Thursday, January 25, 2007

Australia Day thoughts

Friday - January 26, is Australia Day. For most that means taking the opportunity to turn themselves into crispy fried humans (it is summer here) or offering themselves as shark bait of the countries beaches. For a hardy few, mainly commentators of one sort or another, it is all about identifying the ‘culture’ of this big, dry, convict/immigrant settlement.

The place is so far removed from any real civilisation that the need to justify some sort of difference is enormous. So I offer the following, in the spirit of Australia Day and challenge non Australians to spot a difference.

SOME years ago, the anthropologist Ghassan Hage characterised Australia as a "phallic democracy". Phallic democracies indulge in macho boasting about their commitment to democratic values even while they trash those same values. In Hage's terms, phallic democracy is the democracy you have rather than the democracy you live; something that's held up as a symbol of our moral superiority, rather than something that we actually live.
In the same way, we have phallic national values: the values you have, rather than the values you live.

There is a curious double process at work here: as the market has been allowed to run riot over the national social fabric, organising and re-organising social life according to its own designs, the national culture has been subject to ever more heavy-handed attempts to fix what it means to be Australian.

The two processes — an ever freer economy and ever more desperate bids to lock down the national culture — may seem to run counter to one another, but they're really two sides of the same coin. Democracy? We don't walk the walk

Correct me if I’m wrong, but those comments could apply to any number of western societies.

2 comments:

romunov said...

When I read first few lines, I thought - hey, I know that country! I had a different continent in mind, but I'm just splitting hairs.

Frederick said...

True,true.