I have not always proud to be Australian. In recent years, for obvious reasons, I have been more embarassed than proud. Sometime I feel I have spent the past ten years being embarassed and ashamed as I watched the Howard Government slowly but surely dismantle everything great about the country, when I wasn’t reading the demented bleats of the redneck numnuts who write Letters to the Editor complaining about refugees/Aboriginal people/the youth of today/welfare layabout/insert your own minority group here. Consequently, although I know I’m unbelievably lucky to have been born into this country, I haven’t often felt like a proud Australian.
But this year it all changes. One of my favourite people in the world once told me (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here) that while my moral fortitude could sometimes be on the flabby side I had my heart in the right place - and that’s the way I’ve decided I’m going to view the country from now on, or at least for this Australia Day.
Australia, in many ways is fucked. We are selfish, we are polluters, we are cruel, greedy and we take everything we have for granted. But we’re not all bad. I do think, for instance we are also mostly a friendly bunch, we don’t take things too seriously and, if the election has taught us anything, we are (sometimes) open to new ideas. Jesus, we’re a good-looking bunch of bastards too. I think most Australians do want to make the world a better place, even if many of them have seriously messed up ideas about how to achieve that. Most of all, damnit, we’re still very young in the scheme of things. And it's a stroppy teenager's right to be a bit wrong a lot of the time, and a lot confused and angry the rest of the time. They all grow out of it (or so my parents are hoping).
So from now on I will make an effort not to run down my country and lambast it for all its (many) failings. I will no longer mumble the name of my home town, or pretend to come from “New Ziland”. Instead, every time the country lets me down, as it inevitably will and probably much sooner than I fear, I will simply make that cluck-cluck noise, in my throat, shake my head indulgently and ruffle its hair. “Oh, Australia," I’ll say "You’re an annoying little scamp sometimes aren’t you?"