10 February 2012

In The Courier

I have been a pretty regular commenter on The Courier's website this past couple of years. It’s a great way to interact with those in your community [I was going to say ‘especially the crazy people in the community', until I saw the double edge to that sword], and I had even managed to have a few of my comments cross over into the physical world when they were published in the Web Words section of the paper, which was nice.
But last week for the first time I noticed as I was typing one of my replies to a particularly inane Letter to the Editor, that its length was growing to well above what would fit in the meagre comment box provided. Rather than trim and cull sections as I usually do, I decided to submit this as my first ever Letter to the Editor.
It got in, despite its lengthy rant, and gave me a warm feeling for the day. I had a couple of people come by my desk at work and mention it, and all seemed to agree with my points, and claimed I wrote a nice piece. I was pretty wrapped, but was disheartened when it failed to appear on the internet as well.
How would I know what the public thought if I didn’t get any comments of my own?
What would the SvetlanaBabe’s, My Thought’s and Clint’s of Ballarat think of my letter?
I was not to know.
As a result I decided to chuck it up here, starting with the letter that was the catalyst for my response, so that at least somewhere there was a sense of continuity.
So here is the post by a Mister Phillip Slade; those of you in the audience who are averse to sloppy arguments, rash generalisations and fuzzy rationale, look away now.
Display of Australian flags disappointing31 Jan, 2012 02:57 PMI MUST say on seeing the omnipresent display of flags in and around Ballarat on Australia Day, I felt a sense of disappointment for the bearers of those flags. 
There was a time when we as a nation did not need to display a flag — other than at ceremonies and sporting events — to affirm our patriotism. 
We should therefore ask ourselves where this sudden inclination to air our nationalistic fervour comes from. 
Could it be a manifestation of John Howard's dog whistle politics? ("We shall decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come ..." — code for we will keep the foreigners out). 
And the multiplication of flags is acknowledgement of a perverted call to arms that still, to this very day, has an odious impact on those not fully sure of who or what they are, and in turn makes all refugees and immigrants feel marginalised. 
Phillip Slade 
I am not sure about you guys, but that post really made me want to say something in return. The article touches on a lot of things as it rambles aimlessly along: the objections people have shown in recent years to Australian flags, hostility toward Australia Day in general, it’s got a hint of conservatism, but also of out of control liberalism, it mentions nationalism, Howard, Refugees, immigrants; enough buzz words to incense someone no matter what quadrant of the political spectrum they find themselves
I don’t feel my reply needs any introduction, as it takes off in direct opposition to the above letter. Enjoy:
Just because our flag can be misappropriated, does not mean it should be hidden.
Phillip Slade’s letter to the editor (Display of Australian flags disappointing,31 Jan) in which he bemoans the ubiquitous Australian flags on Australia Day seems to highlight a man missing the point. 
Australia Day is a day to celebrate your nation, and what better way to display this than with the symbol of our nation; the Australian flag? To do so doesn’t have any underlying isolationist meaning as Phil suggests. 
He says “There was a time when we as a nation did not need to display a flag — other than at ceremonies and sporting events — to affirm our patriotism”. That may well be true, but it doesn’t make it right. How people displayed their love for Australia in the past doesn’t condemn us to the same solemn practises today. 
Contrary to Phil’s assertion, I believe we can safely celebrate Australia without fear of ostracising refugees or immigrants. Indeed I would think it quite the opposite; we should be celebrating Australia and showing these groups the true mettle of our nation. A nation that helps others and that was built by immigrants. 
Remember an immigrant is still an Australian, and if a refugee is successful in their citizenship, then so are they. They should feel no more marginalised by the display of Australian flags, then they do by the existence of an Australia Day. 
Just because some people can take our flag, and drape it over their shoulders whilst they commit crimes in a race riot, does not mean that the flag itself, or the ideals it carries, follow too. The Australian flag can be appropriated by those who think of Australia as ‘theirs’ and not available to outsides. It can be adopted by nationalistic bigots, but it doesn’t belong to them.I personally don’t fly a flag on Australia day, or any other day. I am not an overtly patriotic man, though I love the country I live in, I don’t hold it higher than any other man-made institution. But if others choose to I don’t look down on them, or feel ashamed at their Aussie zeal. 
My son is five and he loves waving a flag on Australia day because he thinks it is a great place to live in, and at the end of the day we shouldn’t take this away from him just because it can be likewise waved by those with more nefarious intent.
So then, what do you think? Yes, a bit of an all over the place rant, but I think I manage to pull off a better letter than Slade did, so I'm happy enough.
Also, as I was reading up on Schopenhauer for my last post, I came across this quote of his dealing with national pride. As is usual for the cranky German, he doesn’t have much nice to say about it, and I don’t quite agree with all its precepts. But it is a nice way to think of how those extreme ‘Australian Pride’ people might be falling back on their nationalistic views in order to make up for what seems to be an obvious faltering of their own character.
“The cheapest form of pride however is national pride. For it betrays in the one thus afflicted the lack of individual qualities of which he could be proud, while he would not otherwise reach for what he shares with so many millions. He who possesses significant personal merits will rather recognise the defects of his own nation, as he has them constantly before his eyes, most clearly. But that poor beggar who has nothing in the world of which he can be proud, latches onto the last means of being proud, the nation to which he belongs to. Thus he recovers and is now in gratitude ready to defend with hands and feet all errors and follies which are its own.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
Schopenhauer: it surprises me not that he was convicted for battering an old lady once....
It’s funny; first of all I was intent with my comments making it on to The Courier’s website simply under the articles I was commenting on, then I became excited when they were taken from the net and printed in the paper as Web Words. But now I find myself slightly annoyed that what I wrote made it straight into the paper, bypassing the electronic world I had originally resided in!
Anyhow, now I have that off my chest, I think this post has come to an end.
Let me know what you think in the comments, cheers.

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