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Flag capers

By skepticlawyer

In one of those eccentricities of time and date, Burns Night in Scotland (January 25) shades into Australia Day (January 26), especially for anyone using social media. This made for a very odd Friday evening this last week while I was working late. I saw Scots cheerfully celebrating their country’s greatest poet and the bonhomie that much of his writing engenders, while my Australian friends (ranging, as do all my friends, across and along and inside and outside the political spectrum) presented a far more equivocal picture.

There were people saying ‘sorry’, often by altering their Facebook profile picture. There were people dressed in Australian flag capes. There were people who do not like Australian flag capes calling the cape-wearers ‘bogans’ (that’s Australian for ‘ned’ or ‘chav’, for our Scots and English readers). There were people saying that calling people ‘bogan’ was classist. At one point a spirited to-do on a left-leaning friend’s page ensued over that term: the leftie wanted to show his pro-indigenous street-cred, only to be called on his dislike for the ‘lower orders’ by other lefties. There is also, apparently, a move afoot to rename Australia Day ‘citizens’ day’, which was being pooh-poohed by all comers, at least on my Facebook feed.

It was all a bit sad, really.

The Scots, meanwhile, were reciting poems about haggis (as well as eating it), doing highland dancing in the streets, playing bagpipes and downing whisky. Lots of whisky. No-one was saying ‘ned’ about anyone else. Everyone, so far as I could see, was having a good time. And drinking whisky. The response on St Andrew’s Day is similar: attempts by the nationalists to make it too sombre cut no ice. In a country that has–at least historically–had riots and murders over football, national festivities unite, rather than divide. That is a credit to the Scots. Because Scots have this in their history. And this. Oh, and this as well. Of course, I’m being remiss if I leave out this. Or this. By any standard, Scotland has an unusually bloody history. Yes, you may counter, so do many other European countries. But the Scots climbed out of the mud and blood and produced the Scottish Enlightenment. To a large degree, the rest of the developed world has had an easy life because the Scots figured out how to do modernity (so we didn’t have to).

The relatively trivial nastiness of Australia’s history needs to be assimilated, not used to found a set of competing narratives that attempt to exclude all other narratives. And that doesn’t mean forgotten, either. It means remembered and worked through intelligently, without imposing a given version on other people who are living in the country at the same time. The people who say ‘sorry’ every Australia Day need to understand that when they do that, they are engaging in moral grandstanding and making themselves and their story even less likely to be heard. People who wear the flag as a cape need to know that they are poking every returned serviceman in the eye, not to mention many older Australians (all of whom will have been taught that the flag must not be allowed to touch the ground). There are many other instances of the same thing. And all of us, I think, need to dial back on the ‘bogan’ rhetoric. I disagree intensely with its author’s politics, but my own fondness for using the English and Scots equivalents of ‘bogan’ was called into question by reading this book. In it, Owen Jones points out that it’s easy to slip into a sort of righteous rhetoric about an entire class of people without actually realising that each of them–just like their educated social ‘betters’–is an individual.

I’m not pretending this will be easy. But it can be done. And that it can be done in a country with as much blood-drenched, sectarian history as Scotland suggests that, if Australians engage their brains, it will be a walk in the park.

Maybe, just maybe, the young women in the photograph illustrating this post are starting on the path to useful historical assimilation.

73 Comments

  1. Posted January 28, 2013 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    For American readers, as I’ve just had to explain on Facebook: ‘redneck’ or ‘cracker’.

  2. Posted January 28, 2013 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    A thoughtful post on Australia Day. My take on it is closer to LE’s, and you might like to read it on my website. For those who haven’t the time, I ask whatever happened to the “Australia Project’ the urge to build a new society under the Southern Cross, free of the injustices of the Old World — a strong theme of the 19th century, and one resumed after the Second World War.

  3. Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    I added a postscript to my Australia Day post to pick up Don’s post – http://belshaw.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/sunday-essay-australian-identity.html.

    Don, just to take you back into your own past, the discussions in the farm organisations such as the FSA at the start of the twentieth century combined a sense of vulnerability, of risk and hardship, with a belief that improvement was possible through individual and group action. Mick Bruxner was hardly an intellectual, but when you combine him with a Drummond or a Page things started to happen.

    In your work on the NSW Country Party, a history of organisation and survival, you made the point among others, that there was a long lead time in creating the structures required for cooperative action. That’s actually still true despite advances in technology.

