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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