hell with summer soldiers and sunshine patriots*
sunning myself with a cider outside the Brushtail Café on Australia
Day when a bunch of drunken Anglo yobs spilled out of the pub on the
other side of Sydney Road. For a while they waved a big Australian flag
at the traffic chanting Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi!
Oi! They were mostly young men but I seemed to recognise
Peter Debnam and Morris Iemma among their number. Piers Ackerman, Alan
Jones, Miranda Devine, Paul Sheehan, Janet Albrechtsen and a bunch of
other shock-jocks, right-wing columnists and howardista spin doctors
lurked in the pub doorway, urging them on.
down and kiss the flag, Muslim scum, a young blond lout yelled
at poor old Granny Papadopoulos, the black-clad Greek Orthodox widow
who happened to be passing. She scurried inside the café as the
mob crossed the road and surged down Werrong Lane. Just then, Joadja
came out with the cricket bat she keeps behind the bar and the mob decided
to move on.
watching them go when Stanley, the old retired colonel, sat down with
heres a remarkable thing, he snorted, In all these
pages of flag-wagging Australia Day coverage, theres bugger-all
about our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
or anywhere else for
that matter. Howards mob dont seem to have a word to say
mean, The Lost Patrol, I said. The last thing Howard wants
is for there to be any coverage of them because hes sent them
off to wars that are shameful political disasters. Hes committed
the absolute minimum number of troops he can get away with and still
pose as a loyal Bush ally. And thats only when he goes to Washington.
The rest of the time and in Australia he doesnt
want our wretched part in the Great Crusade to be discussed at all.
heres another thing that gets my goat, Stan muttered , The
Murdoch press and all these erstwhile fervent supporters of the flag
are just bloody debasing it. Nowadays its being worn as underpants,
budgie-smugglers, board shorts and barbecue aprons. Brainless young
bimbos sit on Aussie flag beach towels and kiddies have it painted on
didnt always treat the flag in this undignified way. Until about
thirty years ago we ran it up sparingly and saluted it deferentially
on ceremonial occasions. The flag was surrounded by respect and
right, I said, But that was when public life was dominated
by people who didnt have to pose as patriots by acting like pig-ignorant
idiots. They just assumed, in a quiet way, that they were patriots because
so many of them had served with a greater or lesser degree of
enthusiasm in the Second World War, when the survival of the
nation really was at stake. Many of those whod been too young,
had at least done National Service, or served in the part-time forces,
or fought in Vietnam, or theyd honourably opposed our involvement
in that ghastly business.
what happened Nick? What went wrong? How did the summer soldiers and
sunshine patriots hijack the flag?
the early 80s, mainstream politicians discovered that the left-behind,
the bewildered, the wilfully backward and the racist could be mobilised
as electoral cannon-fodder, I said, sipping my cider. I
reckon the turning point was Geoffrey Blaineys anti-East Asian
speech at Warrnambool in 84. Suddenly, appealing to a sort of
white trash victim mentality became a mission-critical political tool.
new jingoism was epitomised by Pauline Hanson literally wrapping herself
without a shadow of irony in the flag. Then, Howard jumped
on the bandwagon, and the poor old banner spiralled downmarket to become
the recognition code for the new dumb.
was never a fan of the flag, said Joadja, whod brought out
a beer for Stan, But lets face it. Under Howard, its
become the banner of the Cronulla riot, dumb behaviour on Anzac Day
at Gallipoli and lager-lout shenanigans at the cricket. Drunken boorish
idiots rampage around The Big Day Out demanding strangers kiss it. Its
been turned into a cheap tool for dog-whistlers. Why cant we change
it? The Canadians did.
times past, when the question of a new Australian flag was being debated,
you old diggers would go You cant change the flag! We beat
the Japs at Kokoda under that flag! Next time around well
hear shock-jocks and aging Anglo yobs bleating We got pissed at
Cronulla and bashed the Lebs, wogs and ambulance drivers under that
flag! How shameful.
right, its come to that, Stan said, laughing. A bit conservative
Stan might be, but he has a soldiers quick grasp of brutal realities.
then and there we started sketching out a new Australian flag on a serviette.
The first thing we agreed on, was that the Union Jack in the corner
the old butchers apron had to go.
*With apologies to Tom Paine, who was criticising people of vastly