Flat White

This is not America, so don’t play at riots here

3 June 2020

11:00 AM

3 June 2020

11:00 AM

Australian eyes are turned across the Pacific, gazing in dismay as the United States once again engages in destructive domestic upheaval. Long before last drinks were called on the British Empire we began taking our lead from the States but their ability to descend into semi-regular riot and chaos has yet to come our way.

Our lingering Britishness won’t let it.

Much like the mother country, our first instincts are to look outside our tent before making a fuss within. As Britain ever kept a furtive eye across the channel to their allies and enemies in Europe, Australia too has always been something of a satellite, defined by its connections to distant bodies. 

The great thoughts and deeds that gave rise to the empire of Wessex, of England, of Britain, remain our foundation stones. Try as we might, we cannot shake them. Australia may well one day abandon its monarchy, hopefully not in my time, but it will not shake its Britishness.

The Union Jack still leads the rest of the Australian flag up the pole.

That is why the scenes of Australians trying to connect the ongoing US protests with Australian Aboriginal issues seem tedious. Their long bows drawn, Australian protestors appear to us as something other than ourselves. Their chants and shrill cries ever so slightly missing the beat of the national pulse. Their conviction a bit like cellophane wrapped around the bouquet.

America, at once burdened by the Weight of the West and appearing almost wilfully unaware of it, will carry on without a second thought as to what a bunch of protestors in Sydney do. America prefers the inside of the tent.

Australia has issues reflective of any other nation of its time but institutionalised police brutality is not one of them. Our American cousins do not enjoy the same relationship with authority that Australians do.

Australia, the nation, was first governed and then peopled, whereas America was peopled and then governed. Australia was brought up to cast its suspicions beyond its borders whereas America’s internal anxieties far outweigh their interest in the outer world.

That is why the US protests don’t fit in the Australian story — we are just not that divided. Thank God for that.

Illustration: Channel Seven.

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