    The people who did the driving were very varied, far more varied than you get today when political selection techniques have become so standardised and narrow results focused. They also knew that they were not going to get results from the then power structures. They had to change things.

    Then as now, I think that it is unrealistic to expect the status quo to be able to provide the leadership you want in the absence of external threat. The huge changes that began with Labor and continued under Menzies were responses to threat. You have outlined some of the responses.

    I would argue that in a wealthier and now highly centralised society, you have neither the drive for change nor the flexibility required to allow for change. Everything is weighed, balanced and measured.

    I am not being negative. I just think that any new vision will take time to emerge and will come from outside current power structures. .

  4. TerjeP
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I shared the picture of the ladies in Aussie flag hijabs on Facebook because they seemed to be happy and having fun and embracing the spirit of Australia Day. Plus it seemed to say something nice about assimilation. However when I tracked down some of the other places it was being shared and some of the comments it attracted I was a bit shocked. There was a discussion on how they deserved a bullet between the eyes for desecrating the flag (accompanied by much agreement). And another about how they were laughing because they were taking over the country and this was one more bit they were concurring. And of course somebody pointed out that the Aussie flag is full of christian crosses from the crusades so a Muslim embarrassing the flag was kind of odd. All up I was a bit disappointed by the quality of the analysis and reaction.

    As for desecrating the flag I have a pair of thongs (not sure on the Scottish word but you put them on your feet) that depicts the Aussie flag. So I walk on the flag with regularity. But I also do flag parade at Cub Scouts so I’m well aware of the “don’t touch the ground” tradition. I like national rituals but I find it a bit off putting when the rituals become more important than the spirit they are meant to embody. Unity, love of country etc.

  5. TerjeP
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    conquering <- concurring

  6. Posted January 28, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Melbourne author Dr David Nichols gave us a worthy treatise here -
    The Bogan Delusion

    My hometown Ballarat Vic has a handsome and prominent Burns statue on its premier corner for the Burnsies to tak a cup o’kindness. Scots wha hae!

  7. Posted January 28, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Terje@7, that’s really dreadful, and indicates the problem may be worse than I thought. Mind you, internet, everyone, brings, worst of, etc.

  8. TerjeP
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    If you want to see the nasty bile then visit the following page and find their share of the picture about 17 hours prior to this comment I am making here.

    https://www.facebook.com/fightbackaussie

  9. Mel
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I would be much happier if Australia Day was changed to another, less controversial, date. The commemoration of the arrival of the First Fleet is distasteful and I don’t see why someone who identifies as indigenous should be expected to greet such a commemoration with a shit-eating grin. The legacy of the arrival of the First Fleet means indigenous persons occupy the lowest strata in Australian society and most indig families are ruptured by domestic violence, suicide, ill health and imprisonment. Yipeee!

    Nonetheless I can’t stand the black armband crowd because they wilfully or ignorantly misrepresent history. Hunter-gatherer societies are inevitably colonised (only a handful of exceptions remain) and the result is almost always bleak. British colonisation was one of the least worst. Also, Australian indigenous cultures were bleak in many ways and especially so for women, who as far as a can gather were treated as chattels, regularly beaten by their husbands and always at risk of being abducted by neighbouring clans seeking brides.

  10. TerjeP
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    I think that there will be indigenous people who are unhappy with any celebration of “Australia Day” irrespective of the date. Why should they greet such a commemoration differently just because it is on a different day?

    For what it is worth I also have reservations about the formation of Australia. Federation has in my view been an expensive failure. It is hard to fathom what alternate realities would look like but I think a set of separate nations on this continent formed from the original British colonies and closely aligned in trade and culture like we are with New Zealand might have produced a more optimal outcome.

  11. Posted January 28, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I disagree, Terje. It could easily have wound up being an EU-style morass. What we have isn’t perfect, but there’s less indirection between voters and politicians at the continental level.

  12. Mel
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Federation has been a failure as demonstrated by the fact that Oz is possibly the richest, safest and most stable democracy on earth.

    And I’ll goldbugger anyone who says otherwise …

  13. Yobbo
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    I would be much happier if Australia Day was changed to another, less controversial, date

    There’s nothing controversial about January 26. Relations between Philip’s fleet and the Aboriginal people of New South Wales were very cordial for a fair time after arrival. When it started to go south was later, when Aboriginals started to develop smallpox, and also realised that the visitors had no intention of ever leaving.

