Are you proud to celebrate Australia Day? Are you proud to call yourself an Aussie?
Does the City of Fremantle’s idea to change Australia Day offend you, or make you mad in some way?
If you have trouble understanding why you or others might be offended by this idea, let’s touch on the topic of tribalism.
Tribalism is being so strongly loyal to a group or ideology, that the group (or those that follow the ideology) becomes your “team”. More often than not, groups that people are loyal to are the social groups they were born into. The ideologies you are so drawn will likely be those shared by your family or culture.
To highlight this, consider the following;
– If you were born in Australia and lived here most of your life, you will likely think of yourself as an Aussie.
– If you were born in Australia and lived in the UK since you were 3 years old, you will likely think of yourself as a Brit (but might feel like you owe Australia something at least).
– If you were born into a family that believes in Religion X, you will also likely believe and follow Religion X.
– If your parents voted for Labor their whole lives, you will also likely vote Labor (or at least feel more strongly affiliated with that political party).
It’s a simple concept, we are social creatures and want to “belong”.
In days where societies were more accurately described as tribes, there was a very practical purpose for it. Men would hunt in teams to increase the chance of hunting food. Tribes would stick together in self-defense against other aggressive opposing tribes. The more intelligent tribe members would become leaders and the tribe would often benefit under that person’s wisdom.
Interestingly, as tribal leaders got older and physically weaker, they would have to use intelligence and manipulation to remain in power over the bold, younger and stronger tribe members that would otherwise overthrow them with brute force. The old would become sages, mystics and visionaries by creating godly deities that would serve to both explain the unexplained and protect the older tribal leaders through fear and threats (sound familiar?).
“The god Hakkala protects this tribe! He keeps our soil fertile and our enemies at bay, and I am his champion and sole spokesperson on earth. Overthrow me, oh mighty sons, and you will upset Hakkala and doom yourselves to starvation and adversity.” Tribalism was great, right?
Well, now as the human race grows, learns and evolves, and technology becomes more advanced, tribalism becomes less and less beneficial, yet we still hold on to it. I would personally argue that when it comes to solving social and political issues, tribalism is actually hindering our progression.
DEMONISING THE OPPOSITION
Let’s think of politics for a minute. Remember the advertisements that ran over radio, TV and newspaper during election time? What percentage of advertisements were smear campaigns (slagging out the opposition), compared to those that focused on positions and policy for the advertiser?
I recall around 90% of all advertisements by both political parties simply being “don’t vote them, they don’t know what they’re doing”. These adverts were examples of tribalism – two tribes trying to take each other out in an effort for self-preservation and protection to achieve a sense of safety.
In terms of politics, it might feel good to align yourself with a political party for many reasons. You might want to align yourself with other like-minded people because it’s safe, and offers you validation of your ideas. You might even align yourself with a political party based on your religion or race.
What you are actually doing is bad. It’s called “identity politics”, and it results in the ignorance of sound reasoning. Reasoning should be independent of your skin colour or background, and based on logic. Identity politics will always end up with one side pitting themselves against another without actually solving anything – at least, anytime soon.
LACK OF CHOICE
Labour vs Liberal.
Liberal vs Conservative.
Left wing vs Right wing.
We all have to admit that both sides in politics have good points and bad points. Most people align themselves with a wing or party that shares the most amount of common ground with themselves. The thing we need to realise is, by choosing a side we all lose in some way. You become an advocate for all points for that side (good and bad). Choosing sides limits independent thought, and quite simply, you are selling yourself short by doing so.
We need more choices than our ridiculous two-party system. Why does it always come down to the last two idiots standing, and us – the people – tasked with choosing the lesser of two evils. Everyone loses because either way, we all end up adopting a singular rigid set of principles, rules and policies that contain both good and bad points.
Why can’t we look at issues individually?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but imagine a political system that throws away the two-party idea and instead just requires that we all choose Ministers.
For the Minister of Foreign Affairs, you have the choice between;
– Minister A, who wants to stop the boats and place all illegal immigrants including refugees into harsh detention
– Minister B, who also wants to stop the boats but will ensure illegal immigrants are handled more humanely, and
– Minister C, who believes in free movement of people.
