(This post is repeated from the Bobby Dazzler Newsletter #55, which is about to be sent out. If you’d like to receive the Newsletter – which complements this blog – by email every two months or so, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org . )
I’m writing this just a few days before Australia Day, January 26th.
Five years ago, way back in January, 2008 (Newsletter #27 – see BDN27), I wrote about my discomfort at Australia Day commemorating the arrival of the First Fleet from England in 1788, an event which many indigenous Australians refer to as “Invasion Day”, and regard it as the beginning of a very dark and difficult period in their history. I still feel that way, but would like this time to focus on a different aspect of the occasion.
The picture below was taken in Pilliga, a village in northern New South Wales best known for the nearby Pilliga Scrub, an area of some 3000 square kms of semi-arid woodlands. When I first saw this modest shed with the Aussie flag nailed up outside the door, I immediately thought what a nicely understated expression of Aussie-ness it was.
When Australia Day comes around, we’re usually admonished to be “proud of our great nation” or something similar. I remember my late mother-in-law responding to someone who said to her, “You must be very proud of your three daughters.”
“No” she said, “I’m not proud. I’m grateful.”
And when you come to think about it, being told you’re proud is not usually a compliment. My dictionary says that “proud” means “feeling satisfaction over something conceived as highly honourable or creditable to oneself.” Indeed, pride is included in the list of the seven deadly sins. And as we all know, it “cometh before a fall”.
An expression not often heard these days is “proud flesh”, meaning tissue projecting up above the surrounding skin, as with healing wounds, etc. This brings out the original meaning of “proud” as “standing up above, being superior to”.
So no, I don’t feel proud about being an Australian. I don’t want to claim that we’re any better than any other nation. But I’m very glad to be an Australian and I do feel very grateful for some of the things we are able to enjoy. I was given a T-shirt which says on the front “I’m blessed”, and I wear it with pride thankfulness.
National days can give encouragement to jingoistic, chest-thumping, flag-worshipping excesses. Let’s just be grateful for the good things we’ve got, and resolve to do our bit to make our part of the world a better place.