  14. Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    TP@13 Since the State that didn’t federate (New Zealand) has significantly lower per capita income, Federation as expensive failure is a hard case to make. That’s without even considering the point M@15 makes. As indicated, for example, by our HDI rankings.

    Y@16 There is also the issue about the Crown trying to protect the indigenous inhabitants and settlers trying to take their land. So, an even more complex story.

  15. Adrien
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    The commemoration of the arrival of the First Fleet is distasteful

    Sure, but it’s the truth and the truth of our origins is seldom held to be in good taste is it?

    I’m not sure ‘bogans’ are working class people. If bogan is the standard pejorative slang for someone who is bullying, chauvanistic, bigoted, ignorant, slovenly, crude, dull and painfully stupid and Australian, well there was too much of it ’round the tennis on Australia Day – and they were management types, many of ‘em. But everywhere else it was a lot like that picture.

    The massacre of Glen Coe has caused one or two Celtic politcal problems for me with members of my family. My grandmother’s people are definitely Clan Donald, my middle name is Campbell.

    What can I say MacDonalds, yer jus’ naw very bright are ye? :)

  16. Posted January 28, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Yobbo.

    Furthermore, anybody unhappy with Australia Day, or with the flag, is free to take their un-Australian carcase to some other country.

    I’ll be damned before I’ll feel the slightest inclination to do anything but celebrate on Australia Day.

    “Invasion Day” “Sorry Day” etc aficionados can go to hell (and stay there).

  17. Posted January 28, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Adrien, that feud is over. Some years ago the chief of the MacDonalds & the chief of clan Campbell got together and smoked the peace pipe.
    The two clans are now mates.

  18. Mel
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Stephanie at the Pub:

    “I’ll be damned before I’ll feel the slightest inclination to do anything but celebrate on Australia Day.

    “Invasion Day” “Sorry Day” etc aficionados can go to hell (and stay there).”

    The Right in Japan say the same thing about those whinging ex-POWs who complain that the little bit of honest work demanded of guests of the Jap Government during WWII was cruel and inhumane.

    The Right in Austria says the same thing about the cunning, manipulative Jews and their gross exaggeration of the evils of the so-called Holocaust Holiday Guest Houses.

    And so on and so forth.

    The Right in every country sings from the song sheet.

  19. Posted January 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Is there supposed to be a point to that Mel, or is that just the sort of disjointed stuff you type after dinner?

  20. Posted January 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Mel, if you feel shame at being Australian you are free to peace off to anywhere else you please.

    Australia doesn’t need you, it wasn’t made great by people like you, and it will be a better and more productive and much nicer place without you.

    I don’t mind if the door does hit you on the arse on the way out.

  21. TerjeP
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    TP@13 Since the State that didn’t federate (New Zealand) has significantly lower per capita income, Federation as expensive failure is a hard case to make.

    It’s about on par with Tasmania which did federate.

  22. Posted January 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Terje, very good.
    How much smaller than the NT economy is the Tas economy?

  23. Posted January 29, 2013 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    Steve and Mel illustrate precisely why Australia needs a Scots-style historical reassessment. And also how far it is from a clan Macdonald/clan Campbell rapprochement.

  24. kvd
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    SL, reading your links – and I accept that history is never a straight line – it seems the Enlightenment was possibly one outgrowth of the reduction in conflict between England and Scotland following from the Acts of Union? If that is even partially acknowledged, then it is interesting to see RB railing against same – see his Parcel of Rogues for example.

    It is a small irony that he is included as one of the celebrated thinkers of the Enlightenment – no? Anyway, thanks for prodding me into considering the issues you raise.

  25. TerjeP
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Steve – At a rough guess I’d say the NZ economy is about eight times the Tasmanian economy. As a resident of NSW I’m burdened more by Tasmania than New Zealand due to federation and Federal government transfers.

    Jacques – Which distinction between the EU federation of nations and our federation of colonies leads you to find ours so appealing. What I loath about ours is the bloated central government. A weaker union that fascilitated free trade and free movement but did without Canberra and it’s taxation would in my mind be a vastly better arrangement.

  26. Yobbo
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo, there weren’t many settlers trying to take their land in 1788, since there weren’t many settlers on the first fleet. Mostly soldiers and convicts, neither of which were allowed land, at least not initially.