For the Minister of Family, you have the choice between;
– Minister A, who believes in traditional marriage between a man and a woman,
– Minister B, who believes in marriage equality inclusive of LGBT community,
– Minister C, who believes we should be able to marry the statue of Eliza in the swan river, and
– Minister D, who advocates harsher penalties for domestic violence and equal rights for child custody
These are just shallow examples, but just imagine how many issues we (as a society) would hit on the head if we looked at issues individually. The true voice of the people would be heard, not just the voice of two major political parties.
I think everyone know’s where they stand on individual issues, therefore people would feel encouraged by voting on individual issues – it would increase voter turnout.
Currently, most people do not have the interest or motivation to research what Clown A’s policies are, compared to Clown B. All most people know is they have the choice of two clowns, and that’s depressing. That’s why voter turnout is low. That’s why it takes so long to pass simple policies like marriage equality. How long ago would marriage equality been knocked on the head if the population could vote on it as an individual issue?
How does all this tie into the City of Fremantle’s idea to change Australia day?
Firstly, I’ll ask you not to fall into the tribalism trap. Don’t limit your perspective or yourself by any label (including Aussie). Open your mind, detach yourself from emotion and think of the bigger picture.
What is Australia Day? It’s a national public holiday commemorating the founding (on 26th Jan 1788) of the colony of New South Wales.
Is it worth celebrating?
There is no denial that the British landed on Australian shores armed. From that moment of landing (against orders from the Captain’s superiors that they were to work cooperatively with natives), the slaughter of Aborigines began.
Again, look at it objectively, as if you weren’t Australian and were completely detached. It was an invasion that resulted in the dispossession of land from the local aboriginal people. This act breached basic property rights and the “non-aggression principle” (one of the basic rules of morality), meaning that the invasion itself was immoral.
Man + murder = bad.
Man + murder + sailor hat = national hero?
2+2 cannot equal 4 and 5, it must be one or the other.
Independent rational thinking would have you agreeing with the first equation, while tribalism might have you agreeing with the second.
So, given that British ancestors attained Australian land aggressively through invasion and murder, I ask again – is it worth celebrating? Is aggression, invasion and murder all things that YOU celebrate personally?
Ask yourself what you love about this country.
If you love it as a whole collective (i.e. love the land and the concept of Australia as a country itself), then celebrate on 1st Jan in remembrance of when Australia became a collective, on 1st January 1901. This is patriotism, which is a form of tribalism. Personally, I’ve never felt very patriotic. I have as much enthusiasm to celebrate the land I live on as I do for potato’s or the Stargate TV series. I love them but don’t feel the need to reserve a public holiday purely to celebrate the almighty potato or Tiel’c.
I bet if you think longer on what you love most about Australia, it will revolve more around those you love and those you surround yourself with – even at a community level. Along this line of thought, I would go one step further than the City of Fremantle, and suggest the replacement of “Australia Day” altogether.
Would that be “un-Australian” of me?
Would it make me “un-Australian” to remove the celebration of an invasion and replace it with a celebration of what I love most about living in Australia?
Again, I don’t have all the answers but we need to talk about this.
Here’s some ideas of what we could replace it with;
– National Family Day
A day where families are encouraged and reminded to spend quality time together. Turn off the phone, get off social media, be truly present with your biological, adopted or unofficial family. In light of the existence of Mothers and Father’s day specifically, make this a day where parents place special attention on sons and daughters, biological or not.
– National Community Day
A day where all people are encouraged to participate in a community activity or event. Promote fitness, promote well-being, promote “Act, Belong, Commit”. It would raise revenue for local businesses, allow communities to feel closer and assist with assimilation/integration within communities that have a strong immigrant residency.
Those I have spoken to about this will often say, “If you want to scrap Australia Day, you need to be even handed and scrap Sorry Day too”.
I’ll provide my very brief thoughts on this point – and i’ve provided these same thoughts in a previous article.
You were born into this world with no choices. As a baby, you did not owe anyone anything, and chose no “tribe”. You owed no apologies, nor did you inherit anyone’s sins. This has not changed at any point in your life. The only things you are responsible for, are your own choices.
Here’s a video of some aboriginals explaining how they feel about what the British did all those years ago. While you and I are not responsible for what happened, we are responsible for what we celebrate.
Be good to yourself,