History A la Carte

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One of our local city councils has announced that it will not celebrate Australia Day – the national civic holiday – on the 26th of January 2017 as the rest of the country does. It cites complaints from aboriginal citizens about the 229 year history of the country as justification. It proposes to hold an alternative celebration two days later on January 28th, 2017.

There. I think that states it pretty succinctly and without any particular bias. Now for my take on it:

I think it’s a stunt with more basis in publicity than in morality. There may be some financial thinking in there as well, but I am not privy to the civic account books. No more am I familiar with the personalities involved or their relationships to each other.

I am not too surprised by it – the city involved has had many ups and downs in the last decades and could well be forgiven for feeling sad these days. They may have conceived of this idea as a way of turning round their fortunes, at least in the matter of getting more publicity for the place. Likely this will succeed, but it may be equally likely that it will be negative press.

I think it sets a bad precedent. Every country generally has two festive memorial days – a civic one and a military one. They are often set upon some famous or original event – as a convenient hanger for the memories. If the country includes varied groups of people who start to demand adjustment of that national calendar based upon their historical or racial complaints, then we run the risk of being hostages of innumerable agendas.

Take the Anzac day holiday for instance. It commemorates a failed campaign in Turkey in 1915, with Australians and other nationalities pitted against the Turks, Germans, and Austrians. Shall we entertain a cry of outrage from Australian citizens of today who are of Turkish, German, or Austrian extraction? Should we move the day two days further on to preach some sort of moral message?

That’s a simple question. Remember those other nationalities? In 1915 it included the Japanese…and you’d be hard pressed to ever see a Japanese veteran marching in an Anzac Day parade…for obvious reasons. But should they maintain the rage against the Turks on April 25? Do we expect a 20-year-old student who works as a waitress in a sushi bar to don a banzai belt and throw rocks through the window of the local kebab shop? Obviously not – and that is just a silly exaggeration on my part.

Here’s one that isn’t. Some nations and religious groups celebrate civic and military days based upon lunar instead of sequential calendars. They shift around. These same groups sometimes attract the ire of other national and religious groups. In most cases this is just angry words, but then so is a protest about a ship landing in New South Wales in 1788, and look at the way that is being currently dealt with…Are we to see one group’s distress at another translated into bans on celebrations? Where does it stop..are people’s celebrations to be at the let or hindrance of pressure groups or advertising agencies on a civic contract?

Note: I am maturing. I have just consigned a satirical piece on this subject to the trash barrel in favour of this considered statement. It may still result in a few Facebook unfriendings but nowhere near as many as if I had let that first one loose…

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