Opting Out

John Birmingham in the Brisbane Times: Since when did dumb-arsed nationalism become compulsory?

But one of the things I really like about Australia, or I used to anyway, was our quiet reluctance to wave the flag in everyone’s face; a reluctance which has gradually given way to an uglier, brutish readiness to paint the flag on our arses and sit on the face of anyone who looks even remotely disinclined to play along.

I’m not doing anything for Australia Day today, because I don’t want to be even potentially confused with one of the flag-waving jingoists. If I was more of a crowds person maybe I’d go to a Survival Day event, but I’m more of a quiet family barbie person, and I just feel that if I went to any public park I’d see someone ostentatiously sporting a flag cape or a car flag, and I’d be nervous about what opinions they might express, and how my presence there could add to the perception that non-Anglo Aussies were not welcome in that space. And that sucks dingo kidneys, maaaate.

Although I do like crazybrave’s idea of a Mexican family feast – aussieaussieaussieoleoleole and I’m planning to pack the thickest permanent marker I can buy into my handbag so that I can copy this brilliant idea:

A stencil of the map of Australia with the message _We're Full_ has been altered with the addition of _Of Love_ below
(Photo credit: gilfer)

Full of love



Categories: ethics & philosophy, Life, Politics

Tags:

36 replies

  1. For whom is this country full of love? Not the first nations, who are subjected to genocide, or other people of colour, subjected to exploitation and violence…
    Is subverting the graffiti anything more than an exercise in self-serving feel-goodism?

  2. I’m feeling very relieved that many longterm and born Australians feel dubious about the Australia-contra-mundi spirit that seems to break out like a rash around Australia Day. A lot of it feels as though its tipping from pride into jingoism to me, and I don’t care for it at all.
    Subverting the graffiti is also a loud clear signal that many, many Australians intensely dislike the xenophobia and racism of the anti-immigration rhetoric. I think it’s a good thing to do.

  3. Is subverting the graffiti anything more than an exercise in self-serving feel-goodism?

    Subverting a message of hate is a general good, surely?
    Of course it’s simplistic and doesn’t acknowledge the many problems that continue to exist for both indigenous and immigrant Australians of colour. But at least the subversion is a visible sign to everybody that not all Australians are aligned with the haters. Is that worth nothing at all?

  4. The one close neighbours we’ve never met have flags flying on house and car. I’m kinda glad we never met them now. And pissed off that that way of displaying that symbol now triggers off “scary racist arsehat” bells in my mind, and more pissed off that there are so many people in this country who have to experience being genuinely scared for their own selves (unlike me, who’s just generically scared) whenever they see an Oz flag, Southern Cross, or Eureka symbol on this day.
    We’re spending the day at home. We’ve got some roo in the freezer to pull out for dinner, and we’ll probably again have the chat about Invasion Day with the lad over the meal. And maybe a donation to Yirra Yaakin or to Yorgum. It’s not much.

  5. Both the graf and its subversion are about white attitudes. Hateful exclusionary jingoism on the one hand, self-aggrandising inclusionary patriotism on the other. Neither is about addressing the experiences that immigrant people of colour and Indigenous peoples have in this country.

  6. About two hundred and twenty years ago, a bunch of people smugglers dropped off a load of illegal immigrants on the east coast of the country. Said illegal immigrants and their descendants have been committing multiple and ongoing acts of environmental and cultural vandalism ever since. When you think about the whole thing in this fashion, it suddenly makes a lot of sense out of the attitude of a lot of Australian conservatives toward allowing further immigration – after all, who knows when another group of them might choose to follow the British example?
    I have to admit, I get just a little annoyed by all the Aussie flags which appear to be sprouting from cars this year. I’m strongly tempted to write to the nice people in the principality of Hutt River and find out whether they’re selling something similar. Or maybe there’s a fictional country which needs promoting in the same sort of fashion – Ankh-Morpork or Borogravia perhaps?

  7. Yes, both are totally about white attitudes. I want to communicate to the racist white stenciller, and those who think the same way, that he doesn’t speak for me.
    There are other more effective actions I can take to actually improve the sense of safety and welcome for indigenous and immigrant peoples in Australia. This white subversion of white racism doesn’t stop me doing that.

  8. @Meg, it’s disgusting and offensive to equate immigration with violent invasion and imperialism. White Europeans have never been subjected to colonisation, and they weren’t refugees.

