Whilst my parents were amazed that everyone had a new car (all bought with 'credit', an alien concept for Australians then), I was distracted by other more colourful things: the American flags that seemed to fly on so many houses. After a while I'd stop pointing them out because there were just too many. For anyone thinking, 'Yes, but weren't you on army bases? Of course they have flags', remember: We were army people, back home we'd lived on army bases. In Australia, there was no such thing as a house with a flag out the front, army base or no. Or if there had been, whomever it was would have been viewed as eccentric, or odd, or something.
"You know he has a flagpole at his house and he hangs a flag from it?"
"Does he? What kind of flag is it?"
"An Australian one."
"Really? He actually has an Australian flag at his house? Geez, what a dickhead."
Overt patriotism was something Americans did. We were simply Australian and that's all there was to it. No one was confused - we knew who to cheer for at the cricket, and since when did being Australian have anything to do with anything else? Anything beyond that was a piece of wank, a contrivance of some sort. Australia was just a place and we lived there and we liked it. We weren't loudmouths, we weren't braggarts, we didn't thump our chests and behave like arseholes. The low-key punchline to this joke says it all I think -
A Texan is bragging to an Australian about how big his ranch is: "I could get on my horse and ride for two days and still not get to the Western boundary."
"Yeah," said the Australian, "I used to have a horse like that."
And with this lack of a vocabulary for self-congratulation, we used to celebrate our low-key love of Australia with an appropriately low-key national holiday, Australia Day (January 26), during which no one did anything and nothing happened. It was just another day-off, an excuse to go to the beach. But somewhere in the last 10-15 years with that shit Howard leading the way, Australia came adrift. Bamboozled by the media, we forgot who we were and became something else. Now, collectively, we are precisely that variety of jingoistic, chest-thumping arsehole with Australia Day as some kind of Arsehole-Xmas. And just like Christmas, it seems the decorations go up earlier and earlier, and get ever more elaborate. It's been flag week all week - cars, apartments, and human billboards - ever growing numbers of people keen to declare themselves as scoundrels getting in early for their refuge.
Lacking all sense of irony, now that we're unafraid to declare Australia the greatest place in the world and Australians the greatest people (John Howard's precise words in his farewell speech), what could be more correct and proper than gangs of youths who've tattooed themselves with the flag (literally) getting as pissed as newts and screaming abuse at anyone who doesn't reply Oi Oi Oi when they yell Aussie Aussie Aussie at them. Ten short years ago no one had ever heard of Aussie Aussie Aussie - Oi Oi Oi. Now it's a belligerent variety of national motto cum public pop quiz, with a torrent of abuse for whomever fails to answer. Sure enough, Australia Day is down in the police calendar as All Leave Cancelled, as bad as New Year's Eve. On the news round-up of Australia Day, the police will either be 'pleased at the level of violence' or 'appalled at the level of violence'.
No one will say, 'Violence? What?!' Since when did Australia Day involve drunken mob violence? Perhaps it's since crypto-gay, crypto-fascist radio broadcaster Alan Jones encouraged the good people of Cronulla to spend Australia Day beating up Muslims? "Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge... get down to North Cronulla to support the Leb and wog bashing day." Lebs? Wogs? Gosh, who can tell the difference? Sure enough, Jones' listeners unable to differentiate just beat up whomever. Jones still rules the airwaves and an endless litany of crimes and misdemeanours seem to have had no effect, certainly not on any of the politicians who have to crawl up his arse if they want to win the demographic. Frankly I have him pegged as a deadset certainty for the satanist/mind-control arm of the death cult. And his very good friend David Flint, head of the Australian Broadcasting Authority. Scumbags.
But fuck the both of them, they're just two old misanthropist fags with a predilection for rugby players. In the glossy cardboard cut-out army leading us to nowhere good they ain't nothing special. The task of this autocue-reading horde is to ensure the absence of the question, "Well, how did we get here?" God forbid. Best we all pat ourselves on the back and say, "This is my beautiful house. This is my large automobile." And gee whiz, don't we as the greatest people in the world deserve every bit of it? Who could possibly speak against it?
What a wanker! That's just how it is. It's the... what do you call it? The Zeitgeist! - the 'spirit of the times'. Yeah? Says I - Fuck the Zeitgeist. It might have meant something once, but no longer. Now the zeitgeist is just another thing the media manufactures. And here we are - a nation full of media-manufactured self-impressed, self-absorbed intolerant arseholes: good to go for war, torture, you name it. And all made to order.
'Australia - Love It or Fuck Off' can fuck off.