‘I’m dizzily in love with Australia. Patriotism shouldn’t be reserved for the right‘, Guardian Australia, 1 February 2017
Reflection following a trip around Australia. Attracted more than 500 comments pro and con.
Patriotism has become a touchy subject of late [says Tan] and a battleground Australian liberals are slowly, in the sobering dawn of Brexit, Trump and the concerning resurrection of Pauline Hanson and homegrown xenophobic nationalism, realising they may have too quickly abandoned. The longer and more fervently Hanson and her ilk dominate the practice of patriotism the more one is left with the sinking feeling that unless you subscribe to her particular brand of jingoist flag-draped anti-immigration hysteria, then you’re not a patriot. Even the more benign series of nationalist archetypes (the larrikin, the digger) or moth-eaten phrases like ‘a fair go’ and ‘mateship’ feel affiliated with a certain nostalgic rendering of Australia that hasn’t been seen in real life since 1960 and is unlikely to be seen again.
Much of Tan’s article is about coming to grips with Australia’s Indigenous story and, in that sense, it has much in common with themes in The Honest History Book, to be published in April by NewSouth.
We are Australians yet strangers in a foreign land [says Tan] – a nation in limbo yet to reconcile with our own history. To reconcile with history is to begin to reconcile with Indigenous Australia; to reconcile with Indigenous Australia is to begin to reconcile with the land. Then, and only then, might we truly know how to proudly and unequivocally call this place home.
In similar vein, The Honest History Book concludes:
Most of all, upsizing our non-khaki side [the parts of our history that are not about doing and dying on foreign shores, Diggers and Anzac] means facing up to what Larissa Behrendt calls ‘the invasion moment’, for ‘until we do that we will never have found a way to truly share this colonised country’. That invasion of 1788 and its consequences deserve far more of our attention today than do the failed invasion of the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and our military ventures since. ‘Not only Anzac but also’ is shorthand for a complex history that deserves exploration, understanding, commemoration and even, sometimes, celebration. Australia is more than Anzac – and always has been.
Tan’s article also echoes Paul Daley’s piece in Guardian Australia last year, ‘Australian patriotism: it’s not about war, it’s in our love of the land’. Paul Daley has a chapter in The Honest History Book (‘Our most important war: The legacy of frontier conflict’) as does Indigenous academic, Larissa Behrendt, referred to in the extract above (‘Settlement or invasion? The coloniser’s quandary’). Australia’s fading ‘fair go’ and ‘mateship’ traditions are also addressed in The Honest History Book by Stuart Macintyre (‘Bust and boom: What economic lessons has Australia learned?’), Carmen Lawrence (‘ “Fair go” nation? Egalitarian myth and reality in Australia’) and Peter Stanley (‘Australian heroes: Some military mates are more equal than others’).