Thursday, March 19, 2009

A chameleon nation?

What should Australia's national identity be? Matthew Albert and Samah Hadid believe they have the answer. In a feature article in Melbourne's Age newspaper, they have called for Australia to become a chameleon nation.

Their argument runs briefly as follows. There are now a lot of ethnic minorities in Australia and therefore,

it is perplexing that our projection of Australian identity is built around stories that still have Paul Hogan-like Australians at their centre.

This is a quick and unsympathetic way to dismiss the older Anglo tradition in Australia. Samah Hadid represents a very recent wave of migrants who have really only arrived in numbers over the past decade. And yet she is already expressing impatience that Anglo-Australians aren't getting out of the way fast enough.

What this betrays is how little modernist intellectuals really care for cultural traditions. And if you think I'm wrong in this then read on a little further.

If Hadid and Albert don't appreciate the existing culture and identity and want it immediately replaced, then what do they propose putting in its place? To their credit, they are open and honest about their aims:

Australia needs an identity that the world recognises as being global, and therefore, like the world, multicultural. The new identity will make our diversity a high-profile asset. We need an identity of a chameleon nation ...

Culturally diverse societies are able to adapt more successfully to rapid global changes, including increasing global population mobility. Australia is increasingly becoming part of a global community. In the same way that G20 finance ministers and Central Bank governors committed themselves last Saturday to tackle national financial security by rejecting protectionism, so too should we reject protectionism concerning our national identity "security", which tends now to reflect a cliche.

Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds have contributed to Australia's entrepreneurial skills, bolstering our country's ability to trade and interact with other nations. Migrants have thereby contributed to Australia's economy and significantly broadened business opportunities. The line of business builders from Belarusian-born Sidney Myer to Czech-born Frank Lowy attests to this. This will continue. And, it should be at the centre of our national self-image.

Metaphors of the past will not suffice for a changing future. Australia should move away from aiming to be a melting pot or a mosaic. It should be, what we call, a chameleon nation. A chameleon nation adapts to fit in with its context.

It is a nation that draws on the full spectrum of its diversity to respond holistically and intelligently to global change. The chameleon nation we envision draws on, and builds all the differences it contains to ensure that Australia is a nation of the world and continues to contain the world within our nation. Our chameleon spirit can be manifested in the way we welcome migrants and refugees, and the way we accept changing demographics.

The chameleon spirit could make Australia's community of globally literate people its greatest asset and its multiculturalism a brand to sell on the global market. Our multiculturalism could be our marketing pitch, one to allow Australia to better adapt to emerging situations internally and externally, economically and socially ...

What a national identity! We are to proudly have a "chameleon spirit" which means adapting ourselves utterly to the needs of the global market. What a rank and empty technocratic vision is spelled out above. The real message is: you are not to have a stable identity at all, culture doesn't matter, it is proper to change your identity for the purposes of trade, and you are to be so open that you will come to perfectly represent the global elsewhere rather than something distinct of your own.

This is a long way from a real national identity. It is almost a way of telling us that there is to be no national identity. There will just be a global technocratic order in which culture doesn't count for much.

Even the Age cartoonist seems to recognise this. The cartoon drawn for the article shows a "Chameleoroo" - an old, jaded, money-grubbing creature - with its young progeny in the pouch hungering eagerly after money.

Is the cartoonist disappointed in what things have come to? That a national identity should be thought of in such spiritless, uncultured, technocratic and materialistic terms? Is this what he thought his liberal politics was going to lead to in the end?


  1. Yet another disturbing example of the lack of values and integrity underpinning our society. What is the point of having an identity as a chameleon when its only meaning is to denote its inconstancy?!

  2. My immediate response to the article apart from rage, was to say what do you expect me to do about it.

    A national identity is something that springs organically from the people. It isn't something that can be imposed from on high by government.

    There is a simple solution for individuals who do not feel at home with the culture that created a peaceful and prosperous country. They can sod off back to whatever third world hellhole they (or their parents) came from.

    And those who feel no loyalty to the dominant culture because it isn't their own or who claim that their failure to adapt to this country's culture is the result of "racism" show a perfect example of why immigration should be restricted to groups that are culturally compatible.

