deletedJan 25Liked by Helen Dale
Comment deleted
Expand full comment
Jan 25Liked by Helen Dale

I certainly hope Australia can avoid the polarization over ethnic identities that afflicts the US, but after seeing the general behavior of its government during Covid, I am not sanguine. But really the whole concept of "indigenous" is absurd. There is not one patch of ground anywhere on this planet whose present-day inhabitants are the lineal descendants, and only the lineal descendants, of the "original" inhabitants. Human beings have been moving around and pushing one another out of the places they inhabit since we first walked upright. Picking a specific date and arbitrarily dividing people as of that date into "indigenous" and "settler" (or some such) is merely ideology, not history.

Expand full comment
Jan 25·edited Jan 25Liked by Helen Dale

I am American ("Californian," to be specific, and yes, there is a difference). I pray that Australia (which I have never physically visited) does not fall victim to the identitarian dogma that is tearing my country apart. It is not even utopian; it is nihilistic.

And even if it were, the people who wish to tear down "the present," however flawed, from its roots, neglect to even think about, much less offer, a coherent, practicable, livable alternative. For this reason, dogmatic utopianism almost always leads to everyday hell. And yes, "the everyday" is the real test.

Michael Oakeshott is an under-appreciated voice, and I will end with his words:

"To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one’s own fortune, to live at the level of one’s own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one’s circumstances. With some people this is itself a choice; in others it is a disposition which appears, frequently or less frequently, in their preferences and aversions, and is onto itself chosen or specifically cultivated."

On Being Conservative

Expand full comment

“Progress meant “economic prosperity and technological excellence”. It did not mean “social progress”.

Not by accident. Once prosperity and true excellence in anything became Enemies of The State Religion of America since 1965 (Civil Rights) then it spread to the peripheries. Why you want our defects escapes me, other than perhaps you didn’t notice?

Well you’ve noticed.

Good luck.

Expand full comment

Patriotism is a virtue that needs to be rediscovered. The Left is trying to tear it down without replacing it with anything better. That will not turn out well for them or anyone else.

Expand full comment

(1) I have that coin for students! (2) One of my former students (from Ukraine) got citizenship last year, and invited me along. It was a beautiful ceremony still. I got very emotional. I love that song, “I am, you are, we are Australian.” It’s what it should be about.

Expand full comment

There has been a furore this year as Woolworths has made a point of not stocking Australia Day merch. I’m not overly patriotic, but it’s sad to see. I’ve been hearing the ‘invasion day’ stuff for years too.

My family has never really ‘celebrated’ Jan 26 - we are lazy! - but I always take time to be grateful to live in this prosperous country, and the sacrifices my relatives made to get here.

Expand full comment

Richard Reinsch’s excellent essay “The Burdens of Belonging: Roger Scruton’s Nation State” is a wonderful exploration of this whole area.

Expand full comment


A brilliant Australia Day post.

Expand full comment

I was born and raised in Australia, I’m here right now, spent the day yesterday with family and friends outside swimming. I was never ‘proud’ of Australian culture. It was always too rough for me, deeply misogynistic, short sighted, and the powers that be didn’t care about the natural world the way I did. It was hard to live here. I was raised very poor and always felt like a second class citizen, never really knowing if/how to ‘raise my standing.’ I was bullied for being intelligent and female, on top of being raised in a physically abusive household. It almost broke me. That influences my opinion, clearly.

I felt the nanny state as a teenager in the 1990’s and wanted no part of it, at 14 deciding that there must be better than what I was experiencing- a better fit for me. Somewhere more ‘free’ and less monitored. I emigrated to the US and found community there. A country that has the best and the worst of the world and everything in between, which is where I have lived for the past 20 years. I am an immigrant and proud to be one. I steer clear of the federal political theater, I do watch state and local politics as it directly impacts my day to day life. It’s hard to broadly compare the countries, we have an order of magnitude more humans in the US.

As a child in primary school in Sydney, I asked why we didn’t talk about the (then referred to as) Aborigines on Australia Day. Colonizers came, that was obvious to me, as so many have before, in other places, resulting in the annihilation of cultures and knowledge. Maybe that’s just the human way? And endless cycle of power and abuse (again, my lens). My family settled here a few generations ago and brought farming leaving famine in Ireland and poverty in Scotland. I saw it as complicated and confusing. I was always heartbroken by the loss of languages and bush medicine knowledge. Knowing it couldn’t be recovered at least we might acknowledge and support the knowledge and culture that remained. That doesn’t mean demeaning or ignoring the immigrant/settler state, just finding space to acknowledge what was lost, to treasure what remained, and to celebrate what has been built together. Maybe I’m crazy, but I believe it can be done.

I might have left but I still live in hope that Australia can reconcile its past with its future. It’s still a country that has excellent education (I benefited from it) and is a source of hope for many fleeing from places of war and poverty. Though I experience people in the cities as ‘aggro’ and unfriendly, in the country and coasts I still feel the kindness that was a saving grace for me. I’m a product of that culture of warmth and care.

It’s not as progressive as it was in my youth, we used to be world leaders in solar science, as an example, yet I do see some changes for better now, some worse... but I see that globally. What’s next? Well, I’ll keep returning here to see what you have to share.

Expand full comment

Democracy good? Tell that to the Melians. Democratic Party; Democratic Republic, espouse anything with "democracy" in the strapline and I'll shoot you for cause. Democracy crept into British political discourse; crapped; and crept out again. Leaving, as it always does, a Kafkaesque nightmare; Orwellian dystopia; and Trumpian shithole. We are constitutional republican monarchies and "democracy" is a totalitarian political idea we ought to have nothing to do with.

Expand full comment

Interesting and thoughtful article. What has always struck me about the anti Australia Day movement is that when you actually pay attention to the activists' slogans, you realise the date isn't the issue- Australia is. These people are fundamentally uninterested in celebrating Australia, no matter what date our national holiday lands on. Changing the date won't compel them to start suddenly feeling pride in Australia, because the entire purpose of Aboriginal activism is to attack the moral *and legal* legitimacy of Australia, as a fundamentally colonial entity.

The other interesting thing is that I spent a meaningful period of time teaching in a remote community in the Northern Territory, and I saw just how profound the disconnect is between the Aboriginal people living there and the Aboriginal activists of the capital cities, who like most other Australians live in a different cultural and social universe to the Indigenous people of the remote outback. Out there, Australia Day is a non-event; they do not care at all about reckoning with colonialism or captain cook. It is deeply telling of the nature of identity politics that the politics of identitarian grievance and victimhood is most aggressively adopted by the most socioeconomically advantaged Indigenous Australians. I'm actually writing a piece about this.

Expand full comment