    If there’s a date that Aboriginals have the right to feel a little aggrieved about, it was in 1790 when Philip ordered an expedition to go out and kill any 5 aboriginals they could find in retaliation for the (justifiable) killing of Gamekeeper Macintyre who was a psychopath who hunted aboriginals for sport.

    The demonisation of Australia day is just another invention of the counter-cultural left who feel it necessary to shit on everything that people like.

  27. Adrien
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Steve – Furthermore, anybody unhappy with Australia Day, or with the flag, is free to take their un-Australian carcase to some other country.

    I reckon writing Invasion Day somewhere in the city is part of the tradition of Australia Day in Melbourne. If people wanna celebrate Invasion Day let ‘em. Most of ‘em are Middle-Class undergraduate weenies, pale and not so interesting. The Aborigines are usually out to party, in my experience.

    I like the colours of the flag, but it’s a British Naval flag. Can’t we come up with something of our own?

    Is it ‘un-Australian’ to ask such a question?

    Adrien, that feud is over. Some years ago the chief of the MacDonalds & the chief of clan Campbell got together and smoked the peace pipe.

    yeah but the Campbells spiked the Donald’s pipes with industrial cleaner. :)

    SATP, yeah but Celts love to go over old defeats and feuds.

    Especially in the New World diaspora. People in Ireland and Scotland aren’t all that concerned with hating the English or whatever. It’s Aussies and Americans who get upset watching Braveheart pretty much as a way of hanging on to an ethnic identity submerged under postmodern cultural practices like watching Hollywood history flicks on your home entertainment screen.

  28. Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    (Slips out & buys Terje a pair of reading glasses) *after that*:

    Terje, I was wondering (idly) how the economy of the Northern Territory compares to that of Tasmania. Being as both a subsidised by the feds, but one gets to send twelve senators to Canberra, and five MHRs when they’ve population enough for only three.

  29. Posted January 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    What I loath about ours is the bloated central government. A weaker union that fascilitated free trade and free movement but did without Canberra and it’s taxation would in my mind be a vastly better arrangement.

    The original design and interpretation of the constitution was sound. But then the High Court became stocked with people who didn’t have horrible handicaps such as a personal recollection of the design principles and intentions of the document. So they completely inverted the form.

    That said, we’re still ahead of an EU bureaucracy. The EU, EC and the rest of the dozen or so overlapping supranational bureaucracies are that much harder to kill because they answer to no one set of voters (they hang a figleaf called a “Parliament” but let’s not kid ourselves).

    At least in Australia a single Parliament can put the boot into the Federal government.

  30. Posted January 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    JC@35 I would point out that COAG has distinct EU features. But you are right, we are way ahead.

    I am struck by the EU allegedly being a way of “catching up” with the US, but they seem to miss all the key bits. Or perhaps that is intentional.

    TP@26 Which is even less of an argument that Federation was an expensive mistake, since New Zealand has more resources and population, so should be doing better than Tasmania.

  31. Mel
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Drunk at the Pub:

    “Is there supposed to be a point to that Mel, or is that just the sort of disjointed stuff you type after dinner?”

    The point is that you are a soul sister with Ah Me Dinner Jacket, the Ghost of Osama Bin Liner, Slobbering Milosevic and the Reverend Johnathon Loveboy. You should have a dinner party together. Don’t forget the after dinner mints.

  32. Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    So if the indigenous population call it ‘invasion day’, does that mean I can call it ‘abduction day’?

    As for alternatives, 27th May is an option…

  33. Posted January 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Mel, if you are going to insist upon typing after dinner, at least try to keep it civil.

    It may rankle with you that I’m a far better person than you’ll ever be. Deal with it.

    Coz I couldn’t care less, I meet losers all day every day, consequently you’re nothing remarkable to me.

  34. TerjeP
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Steve – I did see NT as Northern Territory but then figured it must have been a typo and you must have meant NZ. Anyway the following should give some perspective:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Australian_states_and_territories_by_gross_state_product

  35. Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    D@38 Ah, also a descendant of convicts I see :)

    Though, since being transported vastly improved my ancestors social prospects, they got a good return on criminal acts.

    My response on reparations for slavery for African-Americans is quite simple: they are owed the difference in average wealth between an African-American and a West African.

    TP@40 Great table. Iran has the same GDP as NSW: puts things in perspective.

