They've kicked off this year with a column by a staff travel writer, Ben Groundwater, titled "Why I'm not a proud Aussie". It begins:
Sorry proud Aussies, I don't get you. I don't agree with you.So it's not just assertive displays of patriotism he dislikes, it's the very fact of feeling a sense of pride in your country of birth.
This is not just the Southern Cross-tattooed proud Aussies I'm talking about, the VB drinkers watching footy in the bars of Kuta. This is all the Australians who pronounce pride in their place of birth
Why? He explains:
...the more I travel the more I become convinced that the whole concept of nationality and nationhood is irrelevant. Where do you come from? It shouldn't matter.
That's interesting. The liberal argument is that predetermined qualities like race and ethnicity are impediments to individual self-determination and so should be made not to matter. Therefore, traditional ethnic nationalism has been ruled out of bounds. The idea was that it would be replaced by a civic nationalism, in which we would be united as a country not by a common ethny but by a shared commitment to liberal political institutions and values.
But civic nationalism, predictably, isn't holding. That's not only because it lacks depth, but because it's illogical. After all, most people don't choose to be members of their civic nation, any more than they choose to be members of their race or ethny. They just happen to be born in a particular country. So even membership of a civic nation is something that is largely predetermined rather than self-determined. To a consistent liberal it all seems merely arbitrary.
That's why he writes:
what are we really so proud of? The dumb luck of having been born on a certain piece of land that then becomes "yours"? And what makes your country so much better than everyone else's – other than your familiarity with it?He sees a civic nationalism as arbitrary, as dumb luck, and urges instead that we just become individual human beings without attachments to any particular place or people - citizens of the world.
I dislike the whole concept of nationhood, the way people support their country like it's a football team playing in a grand final. Like we have to choose sides. How much better would it be if we'd all stop taking pride in the little slices of the globe we happened to pop out in and starting just being citizens of the world?
It might sound corny, but it could happen. We could ditch the parochialism and the patriotism and just treat other human beings as other human beings.
And that's the logical end point of liberalism: not just to make traditional ethnic nationalism not matter, but any identity that is larger than the individual unit. We are to ditch the larger and meaningful traditions we belong to in order to identify with ourselves alone.
The better option would be to ditch the underlying assumptions of liberalism, the ones which make self-determination the overriding good. If you do that, then a traditional national identity does make sense. It is based on real forms of connectedness between people: a shared kinship, history, language, religion and culture, one that over time logically creates a sense of being a distinct people and which links individuals to generations past and present, to a cultural heritage, to a love of place and to a willingness to work to maintain or improve standards and achievements.