  9. Its getting a bit faded and tattered now but we have one of those car stickers that support refugees on the back of our dirty battered ute out of which hannah the kelpie cross likes to poke her nose.
    Some years ago we were parked at a stop light in the big city and a car pulled up next to us and beeped.
    I wondered why and slid the window down and a person leaned out and said “Love your refugee sticker mate” with a thumbs up.
    Its happened several times since.
    Never the opposite.

  10. @tigtog What have you done lately to improve the safety of Indigenous people and immigrant people of colour in this country? Why haven’t you blogged about that?

  11. Most of my direct social activism is blogging, Fire Fly. Not surprisingly on a blog that focusses on disability, there are health issues that limit my physical involvement in just about anything.
    I blogged about structural racism against Indian students last week.
    This blog has often blogged about prejudice and discrimination against immigrant and indigenous peoples. I donate what money I can spare to campaigns that I’m made aware of. What campaigns deserve my donations?

  12. I have to admit, I get just a little annoyed by all the Aussie flags which appear to be sprouting from cars this year. … Or maybe there’s a fictional country which needs promoting in the same sort of fashion – Ankh-Morpork or Borogravia perhaps?
    Personally I will be digging out my “United Federation of Planets” banner, along with the Vulcan Federation pennant and hanging those from the front gutter. Won’t be the first time, and I can then claim ‘diplomatic impunity’ when I defend myself with a clue-by-four.
    Possibly the only good idea that is being pushed by the ‘great god, commercialism’ is that we celebrate our national thieving history by consuming lamb *dryly cynical*

  13. I remember passing by my local video shop, and noticing they had hung two very large, vertical Australian flags in the window. It wasn’t even near Australia day. Even though I had borrowed videos from that shop before, I had a strange gut feeling that wouldn’t be welcome (as visibly ethnic person). The tainting of the flag has toxic repercussions.

  14. Hear! Hear! My recollections of times past and the flag waving story: Flagging Australia Day

  15. The only flag at our Antinationalism Day fiesta was Canada’s, brought by a Canadian guest 😉 The only silly outfit was on the guy who had three UnAustralia Day parties on today, and couldn’t stay for long ….
    Quietly, there’s a movement brewing in the suburbs.

  16. Australia day has always made me deeply uncomfortable, ever since I became truly aware of the implications of this holiday, and that discomfort grows deeper every year. I spent today travelling (I just got back from a lovely weekend with my parents), and cringed whenever I saw a car flying the flag, knowing that it’s both (a) a means of celebrating the oppression of the Indigenous peoples of this country and (b) often a message of non-acceptance to all non-white Australians.
    And, of course, Tony Abbott doesn’t help, with his speech about immigrants needing to obey the law (implying, of course, that immigrants to Australia are more likely to break the law than Australian-born citizens).

  17. Has anyone noticed the Australia Day-themed Google page? The logo was the winner of a competition – if you click on the logo it provides the information. However, it seems that the logo that appeared on google.com.au is different to the entry that won the competition. The Aboriginal flag on the original entry was removed.

  18. Thanks for the explanation!

  19. I can’t believe Google refused to pay him! It’s GOOGLE! Cheapskate arseholes.

  20. Ended up spending my night watching Aussie films on cable: first Looking for Alibrandi and then the original Mad Max (aka Road Warrior).
    Two very different but equally quintessential Australian flicks.

  21. I can’t believe Google refused to pay him!

    Standard “giant corporation” form with intellectual property is to just use it and then dare the owner to sue. This is at least one step better than that. Cold comfort.
    My partner and our child departed for Thailand today, so it was “get out of Australia Day” around here.

  22. It’s wearing the flag like a superman cape that gets to me. I’m glad my father and uncle (both ex-servicemen) died before that became routine around the country. It’s actually disrespectful, and yet the dills who do it think they’re being patriotic.
    .-= skepticlawyer´s last blog ..Forgiveness is overrated =-.

  23. As an Australian born in Denmark, I was wondering about flying an Australian flag with the Danish flag in place of the Union Jack in the top left corner yesterday. The message would work best with lots of flags, with the various background/origin flags of Australians in the top left corner, all united by the southern cross. That’s what modern Australia is about, for me. And I think we need to re-claim the flag before it becomes all about racism.

  24. Aqua – I like that idea.
    But since I was born here of English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh stock, the effect would be lost on my flag!

  25. Standard “giant corporation” form with intellectual property is to just use it and then dare the owner to sue. This is at least one step better than that. Cold comfort.