  36. RipleyP
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Alas I have to say that I usually find Australia Day distasteful in that it seems to attract a lot of Nationalism of the less savoury variety.
    I always see the “if you don’t love it leave” stickers around my town and wonder how we got to this situation. Once upon a time it was about making the place a better place and the people better lives. Now its toe the line or go away.
    I also have an issue with the term Un-Australian, I don’t think anyone has ever clearly defined what it is to be Australian beyond holding citizenship. Therefore what is it to be Un-Australian?
    Culture develops and changes thus holding onto the 1950 ideal of Australian culture must give way to the more mixed and varied culture that develops as a result of immigration and more efficient and easy information transfer. Yet every time someone seems to say what it is to be Australian I hear the 1950’s ideals.
    What happens if the country I may love has chosen a path I don’t like or is being guided down a path that isn’t what Australia is all about? (Whatever that might be) Do I leave? Or do I stay and fight to put it back on the right path?

  37. Yobbo
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t really see the advantages of a “mixed and varied culture”, to be perfectly honest.

    The good parts of other cultures were already incorporated into British culture decades if not centuries ago.

    All multiculturalism gives us is the stuff we never wanted.

    I challenge you to name a single example of imported foreign culture that is superior to what we already had (other than food).

  38. Posted February 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Apart from food?
    Oh yeah, can I ever top that: Hot Ethnic Babes.
    Apart from that, multi-culturalism has been a complete negative for this country.

  39. kvd
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    Apart from food? Food is the music of life, Yobbo! I hear echoes of that “What have the Romans done for us?” Python sketch :)

  40. Yobbo
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    To answer your question, the Romans did much more for us than just food.

    The recent immigrants from Greece? Not so much. Immigrants since then? Even less.

  41. Posted February 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Apart from that, multi-culturalism has been a complete negative for this country.

    Aww, come on. There have been heaps of positives:
    - Islamic immigrants help us pretend we don’t have any gender problems in our own society.
    - Immigrants from Africa and the Middle East help us pretend we don’t have a problem with violence in our culture.
    - Those hard-working Asian immigrants help us rationalise our hatred of the poor for just being the victims of their own laziness.
    - All of the above make us feel intellectually superior when they have trouble mastering the English language.
    - And of course they also help us feel morally superior whenever we encounter them in low paid service jobs.

    God, can you imagine how depressing life would be without a daily reminded of how awesome us anglos are?

  42. kvd
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    desipis I wasn’t going to reply but your (I accept) ironic note makes me wonder just how this place could have exited the 1950s without continued migration. The thing is, I’m struggling to understand just where Yobbo is drawing the line between ‘good’ immigration and ‘bad’ immigration – without resorting to a presumption of yob-like racism.

    But if it simply be that, maybe let “Kochie” (ever the favourite, it seems, of the yobs whose only distinguishing feature is that they or their forebears – like mine – got here first) have a word. Except note that he’s talking about that even more despised category – refugees.

  43. Mel
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Yobbo 43:

    “I challenge you to name a single example of imported foreign culture that is superior to what we already had (other than food).”

    I was going to say Asian chicks given your well known inclinations but I’m guessing you’re more than happy getting by with Google, your right hand and a packet of tissues.

  44. Yobbo
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    I think the last 2 posters don’t understand the differences between multiracialism and multiculturalism.”

    Kvd: It’s very easy to distinguish between good and bad immigration.

    The good kind is where people come here and choose to accept our culture, rather than importing the imcompatible cultural practices that made their own country such a hole that they wanted to leave it.

    Even something that we take completely for granted like the western cultural practice of standing in line is not the norm in places like China.

    So yes Mel, you’re right. I do find people of Chinese ethnicity attractive, and are happy to have as many of them as we can fit in Australia.

    I don’t however, want them to bring the Chinese cultural practices of pushing and shoving, spitting in the street, bride price, or female infancticide with them.

    I think that’s fair enough. But I realise there are many on the left that think that makes me a horrible racist.

  45. Yobbo
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    I would also like to point out to kvd is that all of the people in Kochie’s list are people who came here from overseas and immediately assimilated into Australian life, some of them even to the point of changing their names to sound more Western.

    We don’t regard them as great Australians because of any new cultural ideas they brought us, but because of what they have managed to achieve within our already existing culture.

    But since you apparently fail to understand the Romans joke, here’s why it’s funny:

    The Roman Empire was one of the most advanced civilisations in history, and easily the most advanced of its time.

