Pride in one’s nation can be a very dangerous thing. An accident of birth determines so much of one’s circumstances, whether being born as female or male, in differing socio-economic circumstances and geographic location determines one’s life to a substantive degree.
The fact that so much human misery and destruction, both to ourselves and to this planet we inhabit is due to what is in essence tribalism and factionalism magnified in macro makes me personally deride national pride. I know this may be a very controversial point of view, but I am against national pride, patriotism and nationalism as these concepts so easily lend themselves to the politics of hate and exclusion, namely right-wing political ideologies filled with hatred and racism such as Fascism.
Being a self-identified Social Democrat, my standpoint is one of inclusion, fraternity and opportunity for all, not to mention basic human rights that should be afforded to all. REGARDLESS of skin colour, gender, age and sexuality. Universal healthcare, education and welfare support to name a few. Luckily, I live in a nation that gives me access me these things, however we are facing a crossroads, one in which we can easily begin the long downward slide into rugged individualism, economic rationalism and 100% free marketeering. The aforementioned concepts of universal healthcare, education et al should not be a source of pride, they are EXPECTATIONS to me. All in all, I don’t want us, a post-colonial nation which has suffered from so much cultural cringe as well as a lack of identity, to become something akin to a 51st state of the USA. The political, economic and social policies and goals of the current government, a conservative economo/finance-centric one, would have us simply become a facsimile of the United States. I know the likelihood of this is slim, but I find that some political factions in this country would dearly love this country to forgo and forget its important and indelibly widespread, and far-reaching social-based policies which have helped shape us as a nation. Policies, which established by the almost hallowed yet ultimately doomed and somewhat naive Whitlam government in the early 1970’s that have really become enmeshed and a vital component and makeup in our national identity.
Mateship, a buzzword so easily thrown around in a disparaging manner, especially with regards when describing the ‘true-blue ocker Aussie identity’, to me belies the sense of humanist spirit summed up in the classic phrase ‘egalite, fraternite, liberte’. The term mateship to me has a very real cringey self-involved aspect linking to the identity of the average Australian as a sun burnt, beer swilling tradie white Aussie battler, yet we all know this is far from the reality. It to me equates far more to the crux ideal that we are all in this together, that we are all a community and that in short, we are still affected by the plights and suffering of others. We only need to look at how we have mistreated political refugees in recent years as well as the indigenous peoples of this nation not to mention the very real lag in progress for Gay marriage to see we have a long way to go. So, due to my political ideologies which have more concurrent concerns on the state and welfare of the human being as a part of a greater community than nationalist pride, I find this question, in fact the entire concept of national pride somewhat disturbing.
Australia has had somewhat a strange and if not at times quietly turbulent history. This nation was established on the plight, plunder and suffering of the indigenous populations and peoples that inhabited this land for many an epoch before the first European man set-foot on our shores. The colonies that formed the core of what would later become Australia in 1901 were established simply due to the fact that the British required pre-eminence and predominance in every aspect of society at the time in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Competition in trade, military strength and cultural influence was fierce between the imperial powers. Colonies were established simply to deny the other colonial and imperialist powers of the day namely France and Russia a foothold on this continent. Purposeless colonies established in order to restraining other nations from gaining a piece of this incongruous continent. A somewhat strange and wasteful notion. A continent with untold mysteries and clearly very misunderstood. For decades it was believed a large inland sea bisected the continent, where unbound arable lands were to be found. A localised El Dorado, almost. Water has always been much more important than gold here. The truth was, this land was and still is harsh; unforgiving yet also beautiful and compelling in its hardness and alien nature in comparison to Western Europe.
The European policy of Terra Nullius, or ‘Empty Land’, which essentially equated the British or any other European imperialist power having right and reason to plant a flag anywhere that was not according to them inhabited [Farming, structures], meant that this land was forcibly and unjustly stolen from the indigenous tribes that very much inhabited this continent.
Add to this the penal and convict legacy of this country, as well as prevailing casual racism, the mistreatment of immigrants as well as indigenous peoples, and it makes me hard to have pride in my country of birth. In many ways I’m very lucky to be born in a nation that has afforded many including myself so many liberties and freedoms. Of course this is undeniable. A dark side of our culture has come to the fore in the past, and I’m sure will continue to flash and flare in the future. The Stolen Generations, the Cronulla riots of 2005, the plight and abject suffering of the asylum seekers and refugees of Manus Island are some examples to name a few.
No nation is perfect, no nation-state to me deserves pride and patriotism invested in it. Our governments and politicians who are the apparatus and nervous system of all nations deserve to fear their citizenry and treat them with an accordance of respect and deference, as the citizenry are the nation, not the artifice of national identity. Nations are simply lines drawn on a map, the reality is often much messier and much more prosaic and obtuse. There is never black and white, but always grey.
Yes, I know I sound like a raving rabble-rousing left-wing Marxist ideologue apparatchik but the truth is, nationalist pride for me is a very perilous concept, one that can create competition, enmity and disparity which can lead to human suffering and bloodshed.