The Queen Must Die!
-An Australia Day Reflection
(as in looking in the mirror)
l don’t celebrate Australia Day, because l am a traditionalist.
The blackfellas have a long tradition of not celebrating Australia Day, dating back many thousands of years. It is this ancient tradition that l uphold.
As you may well know, one of our venerable Prime Ministers was an avowed republican, but he vowed to wait for our venerable queen to die of old age before he set about the long and arduous task of establishing The Republic of Australia. While this was very sensitive of him, it could mean we are in for a long wait. Apart from the occasional sniffle she is in rude good health. Many of us may die of old age ourselves before our cherished republic comes to fruition. She could do us all a favor and abdicate, but she is a bit worried about her darling Prince Charles. Rumor has it he is a bit flakey, always banging on about organic vegetables and renewable energy and hippy shit like that. He could very well declare a republic himself if we’re not careful.
But when she dies, as surely she eventually must, we must be ready to grasp the nettle.
Let’s face it, this place needs a total makeover, root and branch.
(l suggest May 8 – pronounced ‘maaate’, or even better, the day we declare a bloody republic)
(l would suggest Waltzing Matilda, but standing on the podium at the Olympics and breaking into a song about a vagabond committing suicide because he was caught inflagranto dilecto with his favourite sheep would make us the laughing stock of the entire world, if we are not already)
But we’re still rooting for them all, aren’t we? You bet we are!
We are like an old FJ Holden, limping along on 3 cylinders and spewing out black smoke. We don’t just need a grease lube and oil change, we need to recondition the entire engine, and bog up all the rust, and give her a new paint job.
(green and gold of course, or should that be black & gold)
So if Oz Day is destined to be more than an excuse for a piss up and a piss take, it is timely to nail down just what it is Australian Culture? Does it even exist? And while we are at it, what is culture anyway? Maybe it’s easier to define what isn’t culture. Bar-B-Qs, fishing, surfing, taking the piss, wearing thongs on your feet instead of your crotch, playing sport, this is a way of life, but it isn’t culture. In fact it could be argued that playing sport is what you do when you have no culture. The Greeks don’t run around all weekend getting skin cancer and acquired brain injuries, do they? No, they have weddings, really big weddings where they sit around inventing democracy and philosophy and shit like that. The Italians, ditto, more weddings, where they sit around eating pasta made with tomatoes grown in polystyrene boxes in the front yard. The Lebanese have endless weddings, where they sit around inventing cumbers with edible skins.
Culture grows out of the land we live in, much like yogurt. Most of us here in this nascent nation haven’t been here long enough to create a culture, so maybe we should look to those who have, the local blackfellas. We may just find we have a lot more in common than we thought, such as camping. According to the stats, we are the most urbanized society ever invented, huddled together like ginea pigs, clinging as close to the edge of this vast continent as we can possibly get, starring longingly out to sea. But we do love the great outdoors, don’t we? You bet we do! Learned anthropologists have postulated that this is quite possibly due in large part to the influence of the locals, they call them ‘aborigines’. These so-called Aborigines love nothing better than going camping, in fact their entire ‘life-style-choice’ is designed around the ability to pull up stumps and ‘go walk about’. No need to work overtime all year round to afford the airfare and the hotel and the restaurants and the exotic trinkets. Imagine the freedom of waking up one morning, any morning, grabbing your hunting gear and heading out on an adventure. No 20 kilo packs to lug, food and lodging provided as need be, and when you arrive your relies cook up a mouth-watering feast and put on a real song and dance to knock your socks off.
So we can see that the vagaries of the local climate dictate a nomadic lifestyle, including a life of feast & famine. None of this toiling all season and salting it away for the winter, to be nibbled one morsel at a time. When there was food you ate it all, when there was none, you went hungry. This life of feast & famine is yet another custom adopted and adapted from the locals. With the subtle difference that we have forgone the traditional famine bit, preferring instead, to feast pretty well constantly. In turn we have taught this recent adaptation to the blackfellas, with obvious consequences.
We can see that all true culture is shaped by our surroundings, and the elements of our surroundings that are unique is what will make us, in time unique. The unique climate created by the oscillations of El Nino have created a culture based on camping and partying (safe in the knowledge that it probably wont rain much for at least another few years.)
So what are some other unique aspects of the nature of our nature that is nurturing the unique nature of us?
Well, the place is very flat and very dry and very empty, (having decimated what few inhabitants there were) hence we have large cow farms that sport drovers with RM Williams boots and hats and a kelpie by their side, and feisty women who can ride a bloody horse and crack a whip.
We have more beaches per head than anywhere else except Canada, but most of theirs are frozen solid all year round (know anyone going on a surfing trip to Canada? No, l didn’t think so) Thus has given birth to the surfing lifestyle – driving old Volvos, smoking bongs and eating junk food, getting up early to check the waves before going back to bed, roaming around the country in semi-nomadic fashion (just like the locals)
Fishing – Many of you may remember that oft quoted saying from the great Mao Tse Tung himself, that was drummed into us all throughout grade 3 Political History: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day- teach a man to fish and he will spend every second weekend with his mate, sitting in a dingy in the middle of a lake, getting quietly sozzled. It is a well kept secret that the fish are of secondary importance and it is actually all about contemplating the awesome beauty of the natural world. (the Japanese have a special word for this; ‘shinrinyoku’ – forest bathing)
Alas and alak, these embryonic cultural practices have begun to die out before they are fully formed. As we speak they are being guzzumped by new cultural practices like Instagram. (my friend Alex says we should start Consider-a-gram, where every comment has a 24 hour delay before it can be posted. In Consider-a-gram it is a real no-no to boast about the great fun you are having, as it tends to have a deleterious effect on those not having an orgasmic experience every five minutes. In Consider-A-Gram we like to post about the truly boring time we are having so no one gets jealous.)
Yet another unique aspect of our way of life generated by the vast emptiness that engulfs us (literally as well as metaphorically) is immigration, immigration on a vast scale. We currently import more people per head than any other country on earth. (not counting refugees of course, because they don’t count). We may not be the most multi-cultural nation on the planet but we can argue that we are the most successful at it. (Just look at The U.S.A. – now referred to as the D.S.A.) We may be lacking in culture but we are not lacking in cultural choice. This has made us a nation of foodies. A whole new growth industry of people who get very well paid to eat food and talk about it while we watch.
(Back In my day if we uttered a single syllable at the dinner table we got a whack in the earhole.)
So to be an Australian is to be into eating food, strange, exotic food.
We are big eaters, now officially the biggest in the world.
The more we look, the more aspects of our way of life we find that are really quite unique and special, and the deeper we look, we see that these things have sprung from our unique geography. So to sum up l would venture to say that culture is a product of the interaction between geography and time, but most of us have not yet spent enough time here to acquire culture, nor have we spent enough time interacting with our geography or learning from those who have.
Ben Laycock 2016