    The reason it’s funny to ask “what did the Romans do for us” is precisely because arguably no civilisation before or since did more for us.

    The same is not true, for example, of Sudan. Or even 1970′s Italy. Lots of very nice people came from Italy and Greece to Australia. But their only real cultural contribution was to our cuisine, and thank god for that. Because the reason they came here was to escape their culture.

  46. Yobbo
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    So I guess the challenge is still out there.

    Any recent cultural additions to Australia that you consider an improvement?

  47. Yobbo
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    I actually thought of on: Karaoke

    Which was apparently first introduced separately to Australia by Filipino migrants and popularised by Japanese tourists, rather than being something which we acquired via osmosis.

    I guess whether or not you consider that a positive cultural development is subjective, but it’s certainly better than, say, Female Genital Mutilation.

  48. kvd
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Yobbo@various firstly thanks for the explanation of ‘the Roman joke’. I have written it down for later study.

    As usual we are talking past each other, so to some extent (in your latest depiction of what you mean by ‘culture’ – namely Karaoke) I agree with your comments. I had thought you were railing against ‘multiculuralism’ – as in the ability for people of differing ethnic backgrounds to peacefully coexist. But I think what you are demanding is a step further than that: you wish those differing cultures to be a net positive; i.e. features of those cultures to be taken up within ‘our’ culture?

    I’m not sure there’s any general expectation of that, or that it provides a useful measure of success or failure.

    But it’s interesting that you note Chinese unwillingness to queue. I thought the ability to queue was a much derided feature of the English – see this guy (and commenters) for several funny diatribes – so maybe the Chinese are contributing to a cultural shift by just that one small thing alone?

  49. Posted February 4, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    Yobbo, a few off the top of my head:
    Acupuncture and other alternative treatments, meditation techniques, martial arts disciplines, siestas/long lunch break, a more pragmatic approach to marriage, e-sports, a range of music and art…

  50. Yobbo
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    If you think the Siesta/Long Lunch break is a desirable cultural import, I direct you to observe the financial situations of the countries in Europe that still practice it.

    That was one of the things I was thinking about when I said we don’t really want to import every aspect of Mediterranean culture. Spaghetti is fine though.

    Same goes for alternative medicine too, quite frankly. There’s a word for medical treatments that work and have been proven to work in controlled scientific trials: Medicine.

    “Alternative medicine” is just eastern mysticism and superstition. Exactly the kind of thing that we don’t really want or need. In practical terms, it probably killed Steve Jobs.

    But I think what you are demanding is a step further than that: you wish those differing cultures to be a net positive; i.e. features of those cultures to be taken up within ‘our’ culture?

    No, I’m saying that western culture is our main selling point, and that people who come here should adopt it. It’s not like we just discovered other countries. We incorporated most of the good parts of their cultures into our own centuries ago. It’s the shit stuff we didn’t want that is defended in the name of “multiculturalism”.

  51. Posted February 4, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Because sitting around with your racist mates, watching a bunch of thugs bash into each other, scoffing a meat pie (that contains anything but), drinking mass produced piss till you don’t know your head from your ass, and deluding yourself into believing that your team winning somehow entitles you to glory makes for such the pinnacle of human culture.

  52. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Is this Desipis a one of the counter-cultural left?

    Certainly narrow-minded enough to be one of them.

  53. Adrien
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Any recent cultural additions to Australia that you consider an improvement?

    Shisha pipes on the sidewalk in summertime, less litter and more pleasant than cigarettes; the music and dance of Latin America; the practice of meditation and yoga. Three off the top of my head that’ve been become popular in the last decade or so here.

    I don’t think you know what culture is. Try and name one cultural contribution of the Romans, most likely they got it from somewhere else. I tend to agree that I don’t want good habits like standing in line and not killing little girls to dissipate and I tend to stand up to, for example, haughty India snobbery in favour Australian egalitarianism.

    But it’s a little absolutist to discount the culture of others simply because you don’t appreciate it.

    This discourse viz ‘multiculturalism’ is mostly a lot of hot air inflating a big bugaboo-shaped balloon and its value is best assessed by the sound it makes when you stop blowing and let it go.

  54. Adrien
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Any recent cultural additions to Australia that you consider an improvement?

    And Iranian graphic novels.

  55. Mel
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Yobbo @50:

    “I don’t however, want them to bring the Chinese cultural practices of pushing and shoving, spitting in the street, bride price, or female infancticide with them.”