  3. In the sarcastic words of Johan Herder:

    All national characters, thank God, have become extinct; we all love one another ,or, rather no one feels the need of loving anyone else. We all associate with one another, all are completely equal -- cultured, polite, very happy; we have, it is true, no fatherland, no one for whom we live; but we are philanthropists and citizens of the world. Most of the rulers already speak French, and soon we all shall do so. And then -- bliss! The golden era is dawning again when all the world has one tongue and one language; there shall be one flock and one shepherd!

  4. Tribal affiliation is the primeval force that liberals fail to appreciate. A group of Asians would always prefer to bring in other asian into the group.

    A multicultural society is unsustainable and dangerously conflict ridden

  5. It's a pity Oz didn't preserve its traditional heritage. There are plenty of Yanks who would love to leave the Obama nation. And by building an aqueduct from New Guinea, you could accommodate hundreds of millions. Perhaps its not too late. The desert acts as a preservative, limiting the number coming in now. See my post about the Oz Pipe:

  6. Here is my quandary.

    I always compare the UK to Ausralia on issues of identity etc.

    The UK was never colonised. Australia was.

    Therefore (it could be argued), that Australia has less right to impose/project a narrow view of itself as described by the comment's here.

    And in fact, if you think about it, this dichotomy (sic) is constantly played out between the conservative's and the liberal's of this coutry.

    Ironically I am against the multicultural viewpoint because the migrant is the one that throws away his language, culture etc.

    The Australian majority loses less.


  7. Australia was settled by the British. The British built a prosperous and stable country and the institutions to support this where there was no civilization before. Australian identity is a unique derivation of British culture. It requires no reasoning to defend this achievement.

    Those alien migrants who feel that their culture is so special and wonderful that Australia should change its culture to suit them might want to ask themselves why they are here then?

    Is it because their own cultures were not capable of doing the same thing? That their cultures produced countries that are unstable, war-torn, violent, corrupt and ruled by dictators.

    If they wish to preserve their cultures they should try doing so in their own homelands. Australia gains nothing from having disloyal parasites in this country constantly white-anting it. Australian culture prospered before they were here and will prosper more when they depart.

  8. "Australia needs an identity that the world recognises as being global, and therefore, like the world, multicultural."

    Why does Australia, and Australia alone, have an obligation to turn itself into a vast anthropological zoo and represent the whole world? Every other nation on the planet is allowed to preserve its own particular identity and culture, so why can't Australia? Why should Australians be forced to discard their historic identity and culture so that newcomers can retain theirs?

    For decades, critics of multiculturalism have argued that the policy was an attack on traditional Australian identity and culture. This article proves those critics right. The authors, by suggesting that Australia should become adopt a "global" identity and become a mirror of the world, undermine the role of Australia's founding British Isles-descended majority. They imply that Australia's majority population never inherited or developed any identity or culture (other than a negative one) worth preserving and certainly do not deserve any special attention in the new "multicultural" Australia. In effect, the authors are advocating the wholesale destruction of traditional Australian identity and culture.

    If this attack were aimed at some non-Western nation or people, it would be immediately condemned around the world as cultural genocide. But in our warped country, this is seen not as an attack on the identity and culture of a particular people, but as a milestone on the road to multicultural utopia (or, in reality, a predominately non-European Australia).

  9. Anonymous (above) that's very well put. It's a model of how we can speak out effectively against the current policy.

    Mild Colonial Boy, you are right of course when you comment that,

    "A national identity is something that springs organically from the people. It isn't something that can be imposed from on high by government."

    But try telling that to the Australian intelligentsia!

    Old hat, you write,

    "What is the point of having an identity as a chameleon when its only meaning is to denote its inconstancy?!"

    That's how I hope most people would react. It seems absurd to promote a "chameleon spirit". And yet it was submitted seriously as an idea in the lead article on the features page of the Age newspaper.

