Hopefully this will be my last article on Australia Day for the 2018 Australia Day – something I have said much about this year. This year there seems to have been more controversy than in previous years, and I’m afraid next year will be even more controversial.
Australia Day and the ‘Oppression’
In his book Stride Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that “In every movement toward freedom some of the oppressed prefer to remain oppressed.” That certainly applies to some Aboriginal people here in Australia. Now in this article I’m talking about those Aboriginal people who claim to be ‘oppressed’ because many Australians choose to celebrate Australia Day on 26 January. They are not really oppressed, they are just wanting attention. Those Aboriginal people who are truly oppressed, live in conditions that no Australians should be living in. They live in unsafe and unclean environments where job opportunities are far and few, or if they exist, the people lack the necessary skills to do the work. As a result, these places can be considered remote ghettos. Australia Day celebrations are the least of their concerns.
So why do they choose to remain ‘oppressed’? To remain oppressed (which is an attitude of the mind) is to play the victim, and there are big benefits to playing the victim. Any problems in life can be conveniently explained as being caused by Australia Day celebrations. As victims (of Australia Day celebrations) they claim to be offended because others are allegedly disrespectful; and to feel offended is to feel important.
What is the ‘Suffering’ about?
As I understand it, the argument of being ‘oppressed’ due to Australia Day celebrations goes something like this: The 26th of January is the anniversary of when the British arrived and did bad things to Aboriginal people. Or if they did not do bad things that day, it is considered the beginning of bad things for the original inhabitants of Australia. Therefore on that date each year many Aboriginal people reflect, or mourn; some claim that they even hurt on that day. Those objecting to Australia Day celebrations claim that such celebrations are a sign of disrespect.
Here’s what Aboriginal ‘elder’ Rodney Dillon (no relation, definitely no relation!) has to say about the ‘suffering’ of Aboriginal people in regard to Australia Day:
All Indigenous people have badly suffered the consequences of colonisation. That’s why 26 January is a hard day for all of our mob. Aboriginal people always feel sad on Australia Day – it marks the end of freedom for our people.
Really? All have suffered? I thought a generalisation like that was considered ‘? Or consider what Christian pastor Jarrod McKenna has said:
Last time Noongar elder Reverend Sealin Garlett preached in our church he shared how his people’s pain is compounded by others celebrating 26 January.
I am sure that Pastor McKenna means well, but my Bible tells me that “This is the day that the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Next Year and the Year After That
I personally am not attached to any date. In one regard, I don’t oppose the choosing of another date for future Australia Day celebrations. An argument I often hear is “What harm would changing the date do?” If I believed that changing the date would not bring about any harm, I would support changing it. But I think there is a very real harm to changing the date. I have written about this before, but here is the essence of my argument:
To convince people that Australia Day celebrations on 26 January causes them offence (and they would need convincing because they do not develop that belief themselves) is to convince them that the source of their happiness is beyond their direct control and under the control of those who ultimately decide if future Australia Day celebrations will be held on 26 January. This is extremely disempowering. Do Australia’s most disempowered people need to be further disempowered?
There is another problem. If people believe that their present day sufferings are tied to events of more than two centuries ago, then there more opportunities for taking offence and suffering exist. We already have a campaign against the Australian flag on the grounds that it is a symbol colonisation. Will those wanting the flag changed be feeling any better if we change the flag? Can we expect that one day soon some Aboriginal activists (blactivists) will claim that the name of our great country – Australia – is offensive and oppressive because it was a name they did not choose and has links to the invasion? All it takes is one ‘rent-an-elder’ to tell us how his sovereignty was never ceded and that the name Australia is not an Aboriginal name and is symbolic of oppression and dispossession, and hey presto, you have cause for protest.
The Australia Day I Want
I hope that future Australia Days take the best from previous Australis Days and exclude the worst bits. The best being Aussies enjoying a day off (and I am incredibly grateful for those who work on that day so I can enjoy many of the privileges this great country has), BBQs, picnics, music, dance, and fun. The worst being the protests and people claiming they are suffering because of the celebrations. I try to be hopeful, but with political correctness growing, I am doubtful.