AUSTRALIA DAY IN A GLOBAL CONTEXT
Western culture is experiencing a barely recognised but increasing nostalgia. This phenomenon in not a simplistic return to ‘the good old days’ but it is a rising concern about the future. This is occurring following fifty years of unprecedented global economic growth following the end of WWII and decolonisation. This growing current of unease is flowing through United States, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia. Australia is becoming restive
Manifestations of this nostalgia, cumulatively, are the growth of Far Right parties, white supremacist movements, polarisation between Socialist and Conservative politics, demonstrations and rallies over declining living standards, intractable youth unemployment, rising underemployment, a rising angst over automation and artificial intelligence, the implications of global warming, home ownership as a fading American and Australian dream and finally, the migration of alien cultures and religion into the fabric of European nations which is starting to destabilise Caucasian culture.
What may not be appreciated by many is that the world after WWII in 1945, the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the GFC in 2008 have totally changed the world order and its institutions. Old alliances are now less relevant and distrust between nations has risen as evidenced by exploding arms procurement programs.
Not yet given popular resonance is the increasing audible whisper that European economic influence is declining relative to Chinese and Asian population and their economic growth rate. This situation existed prior to the period of European maritime exploration and trade between 1500 – 2000. The wheel is now turning full circle!
European governments and grass roots movements are seeking to counter this growing malaise by harking back to former ‘glory days’ which incorporate heritage, conquest, trade, the Enlightenment, industrial development and, if not too controversial, Empire. These reflections on the past are intended to instil confidence in the nation and working for the future.
The rise and fall of the British, Russian, French, Spanish and Portuguese empires should not be regarded as isolated events but rather, they are merely part of a Homo sapiens continuum. The invasion and settlement of Canada, United States, Australia, Central Asia, South Africa, West Africa, Mexico and Brazil merely represents human activity over the past 8000 years. Since the commencement of the Common Era, excluding the Empires above, examples of invasion and settlement involved Romans, Mongols, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Khmer, Bugis, Murghals, and Austro-Hungarians. In the fullness of time, conquest, collapse or assimilation reduced their influence. In the latter part of the 20th Century, Tibet has been invaded and colonised by the China and West Papua by Indonesia. An objective of a New World Order would be to reduce invasion and colonisation but this may be contrary to the instincts of Homo sapiens.
An ironic twist – Homo sapiens is currently making plans to colonise Mars. Conquest and colonisation is in the species’ DNA.
Australia is in an invidious position regarding this Celebration which will be wafted towards ‘We are One but We are Many” as a mantra to promote acceptance and camaraderie: a more substantive national ethos appears to be airbrushed out. The drive by European nations is based on a common ethnicity and a common culture. Australia shares this common heritage but due to growing ethnic diversity it is not politic to dwell on its cultural history and its projection into the future. Currently, due to the nature of early settlement, and until Australia’s history books are rewritten, the achievements of our very early pioneers may remain muted.
Alongside barbeques, national dancing and children’s races, far greater prominence should be given to the cumulative achievements of Aboriginals, Europeans, Chinese and Afghan settlers who, by their blood, sweat, tears and death created the Australia that we enjoy today. As a nation we need to generate a pride in our past as a spring board for confident progress into the future, The Australia Day message should promote:
*National Pride – confidence will be encouraged by commemorating past achievements, omitting political accolades, with plans of more to come. Australia is more than sport, far greater prominence should be given to achievement in Science and the Arts. The Armed Forces and their Battle Honours, not their peace keeping abilities, should instil national pride.
*National Harmony – ‘We are One but We are Many” will suffer from repetition and group photos of cross cultural meetings will provide grist to this ditty.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Declining self esteem and nostalgia are reported as an emerging problem among the European nations. The old social and political systems are in flux and Democracy is under challenge. The political class is now under close scrutiny. Politicians, by their nature, are usually unable to make complex decisions; there is a built in expediency with one eye on their electoral base. This is no way to run a complex system. Government must become more technical, independent of donations and less partisan for the 21st Century.
The heyday of politicians unfit for purpose should be entering twilight tears as technical experts make rational decisions that affect progress and the wellbeing of the Nation.
What has happened to Us. 2 January 2019. Geopolitical Futures.
The uses of Nostalgia. 22 December 2018. The Economist.
JOHN HUGH HILL
Current Affairs Flashpoints – towardsthefinalhour.com