  10. I would like to know who paid for that article! It has "mercenary" written all over it--blantantly conflating culture with "branding" indeed! Although criticising such a (presumably inadvertant) piece of liberal self-satire feels a bit like beating up on a jellyfish, I can't resist highlighting the following splendid tautology:

    "Culturally diverse societies are able to adapt more successfully to rapid global changes, including increasing global population mobility"

    So cosmopolitanism is good because it adaps to cosmopolitanism. Bravo, idiots!

    Mark, I don't know how you have the stomach to trawl through such filthy waters on a regular basis!

  11. "Culturally diverse societies are able to adapt more successfully to rapid global changes, including increasing global population mobility"

    Yet the most innovative, dynamic and prosperous economies of the last several decades have been ethnically and racially homogeneous countries with almost zero immigration, such as Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway.

    The authors of the above-quoted article seem to be pushing a variant of the asinine "immigration makes a society more dynamic" argument. I believe Lawrence Auster successfully demolished this argument in Huddled Cliches. He wrote:

    Mass immigration, especially culturally diverse mass immigration, creates turmoil and disruption, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as dynamism. Was America not dynamic from the early 1920s to the mid 1960s, when immigration was low and largely restricted to Northern Europeans? Is not Japan—with no immigration at all—one of the most dynamic and confident societies on earth? Some economists predict that Japan with its cohesive and high-morale society is poised to surpass an increasingly troubled and divided United States in coming years.

    Sustained vitality—as distinct from the overheated frenzy of a society that expands like a balloon until it explodes—requires demographic and cultural stability, strong self-supporting families, abiding moral traditions, and the values that lead to productive enterprise. A culturally fragmented, ethnically conflicted, demoralized, low-skilled, Third-World America won’t be dynamic. As political scientist James Kurth has pointed out, the most dynamic nations in this new century will be those that maintain their internal cultural cohesion, and thus their ability to be effective actors on the world stage. The societies that become multicultural, ceasing to be nations, will find themselves unable to act in a coherent fashion, and will join the ranks of the “acted-upon.”

    The same applies to Australia.

  12. "The UK was never colonised. Australia was. Therefore (it could be argued), that Australia has less right to impose/project a narrow view of itself as described by the comment's here."

    What utter bunk.

    No collective group of people imposes anything by way of culture - the culture is an expression of thier customs and rituals gone into tradition. Only elites impose cultures, which is what multicultural political correctness is.

  13. Just a regular commentator from Vanishing American :( :( So so sad for Oz! I love Australia and these pricks should be booted out en masse.

  14. Seems pretty silly. Like a lot of left-wing stuff it attempts to mould society according to several contradictory impulses.

    Mind you, the 'Paul Hogan' idea of national character was always a shallow one anyway, as are the ideas of national character left us in various Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson poems. The minor works of a few influential poets, artists, actors, comedians, and filmmakers have been adopted too quickly, by too many politicians, to suit too many narrow ideological agendas.

  15. The UK was never colonised. Australia was.

    Hee. Tell that to the Normans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Vikings, the Celts, (etc, etc, ad infinitum). the UK was colonised repeatedly - sometimes with successive waves of colonists colonising the colonists who had previously belonged to the same ethnic/cultural grouping!

    This reminds me of a recent news snippet I came across about relations between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons in medieval Britain being largely peaceful, and lacking in large tensions between different ethnic/cultural groups. 'What?' I thought. 'How could this be, in a time with no community housing, progressive taxation, immigration policy, infrastructure, community liasion groups, double-language schools, adequate welfare arrangements, public work projects, law and order requirements, (etc, etc).' It's almost as if such modern arrangements were... pointless and unecessary!

  16. There is a huge difference between the colonisation of the British Isles and Australia.

    Can you name anyone who is alive today from England who laments the invasions from that period?

    As a general rule, I enjoy reading this blog because I believe in the virtues of conservatism to a large extent, but when you start with the cultural/nationalist stuff you need to pull your head in a bit.

    Savvas Tzionis

  17. Can you name anyone who is alive today from England who laments the invasions from that period?

    I'm pretty sure some of the Celtic inhabitants of Britain still do.

