January 26

I've had some great times on the January 26ths of my life. Usually sitting around with friends in backyards, listening to the Hottest 100, cooking and eating animals that someone killed for us, swimming or playing in shorts and bare feet.
That's what Australia Day was to me, and to a lot of people who presently have access to social media and news website comments. I can understand the defensiveness whenever the idea of cancelling Australia Day comes up. Life in Australia has changed over the last two decades. We work longer, commute further, communicate less with the people around us. We have the all the tragedies in the world beamed into our eyeballs by our phones and computers and the televisions in our living rooms, bedrooms, train stations, on petrol pumps and inside elevators. For a while there Australia Day stood out as the one bankable opportunity where we could all forget about the shitty state of the world and our lives, and revel in tipsy, nostalgic ignorance with our friends.
These experiences were already under threat from house prices, social apathy and a decreasing number of friends with access to a hills hoist. Then Invasion Day started trending.

Like a lot of Australia Day-celebrating adults I grew up in whiteland, where other races and cultures were like chocolate sampler boxes - mostly brown, and only one of each. At my school we had the Indian guy, the Japanese girl, the Greek, the Arab. I don't even remember there being a Chinese person or an Indigenous Australian. I'd like to pretend that was because I didn't see skin colour, but I suspect there really were none.
I also don't like acknowledging genocide, or other human atrocities. Who the fuck would? They are evidence that people were uncaring and brutal in the past, and a reminder that we had to go and descend from them.
But reality shouldn't hold us back from changing our views over time. It's going to take another millennium until we've narrowed ourselves down to one culture. Until then we don't have to act like because we were ignorant in the past we have an excuse to be ignorant in the future. We shouldn't pretend that the 26th of January 1788 was just one of many bad days for certain other people, even if we weren't there personally on account of not being born yet.

I doubt that the people who argue in favour of keeping Australia Day on the 26th are really fighting for an annual celebration of the day some British ships docked on NSW shores. They're fighting for those nostalgic feelings of Australia Days past. No one is out there calling it "Happy Genocide Day." They just feel upset when people they don't know want to turn the one day which used to offer a respite from how terrible humanity behaves turns into a day where we all talk about how terrible humanity behaved.

There's an easy fix for all this. Change the date, recognise the hurtfulness of the existing one, keep the rest of the festivities. Finding an appropriate date is going to be impossible. Is there a single day and month combination where zero original land owners were murdered? I doubt it.
So let's make it January 25. The day before the landing. The day before the atrocities started. A summer day where we can still fondly remember better times. And we can all work on being better people, so that on January 26th 3017 humanity hopefully has no recent genocides to think about.


Add Comment

Previous: Big Bangs | Next: Giving a Fig