    Are you saying colourful Ozblogistan personality and Chinaman, Jason Soon, should be evicted from Australia?

  56. Yobbo
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Are you saying colourful Ozblogistan personality and Chinaman, Jason Soon, should be evicted from Australia?

    Does he push into lines and spit in the street? Jason’s family is not even from China. They are from Malaysia. Do you know the difference?

    Did you even read any of my posts Mel? There’s a very big difference between race and culture. Multicultural is not the same thing as Multiracial.

    All of your posts addressed to me have been variations of the same theme: “OMG if you don’t like multiculturalism it means you hate other races”. Do you even listen to yourself?

  57. Yobbo
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    Try and name one cultural contribution of the Romans

    The Roman Alphabet. The Roman Legal system. The Julian Calender. Latin. Is that enough for now?

  58. Yobbo
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Because sitting around with your racist mates, watching a bunch of thugs bash into each other, scoffing a meat pie (that contains anything but), drinking mass produced piss till you don’t know your head from your ass, and deluding yourself into believing that your team winning somehow entitles you to glory makes for such the pinnacle of human culture.

    The fact that’s what you think western culture is says a lot more about you than it says about me.

  59. conrad
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    “Any recent cultural additions to Australia that you consider an improvement?”

    Some groups have a far harder working ethic. And their children turn out better because they have more HFTU also — e.g., not telling their children they are smart after they get 52% in a maths test and then wondering why their kids get nowhere in life when they turn 21 (or 32 as the case is now when they leave home).

  60. conrad
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    Low crime rates would be another — the average immigrant does less crime than the average Australian. Some groups vastly less (the stats are on the ABS site).

  61. conrad
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Less expectation that the government should do things for them when they have lots of money. Most Chinese people, for example, can’t quite understand middle-class welfare.

    I could go on and on, but I won’t.

  62. Posted February 5, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    The fact that’s what you think western culture is says a lot more about you than it says about me.

    I thought we were defining culture based on all the negative stereotypes we know about. I guess I forgot about the exception where western culture is only defined by the positive things. My bad.

  63. Mel
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Yobbo:

    “Jason’s family is not even from China. ”

    True, but I think Soon would be the first to admit they are still culturally Chinese. My point, anyway, blockhead, is that many folk today belong to a cosmopolitan culture irrespective of origin. I’m not aware of Chinese folk in Australia having a reputation for pushing and shoving, spitting all over the place and killing girls.

    Also I’ve always supported a discriminatory immigration regime. As I’ve said many times on this blog, I think it would be wise to halt migration from those ethnic/religious categories that produce significant numbers of terrorists or whose members commit crimes associated with backward cultural norms.

    As I understand it, parts of Paris are now practically no go zones for white people. I don’t want this to happen here.

  64. Adrien
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    The Roman Alphabet. The Roman Legal system. The Julian Calender. Latin. Is that enough for now?

    The alphabet came from Greece by way of the Etruscans. These things you list are cultural in an anthropological sense but not in the sense of customs or products of culture as understood in a literary manner.

    Romans were very good at organization. Their culture was mostly imported.

  65. Yobbo
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    The Etruscan Alphabet was not identical to the Roman Alphabet, even though the Roman alphabet was based on it.

    Regardless of that, surely the point is where we got it from, and the answer to that is surely the Romans, since as far as I know the Ancient Greeks never invaded the British Isles.

    Pasta was invented by the Chinese, but it came into western culture by way of the Italians.

  66. kvd
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    The last two comments are what I meant by “talking past each other”.

    So, what is it? A discussion of imported ‘cultural artefacts’ such as painting, literature, song, dance – art generally, including stuff like ‘gangnam’ and Bieber and American TV; or culture as in identifiable ‘cultural ticks’ such as respect for elders, food, dis/respect for law/women, queuing, and – yes – even fgm, and so on?

    I had thought the second was Yobbo’s approach, but anyway – I’d be interested to understand.

  67. Adrien
    Posted February 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I took exception to the assertion that nothing of value has come to us recently from ‘non-Western’ societies. Culture is a term that can be applied generally to describe all human activity and disposition or specifically to things produced in the market of symbolic goods.

    The toleration of and interest in other cultures, far from being some lefty assault on Western Civilization is a central part of it:

    We throw open our city to the world

    – Pericles, 404 BCE

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