    The truth is that every nation throughout history was formed through waves of colonisation and/or invasion if you go back far enough. Consistent application of your argument would mean that every nation on earth would be obliged to abandon its historic identity and culture and open its doors to a never-ending wave of diverse immigration.

    Granted, Australia was colonised rather late in the piece and so its national identity and culture are not as established as other nations. But were not countries such as Singapore and Argentina also established rather late? I don't hear anybody challenging the right of Singapore to retain its ethnic Chinese majority, or Argentina to remain a predominately Hispanic nation. But for some reason Australia, which has been a predominately British nation since its inception, is said to have no right to preserve its historic identity. Rather, Australians are told that they must discard their historic national identity as a unique offshoot of British civilisation in the South Pacific and simply allow their country to be constantly reinvented by waves of mass diverse immigration.

    Please, enlighten me, why does Australia, and Australia alone, have this special obligation?

  18. Mr Savvas Tzionis,

    This is an Australian blog written for the benefit of Australians wishing to preserve traditional Australian culture (i.e. Anglo-Celtic culture).

    You come to this Journal insult Australian culture and make arrogant and provocative statements in semi-literate English. And then you have the gall to tell Australians "to pull their heads in a bit".

    Who the hell do you think you are?

    If Greek or Cypriot culture (or whatever your culture is) is so wonderful - then why aren't you there? Why aren't you in Cypress dodging the Turks or in Athens dodging Molotov cocktail throwing anarchists?

    Australians don't require permission from any foreigners, particularly from chaotic and disorderly countries, to protect our own unique culture.

  19. People act like these kinds of things are outside their control, but they aren't.
    Yes, cultures do come from the people, however - they CAN also be imposed from top down. E.g the doctrine of multiculturalism was imposed from the top down by the elites.
    For example, our immigration policy should prioritise Christians. Why? Because it is culture that is a unifying factor, not just ethnicity. People coming from a similar Judeo Christian framework will naturally understand our values.
    Second, the government should cease to fund any kind of multicultural broadcasting service, provision of foreign languages or funding of cultural celebrations. I'm happy for immigrants to celebrate their own culture - but not on my dime.
    Third, we, native Australians have to realise that in most cases, the first generation will be a write off. Imagine if you as an Aussie went to live in China at the age of say 30. You would still consider yourself aussie, still be proud of your culture, still retain your language and tell your kids about it. This is perfectly natural and we should expect 1st gens to engage in this behaviour (which again should not be govt funded)
    It is the second generation onwards who need to assimilate and integrate, and thats what our policy should be geared towards.
    It really sh*ts me when conservatives act all powerless like "oh nothing can be done"
    Rubbish! The left overturned our traditional culture in a generaton by taking over the engines of culture - we can do the same.
    It's time to stop thinking like 'conservatives' and start to realise you need to be activists. Sure you will get hammered and stigmatised - just like the first wave of the left did in the 1950s
    Something can be done - the only question is whether you are willing to pay the price.

    PS - FYI - I am a second generation non-white Christian immigrant.

  20. Anon above has it in a nut-shell.

  21. Anon above has it in a nut-shell.

    No, he doesn't. Not even close.

    Get real Kilroy. What interest would you possibly have in sitting around watching Australia become Indo-Asia, regardless of how "conservative" or "judeo-christian" it "remains"? It's the greatest exercise in pointless self-abnegation ever undertaken.

    If the Savvas Tzionises could ever get over their petrifying fear of Australian nationalism "rearing its head" (presumably what it's doing if it needs to "pull it in"), he'd realize he has no essential interest in the above himself, nor does his ancestral homeland, which is now facing similar pressures itself.

    Of course, you can't exactly blame anyone for not quite getting what it's "all about" because Richo himself never quite gets around to explaining, even mentioning it, actually.

  22. " .. it is perplexing that our projection of Australian identity is built around stories that still have Paul Hogan-like Australians at their centre."No. Despite the recent influx of Third World immigrants, Australia remains, demographically and culturally, a predominately European, mainly Anglo-Celtic nation.

    The rest of the article is nonsensical rubbish. A nation, by definition, is necessarily particularist and exclusive and cannot be "global".