The Imaginary Australian: Anglo-Celts and Identity, 1788 to the Present

The Imaginary Australian: Anglo-Celts and Identity, 1788 to the Present

The Imaginary Australian: Anglo-Celts and Identity, 1788 to the Present

The Imaginary Australian: Anglo-Celts and Identity, 1788 to the Present

Synopsis

The Imaginary Australian argues that, in spite of its defects, Anglo-Celtic core culture has played a role in building what remains one of the earth's most decent and prosperous societies.

Excerpt

In Australia, when it comes to national identity and above all its mainstream sources, idealisers and demonisers have a field day.

Yesterday's idealisers found too much that was noble in the Australian identity while today's demonisers find too much that is ignoble. in the 1970s and 1980s, mainstream Anglo-Celtic Australians in particular suffered too much from the idealisers, with many of the ideals imposed on them deriving from Russel Ward's 1958 book, The Australian Legend. This hugely popular account of our history reincarnates Rousseau's Noble Savage in the form of an intellectual's Noble Prole (Orwell's shorthand). By contrast, in the 1990s, mainstream Anglo-Celtic Australians must endure the demonisers. the picture conjured by Ward's Legend is now dismissed as male chauvinist, racist and historically flawed. We are assured that bigotry and racism have always played their part in the 'ugly, primal landscape of the Australian character', but we have yet to be introduced to that (Martian?) nation where such qualities do not bulk large. Idealisers and demonisers alike hit important targets, but both in their own way distort by oversimplifying.

Mainstream Anglo-Celtic Australia deserves neither idealising nor demonising. Idealisers and demonisers banish too much of its complexity and thereby choke off too much potential. But more, they impair a part of Australia on which we depend, a vital element of Anglo-Celtic Australia as a whole. At a time of international fragmenting, with disintegration shadowing the nation and its social fabric everywhere, in Australia we rely on that vital element to help in the work of social cohesion it has performed since 1788. This work . . .

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