Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is that all an Australian is?

Dr Bob Birrell, a leading Australian demographer, on our intelligentsia:

They tend to be hostile to local patriotism ... because they regard it as backward looking and conforming, in the sense that they see demands made in its name as restricting individual or ethnic community autonomy.

To them, Australia is defined in proceduralist rather than patriotic terms. They tend to see the Australian nation as a framework, providing the scaffolding within which a law abiding, democratic and tolerant society can function.

Bob Hawke - a well known advocate of this position - put it as follows: "An Australian is someone who chooses to live here, obey the law and pays taxes". There is obviously a vast difference between this procedural view of Australia on the one hand and the patriotic view on the other. ["Social Cohesion and National Security", The Independent Australian, No.14 Summer 2007/08]

So according to our former Prime Minister being an Australian doesn't amount to much. It simply involves a choice of residence, obeying laws and paying taxes. To be Australian is strikingly empty and meaningless as Hawke defines it.

Update: At about the same time I was writing this post, another former PM, Paul Keating, was writing a letter of complaint to The Australian. He made this criticism of journalist Janet Albrechtsen:

Albrechtsen’s beef is with that group which forms the cosmopolitan core of the country. The Oxford dictionary describes cosmopolitan as of or from or knowing many parts of the world; free from national limitations or prejudices. In other words, people of the world, unprejudicial of others, appreciating cultural differences and attitudes. In general, being tolerant, understanding and respectful of other people, including their origins and beliefs.

These are the people Albrechtsen and her bigot mates brand as elites. People not of the mono-culture; of the old Australia; of the Howard world of Sunday schools and scout jamborees and Menzian regard. The people who knew their place ...

Albrechtsen’s objection is to cosmopolitan Australia ...

Will someone at The Australian take this loony tune off its pages? ...

If not for the rest of us, perhaps for the paper’s own sake, will someone summon the courage to give her the pink slip?

Paul Keating
Sydney, NSW

What is striking about Keating's letter is how openly he identifies as a cosmopolitan and how negatively he characterises the patriotic view as a "limitation", as a leftover from "old Australia", and as conformist ("knew their place").

Keating is so far removed from a patriotic view that he thinks Albrechtsen should be sacked for criticising cosmopolitans like himself. He believes that people like himself represent the "cosmopolitan core" of the country.

Update 2: The post has been picked up at a forum. Someone calling himself The Polemicist has written this response to Hawke:

"An Australian is someone who chooses to live here, obey the law and pays taxes." - Bob Hawke

And that's it. According to Hawke, Australians have no distinct ethnic or cultural identity. In fact, they have absolutely nothing to define them as a people - no history, traditions, ancestors, customs or heroes. To be an 'Australian' is not to belong to a distinct national community; it simply means you live here and pay tax.

In short, it seems that Hawke is saying that 'Australians' don't really exist in any meaningful sense.


  1. Yes. Hawke has its mostly right, but the part he ommitted was a respect for the local culture and sharing its values.

    When we think of types such as Sheik Omran and Shik Al-Hilali, it's clear that that is what is lacking in these cases.

    Blaming women for rape, endorsing 9/11 and denying the Holocaust are definately not things that we can respect and be proud of.

  2. Hawke's comment says it all about the humanist progressive mindset. We are not individuals free to enjoy the fruits of our own hard work or proud citizens of a nation, but merely worker bees to be enslaved by the government so we can fund the indulgences of the intelligentsia, overbloated bureaucracy and outrageous payments to imagined "victims".

  3. Interestingly, Paul Keating has expressed very similar attitudes to Hawke in his attack on Janet Albrechtsen:

  4. Leon, thanks for pointing out the Keating letter. I've updated the post to include an excerpt from the letter, and I'll probably write a longer post on it shortly.

  5. Like most one-world globalists, Hawke views the traditional nation-state - the political expression of a particular people - with disdain. What's the most effective way to abolish the Australian nation-state? Deny the existence of a distinct Australian identity.

    No identity, no nation.

  6. george hit one on the head there-- nothing more terrifying to members of the liberal elite than a society where government is not in control. The distraction of "left" or "right" viewpoints is so powerful that it keeps our eye off government itself as it manifests itself in more expansive and comprehensive ways each day. I can't see how any other politic than a conservative philosophy can provide the peaceful means of reversing this damaging shift. Indeed, we are the only people who see the problem in the first place.

  7. Hawke views the traditional nation-state - the political expression of a particular people - with disdain.

    Well put.

  8. I've added a second update to the post, this time adding a response to Hawke from a non-cosmopolitan Australian.

  9. I must confess, I borrowed the definition of a nation-state from Peter Brimelow.

    Hawke's comments are certainly consistent with Brimelow's assertion that Western elites are waging a war against their respective nation-states. For various reasons, the predominantly white European, English-speaking community which once identified itself as the Australian people is facing an unrelenting attack upon its identity by its own leaders, both past and present.

    By pushing the 'old' Australian identity aside, Hawke, Keating and co. are attempting to redefine Australia as a nation-state without a nation. Like most post-national cosmopolitan elites, they are disdainful of the millions of Australians who still hold a 'patriotic' view of their nation and who might be alarmed by the erosion of their historic national community.

    "According to Hawke, Australians have no distinct ethnic or cultural identity. In fact, they have absolutely nothing to define them as a people - no history, traditions, ancestors, customs or heroes."

    I would add that a people's identity is also inextricably tied to their language. The English language is an integral part of the historic Australian identity, and continues to bind us as a people to the other English-speaking peoples of the British Isles and North America.

  10. The anti-nationalism of today's political elites makes society more and more dependent on the managerial class to stop it falling apart.

    In previous days where social cohesion was more organic, there was less need for so many civil servants, police, social workers etc to keep society together.

    However,the present situation is not sustainable. The labour force is shrinking, and the only way to sustain this bloated bureaucracy is to bring in workers from other cultures.

    This will only compound the problem though, since this will accelerate the breakdown of the traditional culture, and introduce new problems like ethnic nepotism.

  11. How do we reverse the decline? Otherwise we will descend into chaos from former greatness like Rome for the same reasons as Rome: decadence and impiety.

  12. George, I would argue that it is not possible to reverse the decline without adopting policies which strengthen families (as traditionally defined).

    That would have to include kicking the no-fault divorce laws out the door first up.

  13. That's funny. Under Hawke's logic, unemployed Australians aren't really Australians because they don't work and pay taxes.