those who refuse medals get even more mentions and an unrivalled opportunity to make a political statement for the historical record.

    “Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior recipients. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award,” he said in a statement. “Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our nation’s values, freedom and democracy

    Then again he spoke about values, freedom and democracy which is not familiar Morrison territory..

  11. Michael Taylor

    No, no, no, Rossleigh. You’re wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Everyone knows that Dirk Hartog was the first person to circumnavigate Australia. 😁

  12. Rossleigh

    Yes, I read Dirk’s blog and the emails he sent back to France where he came from…

    Actually, speaking of being wrong: Scott Morrison on #AustraliaDay: “It’s all about acknowledging how far we’ve come. When those 12 ships turned up in Sydney, all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.”

    Apart from anything else, the First Fleet was eleven ships, not twelve.., must have confused it with the 12 apostles.

  13. Michael Taylor

    He wasn’t French. He was American. He follows me on Twitter.

  14. Anne Byam

    Ya both wrong !!! -;)

    There was one before Hartog as shown here :

    “The Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon landed on the western side of Cape York Peninsula and charted about 300 km of coastline.” [ 1606 ].

    If you add Cook and Van Diemen ( of Tasmanian note !! ) to the mix, they all buggered it up by invading a land held for 60,000 ++ years by our Indigenous Aboriginal peoples.

    Why the hell we have to ‘celebrate’ a day that shouldn’t even be on the calendar, beats me. Why don’t we just have a Van D day one year, a Cook-out the next, a Zoon day and Harty day – alternately, a four year cycle – – – and call them all the Day of Ashes, which would probably be appropriate.

    And yes Kaye – looks like it’s upside down on his face. Stupid bloke. Wouldn’t know bee from a bulls’ foot would he. !!

  15. Matters Not

    Re the (European) discovery of Australia. Lots of theories. Try this one:

    The theory of Portuguese discovery of Australia claims that early Portuguese navigators were the first Europeans to sight Australia between 1521 and 1524, well before the arrival of Dutch navigator Willem Janszoon in 1606 on board the Duyfken who is generally considered to be the first European discoverer.

    Some good museums in Sri Lanka (staffed by knowledgeable people) provide evidence that it’s a reasonable theory. Then there’s interesting (carbon dated) artefacts re boomerangs that might shock a few Australians as well.

    Best to have an open mind? Or maybe not?,be%20the%20first%20European%20discoverer.

  16. Roswell

    You’re all wrong. That Italian bloke – Marco Polo – was the first person to circumnavigate Australia. He beat the Egyptian team by two lengths.

    Don’t quote me on the dates but it was about 1250.

    PS: He only beat the Egyptians because they failed to turn right after rounding Tasmania and went sailing around the island.

  17. Kaye Lee

    See you and raise you….

    “We also detect a signal indicative of substantial gene flow between the Indian populations and Australia well before European contact, contrary to the prevailing view that there was no contact between Australia and the rest of the world. We estimate this gene flow to have occurred during the Holocene, 4,230 years ago.

    This is also approximately when changes in tool technology, food processing, and the dingo appear in the Australian archaeological record, suggesting that these may be related to the migration from India.”

  18. Michael Taylor

    That is true, Kaye. We covered that at uni in Aboriginal Archaeology back in ‘97.

    The Aborigines came from India, as did the dingo, which is related to the Indian Wild dog (or some name like that). The dingo is a relatively recent arrival, suggesting there were many migratory waves over the last 65,000+ years.

  19. Max Gross

    What I love most about Australia Day are all those giddy drunk patriots waving flags made in China

  20. Kaye Lee

    Hey, China also makes our army’s dress uniforms.

  21. Michael Taylor

    And they also make those offensive red MAGA caps.

  22. Geoff Andrews

    Flinders was not only the first to circumnavigate Oz; he also mapped a fair chunk of it on the way. Until relatively recently, some of his charts were still being used. If someone today tried to duplicate his & Bass’ voyages in open waters in “Tom Thumb”, they would be arrested. Cook was a fantastic navigator and seaman but I think Flinders was better.His exploits rival any of the famous land explorers – Leichhardt, Mitchell, Charles Sturt and even Burke & Wills.

  23. Kaye Lee

    I thought that too Michael but not actually correct.

    The official Trump hats were made in America but, like everything else, cheap ripoffs were produced in China.

    I have to say, my ripoff Rayban sunnies are still going strong years later. I feel a bit guilty but, knowing the mark-up that is put on sunglasses here, I would also feel guilty about supporting rampant capitalist greed,

  24. Michael Taylor

    Thanks, Kaye. Well I screwed that one up. 😳

  25. Michael Taylor

    Geoff, and if Flinders hadn’t have beat Nicholas Baudin to Kangaroo Island by three days I might well have grew up on a French Colony.

  26. Kaye Lee

    No screw-up Michael. I was going to post the same thing myself – it’s been widely reported – but fact checked before I did.

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