Friday, January 26, 2007

our home is girt by sea

The thing about Australia Day is that I'm always left wondering what it means to be 'really Australian' - and if there really is such a definition. Do we look to our international perception? Kangaroo pet keeping, 'this is a knife' quoting, beach going, blond/e, always tanned, ocker colloquialism saying, unable to speak or understand other languages, beer guzzling, cricket loving, laid back rednecks who surf. This may or may not be true, in fact as I was writing it I recognised that despite the fact that I don't know anyone who owns a kangaroo every other stereotype is more or less true - ...and also more or less false. We all know some people who are like that and also people who defy that stereotype while still maintaining their Australianess.

How do you pigeon hole a nation that is always completely at odds with itself? A nation that is always trying so hard to define what it is, and always trying to set boundaries and limits as to what it means to be Australian and un-Australian but always falling short?

Maybe we should define ourselves not by how other see us but how we see ourselves - meat eating, good wine drinking, educated, good humoured, in many cases bi-lingual, sun-kissed beach going, animal loving, accepting, politically aware and continental. But that too is problematic - not all of us see ourselves that way and many of us reject many of those things as unAustralian.

Is it about the piece of paper or passport that proves you are Australian? Or is it knowing the words to the national anthem (does anyone know the second verse?)? Or is it a feeling? A pedigree? A skin colour? All of those things? None of them?

As part of our celebrations of Australia Day Tim Flannery was awarded "Australian Of the Year". I'm reading his book "We are the Weather Makers" at the moment and wondering about our Australianess. Maybe it doesn't matter how we see ourselves or how others see us but where we are going in the future? What will Australia be like in the future? Already we're seeing how irresponsible we have been regarding environmental factors - will our whole culture and society change in order to facilitate change for the better or will things get worse? In 50 years are our 'young and free' children going to be able to get a suntan, while BBQing fresh meat on the beach as they're taking in the backdrop of our abundant and strange flora and fauna - or are these the things we're taking for granted that will be around forever? Does Australianess depend on Australia; the land itself? If the land is deteriorating then what will our culture be like in the future?

But it's not all bad yet, is it? There will be much consumption of good food, and good laughs shall be had today as we take in the rays as we celebrate ourselves.

What is your impression of Australia?