    One of the conditions of entry for the doodle competition were that IP rights were assigned for the entry to Google. Obviously you can’t assign rights to something you don’t own, in this case the image aboriginal flag, so it wasn’t actually a valid entry. I would guess that the 11 year old had no idea about copyright law and although their teacher may have been cluey enough to be aware of not including things like a vegemite logo in an entry they probably didn’t realise that the aboriginal flag was both copyrighted and the copyright regularly enforced on it. That the entry won the competition probably means that this also slipped by the judges otherwise it would have been filtered out as an illegal entry.
    Given the nature of the competition and that most likely the child entrant accidentally
    infringed the copyright of the flag (probably something that is done on a regular basis in schools) I wouldn’t be surprised at all if a Google employee had first asked the author if it could be used for free.
    Its a great example of how people unknowingly get bitten by copyright law.

  26. I didn’t do anything. I think that next year, I’ll make more of an effort to find out if there are any Indigenous Australian events taking place in my local area that I can attend.
    It was just another day to me.

  27. @Chris
    This is a bit of a derail, but I have one small quibble with your comment…

    …most likely the child entrant accidentally infringed the copyright of the flag…

    The girl who drew the winning entry did not infringe on copyright by reproducing the flag in her artwork. Her incorporation of the flag into her artwork was “fair use” on many grounds. It was Google’s problem when they sought to apply it, partly due to the commercial context.
    And to re-rail the conversation a little. The Twitter traffic on the article that was on the SMH website was pretty predictable and dripping with privilege. A majority of people berating Thomas for his greed, as if he shouldn’t ask for compensation for the use of his invention. Another reminder that Indigenous Australians only have rights on paper in this country.

  28. The girl who drew the winning entry did not infringe on copyright by reproducing the flag in her artwork. Her incorporation of the flag into her artwork was “fair use” on many grounds. It was Google’s problem when they sought to apply it, partly due to the commercial context.

    Are you sure that it is justified under the fair-use provisions?
    I am not in any way an expert on copyright law, but I do know that fair use is commonly misunderstood by the general public to grant a lot more rights than it really does. There is no exemption for fair use simply because its not commercial or a personal project. There are some exemptions for educational situations but she may not have done the drawing as part of a school project and just entered it via the school or it simply may not qualify for being exempt under the educational instruction exemption.
    What is clear is that the entrant did not have permission to assign the IP to google which was part of the conditions of entry. You can hardly fault an 11 year old for not reading and understanding the legalese. But I wonder if there would have been a different result if the 11 year old had asked the copyright owner directly for permission to use the image of the flag for an entry in the competition (and not offered to pay anything).
    Interestingly the fact sheet on copyright.org.au about artwork and when you need to ask for permission to reproduce it explicitly lists contact information for the aboriginal flag. So it must come up quite a bit!
    And more generally speaking, I think its an example of how copyright in its current form stifles creation rather than encourages it like many claimed it is intended to do. And just to be clear this a comment about the law not the copyright owner.

  29. @tigtog, I didn’t ask about activism, I asked about actions you’ve taken to make people of colour feel safe. Those may or may not fall under the rubric of activism.
    I don’t believe that accountability for privilege can be bought off.
    But if you’re willing to pay for my research time, I’ll reconsider. ^_~

    • @Fire Fly, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that I can pay my way out of privilege, just that seeing as I can’t get out much (that’s why I work as a web tech from home) I tend to let my keyboard and my credit card do a lot of heavy lifting for me. You are absolutely right that money on its own is not enough.
      What have I personally done to make people of colour feel safe? Having never been in a situation where someone was being directly threatened, I have not stepped in to directly protect anybody. I do however everything that I can to create a non-hostile environment.
      I have not moved out of my ethnically diverse inner city suburb to raise my kids in an Anglo-European enclave. I have not sent my kids to a private school to protect them from ethnic diversity among their peers. I wave at ALL my neighbours.
      I’m the sort of person who plays peep-bo with infants in supermarket queues. I do not play peep-bo only with Anglo-European infants, and when I compliment the parents on their beautiful baby I mention the child’s happy smile and how it reminds me of when my own kids were young, and never make any exoticising comments on their hair or eyes.
      I give ALL restaurant staff fair tips. If I have a complaint to make about a business or organisation’s practices, I take pains to make it clear that I am not upset with the front-desk staff member personally and regret that the organisation has put them in the position that they have to confont my dissatisfaction. I take double those pains if the person is young and likely to be underpaid, especially in a restaurant.
      Once upon a time I used to ask people anxious white liberal guilt questions about themselves to prove that I was one of the good Anglos. I realise now that such conversations place unfair burdens and are another form of exoticising. So these days I am just friendly about the weather and cute pets and gorgeous children and lovely gardens, just like I would be if I was not aware of a difference (and I’m embarrassed how long it took me to realise that my anxious WLG behaviour was emphasising that difference – happily I find that the more I refuse to fall into WLG behaviour the more clearly I see the individuals concerned and the more they and I enjoy the interaction).

