I used to take a great delight in the re-enactment hobby. I discovered it in the 1980’s as an adjunct to the activities of our local muzzle-loading rifle shooting club.
We’re in Australia, but a section of the country that has little colonial history of note – few battles and none of them famous. Re-enacting colonial times would mainly involve hard work, dirt, and discomfort. It is an unattractive prospect compared to the pageantry and bloodshed of the United States, Britain, or the European continent. There is little in the way of glamour to it all.
So I reached out – gathering materials to pretend to live in 1860’s America, 1800’s England, and various areas during the Middle ages. There were a lot more things to wear and do when one concentrated on these cultures. At various times you could have seen me as an ACW soldier of either side, a British soldier of 1815 or 1860, a medieval dentist or crossbowman…it was a varied picture. But none of it was a picture of my own life …or of the lives of my ancestors.
Ultimately, this is where the activity failed. It introduced me to like-minded individuals here and now, and I value their friendships….but it had no valid connection to my life.
So what has taken the place of this once all-consuming passion? What fire burns in the grate now? And why is it producing a better heat for me? Read the next post and see.
Okay. Here you go – the calendar of national days for Australia. This schedule contains all the fun, celebration, liquor, politics, and ill-humour that you want or need for national happiness. Anyone who is not happy with it is entitled under the constitution to be sad. The only thing that the Committee asks is that they be sad quietly.
January 1 – Australian National Day. Commemorating the establishment of the 6 colonies as an independent nation free of rule from Westminster.
January 26th – First Fleet Day – celebrating a successful amphibious assault upon Botany Bay.
April 25th – ANZAC Day – celebrating a failed amphibious assault upon Gallipoli.
First Sunday in July – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Day – leading into a themed week called NAIDOC week. Invite the immigrants to the party.
September 1st – National Immigrant Day – Everybody dig out the clothes and food from their various Old Countries and take a day off work. Invite the indigenes to thee party.
November 11th – National Armistice day. When Europe paused for 21 years to reload.
Now you can stack whatever religious feasts and sporting events you like in between the national days and mix and match them to your liking. If you select the right religion, the right community, and the right mate, you can be overfed and queasy for 6 months out of the year. And none of this interferes with tax time, EOFY sales, or the school year.
But it does remove the platform and propaganda that the lobbyists and professors use to keep themselves – like flies – in the public eye.
Remember I mentioned that most national days commemorate someone declaring themselves to be independent from someone else? And determined to govern their lives on their own terms?
Unfortunately for Australia, the events of 26 January, 1778 were rather in reverse. The local people were free before the fleet rocked up but not after. Think of it in terms of a D-Day landing but instead of the British, Americans, and Canadians storming ashore it would be the Wehrmacht. Possibly with better air cover…
Well, 230+ years have rolled away since then and there have been other amphibious assaults to thrill and entertain the citizens. Not all of them successful, but that doesn’t stop the national desire to march and cheer. But that idea of thinking that nationhood came in boats full of convicts under musket guard is starting to be a bit suss. And it begs the question that is answered everywhere else by a definite set of criteria; when exactly did Australia become independent from the guards with muskets?
You’ll be pleased and horrified to learn that it was on the 1st of January 1900. Pleased because it happened without bloodshed, and horrified that no-one now wants to have it as the national day. Why?
Because it is on one of the New Year’s days. The one that is recognised by most of he population, but is already surrounded with boozy celebration and hangovers. Hardly anyone has the energy to be patriotic after a night on the tiles. So the day is shifted to 26 January, by which time livers have uncurled. No-one wants to have to be sober and proud next morning when there is avocado dip in their hair. ( Presuming that it is avocado dip…)
And now the indigenes are unhappy and the immigrants are unhappy and the cheap journalists and cheaper council politicians make a fortune of money and publicity out of stoking that emotion.
What to do? Well, first of all recognise exactly what the truth is about the current day. And decide what a national day really should be. And then unravel the story so that everyone can read it. In the phrase beloved of all bureaucrats: ” Bring us into line with other nations “.
Tomorrow? The new days planned for Australia.
I have been googling like mad this morning – looking at national days that are celebrated in many nations. So far I’ve hit up Mexico, Russia, Denmark, Croatia, and a few others. The results are all out there for you to see so wiki it up yourselves.
Most of the national days are related to the establishment of…wait for it…a nation. An actual nation – with a declaration of independence from everyone else. They often fozzle about with it in a poetical manner – some have a cry of independence or a mob assault upon a royal prison or some such. Others just get the wisest people they can in one place and state their piece. In any event, you can date your regard for whichever current nation to this starting point when they declare independence from someone or something.
Here in Australia we characterise January 26th as a national day, but it devolves from the first landing of a colonising fleet with a governor – Arthur Phillip – in what is now New South Wales. Probably with the dear old Union jack and file of marines, with jolly tars pulling the boats up upon the beach. Refer to your historical paintings and see if I’m right.
The local indigenous people at the time could do little to hinder it, and have not had much luck hindering his successors – though now they have writs instead of wooden spears and can throw them further. But they do keep asking for the national day to be shifted from that landing day – seeing it as an insult to themselves.
