…….. a politically progressive force which seeks mass support needs to project a different idea of ‘Australianness’. We need to strongly define the Australian way as one of equality, fairness and tolerance. But, more than that, we need to identify positive ideals and national values of which we can all be proud, and to which we can legitimately expect all Australians (local and overseas born) to be loyal. This already happens to some extent, but still the main definers of loyalty to Australia have the loudest voices and the narrowest ideas of ‘Australian values’. In turn, this encourages progressives to adopt a cosmopolitanism, which is fine as a personal attitude, but is articulated in high-minded and abstract notions that often fail to connect with many people. When articulated in a culture war, this cosmopolitanism fails to translate adequately, and appears remote and elitist to many Australians who take pride in their country. Its values need to be articulated in a national framework. It is no longer sensible to celebrate cultural diversity without also asserting the need for core values common to all members of the nation. Projecting a national pride and identity does not automatically mean promoting Anglo-Celtic values or denying Australia’s Indigenous heritage. It means drawing a distinction between an assimilation which discards the cultures of the Indigenous and non-English-speaking, and an evolving hybrid national identity which values the cultural mix, but also projects agreed common values.
A sense of national identity encourages social cohesion, which is a necessary condition for the continued operation of a welfare state based on the redistribution of wealth. That is, if the middle class and the rich feel no sense that `us’ includes the poor, they will become very hostile to paying taxes to support `them’. This has occurred to some degree already, but in countries where the poor are not from the same ethnicity as the middle and rich, it has proceeded much further—with disastrous consequences. For such reasons, it is vital to build bonds of commonality in a synthetic common culture. In a similar way, in spite of globalisation, the nation remains vital as the forum for the exercise of democracy, the administration of justice and the law and a range of other institutional practices. Given this, what other political vocabulary do we have to talk in popular terms about the common good and the public interest?
What would a progressive ideal of national identity mean in practice? One sample concerns the popularity of environmental issues. Put simply, such concerns have appealed to many peoples’ love of and pride in Australia. In the popular mind, campaigns on environmental issues mean protecting the country they love from the ravages of those who narrowly value only commercial self-interest. Preserving rivers, mountains, rainforests and desert landscapes appeals to a legitimate national pride in a wild and beautiful land.
David McKnight; Beyond Right and Left , 2005, (from last chapter)
Jan Tendys says
This extract would seem to endorse John Howard’s highly controversial position that there are “Australian values”. Personally, I agree – and I am not often found agreeing with John Howard!
Jan Tendys says
Something happened before I got to finish the above!
I was going to say that I believe our values are enshrined in our laws eg we do have a form of separation of church and state even though our monarch is both Head of State and (within the UK) Head of the Church of England (called the Anglican Church here– for the benefit of non-Australian readers).