  30. @ Beppie … “And, of course, Tony Abbott doesn’t help, with his speech about immigrants needing to obey the law (implying, of course, that immigrants to Australia are more likely to break the law than Australian-born citizens).”
    Abbott may be taking his cue from a 1999 report by Satyanshu Mukherjee of the Australian Institute of Criminology that cites evidence of substantially higher imprisonment rates for inmates born in several other countries compared to Australian-born inmates.
    http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/101-120/tandi117.aspx
    Mukherjee discusses the complex reasons why this might be so, and concludes: “Crime statistics from Victoria, the National Prison Census, and the Australian Census of Population and Housing appear to show that migrant groups who suffer disadvantages such as poor knowledge of English, no or low level of formal education, low status occupation, and high unemployment rate tend to display high arrest and imprisonment rate.”
    This finding corresponds to similar research overseas, suggesting that it is not the country of birth that correlates to higher crime rates, but the fact of being a migrant (regardless of the country of birth.)
    Controversial, I know, but it’s a report worth reading.
    @ tigtog … great film choices for the day. I was trying to find a copy of Barbecuaria, but had to settle for Breaker Morant and Samson and Delilah. No celebration in our house, then.

  31. who suffer disadvantages such as poor knowledge of English, no or low level of formal education, low status occupation, and high unemployment rate tend to display high arrest and imprisonment rate.”

    Apart from the poor knowledge of [spoken] English, you could say the same thing about economically depressed parts of Western Sydney as compared to some other parts of Sydney. I’m not sure it’s necessarily being a migrant, possibly more to do with lack of options when they arrive here. Not every migrant had a low status occupation in the country they have come from. One lady I used to work with was a physics teacher but wasn’t able to teach in Australia because her English wasn’t considered up to standard, so she worked in a sandwich shop. If Tony Abbott is really talking about people being able to fit into Australian culture then he needs to start talking about accessible English language classes, and bridging classes for people with skills and/or qualifications to convert them to Australian standards. Not the finger pointing and tut tutting that goes on currently.

  32. That’s true. It’s the lack of options for migrants (at least for those in the circumstances Mukherjee describes) that create the environment for them to experience higher imprisonment rates. Of course it’s complex, but I think that’s what Mukherjee is saying. If the research from overseas parallels Australian studies, then we might expect to be in the same boat if we were migrating to another country. And that ought to inspire compassion rather than finger pointing.

  33. P.S. to Firefly – as to why I don’t blog those simple neighborliness things I do to help POC feel welcome/safe around me, it’s because I regard all that as “meets minimum standard of decent human” stuff. None of it is earthshattering insights.
    The major lesson I have learnt, belatedly, about interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds is that the “natural curiosity” of a member of the socially dominant/normative group, no matter how politely phrased and kindly meant, is a display of privilege that forms an intrusive burden of awareness of Othering for people belonging to marginalised groups, and that it’s yet another form of privilege that is intersectional in its oppression.

  34. My immediate and extended family were all camping at Parks camp ground on Australia Day (Invasion Day). There were approx 20 of us, adults and children, some obviously Aboriginal and some not, others white Australians. So many campers were around us flying Australian flags. My husband and his brother erected an Aboriginal flag at our campsite (my husband’s family are Ngario-Gunditjmara people). You should have seen the look we got from other campers. And then when the local copper turned up in his 4WD, there were a lot of ‘under the breath’ comments made (which I heard because the speakers didnt realise I was in the toilet and could hear them). What they didn’t realise is that the copper is a good friend of the family and that he had come to make arrangements to take our kids caving and 4WDing the following morning. If it wasnt so disgusting (their attitudes) it would have been amusing.
    The locals in the small town we were at are all fine about it, my husband grew up in this town and his family are very well known so it isn’t the locals we ever cop crap from, only the visitors!

%d bloggers like this: