Nation gazing

There has been much talk over the past couple of weeks, as there is this time every year, about who we are as Australians, what symbols we should flaunt, and even a little bit why we are. There have been the increasingly common grumbles about the co-opting of the national flag and Southern Cross by certain elements of society, and the accompanying increased co-opting by those elements. I suspect this examination of the Australian character has been exacerbated this year by the floods in Queensland and Victoria and then the devastation Cyclone Yasi wrought on the former (see for example, this piece in the Herald Sun yesterday) — how about Tony Abbott’s declaration that Australians don’t tax mateship?

But whatever you may think of the way nationalism is manifesting in this country, surely it has to be a good thing that we’re allowed a spot of peaceful nation gazing. I mean, look at what’s happening in Egypt and across other north African countries at the moment. Those people took a moment to think about what they wanted their country to be like but they weren’t allowed to say so. Their only resort was to flood the streets in such numbers the news of it couldn’t be suppressed. Even in the US, arguably the scene of the second longest stable democratic government, the threat of violence is entering the national debate from all kinds of directions.

At least here, we’re allowed to have these debates in public, without fear of violence.

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