Like a national sports event, the annual Australia Day clash between patriotism and shame is upon us again. It’s a contest without a single outcome, though if you compare Australia Days over the last decade you can see that shame is achieving a gradual victory. One sign of this is that the derogatory ‘Invasion Day’ is no longer used solely by Aboriginal activists but has filtered down through the hierarchy of the Left, via Marxist all-purpose shriek-and-smash mobs and the self-defined caring inner-city intelligentsia, to the flexible Leftists of the leafy suburbs (flexible in the sense that they would never allow Green principles to stand in the way of the new Jeep) and into the piously intentioned wider world of the genteel pseudo-Left with its church ‘social justice’ commissions and rhetoric about reconciliation. Until recently the latter categories were hesitant about saying ‘Invasion Day’, enclosing it in a coy quotation marks gesture, but now they’ve started to use the term unselfconsciously as though it were the official designation of 26 January.
And why shouldn’t they? It’s a punchier name than Australia Day, which tells us nothing about the circumstances of Australia’s coming into existence. Invasion Day states loud and clear that the start of our national journey was proactive and not the result of impersonal evolution, as in the case of older countries that just sort of happened.
It’s a pity then that this expressive name should be a cause of division. Australia’s very own invasion should be something we can all be proud of. It was fecund and fruitful. It was not, as invasions go, awash with blood, nor did it cost a fortune in weaponry. In fact it was rather low-key. Captain Phillip and his fleet sailed serenely into Sydney Harbour (it wasn’t called Sydney Harbour then but one of those polysyllabic Aboriginal names that always translate as ‘happy meeting place of the laughing waters’). They landed at first light, watched by a few local Aborigines up early for what they presumably imagined would be just another humdrum day spearing kangaroos and each other, raised the Union Jack, and there you are: Australia was invaded before you could say ‘Henry Reynolds’.
Arthur Phillip was no general yet he had begun something that neither a military genius like Napoleon nor a raving psycho who thought himself a genius like Hitler were ever able to do when they tried to invade England. Eisenhower and Montgomery succeeded in a reverse direction on D-Day, but at what cost in lives and equipment?
There was no such cost in the landing at Sydney Cove. Yes, in a sense it was the beginning of an invasion, but unlike the battles into occupied Europe that followed D-Day, the settling of New South Wales and the rest of Australia was not a bloodbath. There were casualties, and these are a blot on our national escutcheon, yet what country’s history is without stain? And surely it must be some compensation to the academic historians who have made their careers presenting those casualties (the Aboriginal ones that is) as genocide, that a nation arose on the invaded lands prosperous and civilised enough to build large and expensive universities to employ them and pay their generous salaries and superannuation.
You will notice how for those same historians and the rest of the anti-Australia Day zealots with their ‘compassion’ lit up in neon for all to see, the fate of the indigenous inhabitants of this land was and is always someone else’s fault. They ignore the fact that an invasion must be consolidated into an occupation. They don’t ignore it when they think they can score a point by describing Australia as occupied territory, but they do ignore it as a practical reality. Because if the occupation of the invaded land is ongoing, who is doing the occupying? Who by occupying is compounding and continuing the invasion? To listen to Australia Day’s critics it is not themselves but rather some abstract entity variously described as ‘the British’, ‘Europeans’, ‘whites’, ‘colonialists’, etc.
But are not these high-minded re-interpreters of our past the descendants of the ‘invaders’ (if not all of them directly, at least as heirs of what Phillip and his successors started) as much as any of us? Why then can they not act consistently with their protestations and use their energies to uninvade this country?
Now what would be the best way of doing that?
It would not be to go on endlessly attending welcomes to country and paying ‘aunties’ of dubious lineage to officiate at these ‘traditional’ rites of recent invention. It is not to open public occasions with smoking ceremonies (has it ever occurred to the high-minded as they dab their smarting eyes that the evil entities the smoking is supposed to dispel might be themselves?). It is not to continue, in speeches and on plaques, ‘acknowledging’ (whatever that means) the ‘traditional owners’ or, more weasily, ‘custodians’, of this country. It is, quite simply, to clear out. Give this land back to those you believe have had it snatched from them. Buy a one-way ticket to somewhere where you are not the descendant of ‘invaders’. How would Australia Day critics feel if their own homes were occupied by squatters who kept issuing acknowledgments of prior ownership while refusing to leave?
But back to the name of the day. A return to its 1930s designation of ‘ANA Day’ (from the Australian Natives Association, who proposed the commemoration) would be impractical and misleading, since the ‘natives’ were not today’s ‘indigenous’ but white Australians who had been born here and not in the ‘old country’. Anyway, ‘natives’ for ‘indigenous’ is for some mysterious reason frowned on in the contemporary racial disharmony sector. So why not stick with ‘Invasion Day’ as an alternative to Australia Day? Invasions aren’t all bad. The wartime invasion of Europe was a liberation. So too was our country liberated, unlocked from its Stone Age museum cabinet to become a great nation, in which, like the Saxons after the Norman Conquest, the descendants of the earlier inhabitants ideally would be at one with the descendants of the later arrivals as part of an enriched national culture. Many already are. It would be encouraging to think that the others, seduced by Leftist grievance-mongers or abandoned to their fate in the townships because intervention to help them is ‘racist’, will one day also celebrate, whatever name they give it, the anniversary of our national foundation and think of that auspicious event not with resentment but recognition of the human progress it promised and has led to.
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