Their protests draw counter protests from people who are not indigenous and who do not want to be forced to change their ways on the basis of this protest. There are more than two sides to the thing and all the sides have lawyers and publicists.
Now I am going to take sides…read my next post to see which one…
I was never much of a fan of revolution until I saw the uniforms. Particularly the ones they gave to the girls. Eugene Delacroix was on the spot to capture the new fashion and I am grateful.
I even approve of the musket, though my experience of the 1777 Charleville .69 calibre arm was mixed. It had a good barrel, and a convenient set of barrel bands to allow for cleaning, but the stock was woefully short coupled – the French must all have had short arms and tiny physiques. The British Brown Bess was a much more comfortable firearm to use. About the only really clever thing the French did was put a locking ring on the tree-cornered bayonet so that you could withdraw it without having it fall off the barrel.*
The heading image is only part of Delacroix’s painting; ” Liberty Leading The People “- if you google it you’ll get to see the chaps on the lady’s right and the kid with the pistol. The one with the top hat seems to be hefting a blunderbus…which leads one to question who exactly he is, with the fancy clothes and the civilian man-killer. Stagecoach guard? Gamekeeper?
Further to her right is a pirate with a cutlass. He’s also got a pistol aimed at his own goolies.
The kid with the pistol is actually toting two of them, plus an improbably large bag of accessories. It may contain his play lunch.
And they are all climbing over a pile of broken furniture and rubbish. Delacroix has used the caption to suggest a noble purpose for it all, but after looking at this lot, I have come to the conclusion that Liberty is not really leading the people. She’s had a good look at them and is doing her best to get away from them.
I should too. Armed amateurs with no sense of firearms responsibility. Any SSAA range officer would throw ’em out in a minute.
* When the US Army redesigned the basic musket in 1842 they added more stock and wrist to it and it became a really good battlefield shotgun. But by then the rifled musket was the queen of battle so it was a second-line item.
Getting the fantasy/reality mixture set correctly in your personal carburetor is one of the most difficult tasks in the home psychological workshop. And it needs to be tuned regularly to get the most out of the psyche.
Of course some people never do any of their own mental maintenance – preferring to leave it to the mechanics down at the clinic. This is fine most of the time, but upsets can throw off the fine balance of the mind and it is as well to know how to get the thing running smoothly without having to be towed in all the time.
Now some people never go past the factory settings. They start out with childish desires and fears and keep them for their entire lives. This is fine if they live in childish societies that never ask them for more. They are encouraged to believe in dragons and witches and evil spirits along with the rest of the population so that they will never want more. It can be an awful thing if someone shows them more and they realise they have been diddled…
Some people discard the fantasies early on. They drop the stuffed bears and model airplanes and dreams of football prowess and set out to grasp reality. In many cases what they grasp for is money and all it brings. In the past logic has been a more successful way to get this than folly, but lately the have been a number of good openings for the fantasizers in the population – as long as they can be entertaining enough.
Some fantasies hurt. Sexual and emotional ones in particular. The wise person who can see this in prospect will avoid it. The less wise who finds it to be the case by bitter experience… and desists…also benefits. The fool who persists or searches for new peril also generally finds it. Some sins can be as self-punishing as prophecies can be self-fulfilling.
For myself, I have run through dozens of fantasies and fantastic ventures in my life…few of them harmful. The only problems occurred when I did not realise the fantastic nature or when I failed to realise that the time for something was over. With new ventures, new pleasures and benefits have a chance to begin. Old failures can be left by the wayside and old mistakes noted for the future.
I still fantasize, but know how to apportion it to my resources and stamina.
Because if you do, somewhere a Canadian Prime Minister dies.
Mind you, Australians are also into the Sorry game. We’ve been forked into it by successive federal governments – and successful lobbyists – who have arranged for us to maintain a permanent attitude of apology to anyone who has decided to hire lawyers to demand it.
It is a business that changes frequently at the behest of university professors and radical writers. We are presented at intervals with scripts read out on private and public occasions that can be frankly bizarre. The most recent one I heard was an acknowledgement of aboriginal tribal elders prior to a middle east belly dance show held in a Croatian soccer club’s function centre. With portraits of HM Queen Elizabeth and Marshal Tito looking down over the crowd. Frankly, Salvador Dali couldn’t have drawn a more surreal spectacle.
For myself, I agree to apologise for any of my sins that have been detected. So far these have been remarkably few, and as I age, I move out of the danger zone. I still have sins, but people tend to think of them as charming peccadillos. I am not so much forgiven as tolerated. I am hoping to live long enough to get to the point where people will actually pay me for my errors of judgement. Then I can anticipate a steady income…
Should you apologise for the actions of your ancestors…or for the ancestors of other people? Should you apologise for being a migrant in a nation of migrants? Or a native in a nation of natives? Will it not be enough for you to apologise for your own follies, and leave those of others to them and to history?
I think so. I can find a number of cultural links that could place me in either the apologetic or the offended groups…and I would find myself frowning at myself and demanding compensation for things done 100 years ago by people I have never seen. The effort of doing the cultural book-keeping would be insurmountable…
I think I will just leave the past to cope with itself and concentrate on doing my own terrible things in the future.