The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'nationalism'
Der Spiegel has an interesting interview with Adam Michnik, former Polish Solidarność dissident and now editor of the broadsheet Gazeta Wyborcza, talking about democracy, authoritarianism and civil society in Europe, looking partly at the hardline authoritarian-nationalist turn Hungary has taken, and to a lesser extent the Catholic-nationalist right in Poland:
SPIEGEL: Orbán is trying to direct his country into a "system of national cooperation without compromises." What does he mean by that?
Michnik: British historian Norman Davies called this form of democracy a "government of cannibals." Democratic elections are held, but then the victorious party devours the losers. The gradual coup consists in getting rid of or taking over democratic institutions. These people believe that they are the only ones in possession of the truth. At some point, parties no longer mean anything, and the system is based, once again, on a monologue of power. The democratic institutions in the West are more deeply embedded in the West than in Eastern Europe. Democracy can defend itself there. Everything is still fragile in our countries, even two decades after the end of communism.
Michnik: Back in 1990, I wrote that nationalism is the last stage of communism: a system of thought that gives simple but wrong answers to complex questions. Nationalism is practically the natural ideology of authoritarian regimes.
British menswear chain Burton has egg on its face after it emerged that the decorative Cyrillic text on a T-shirt it was selling was actually an extreme-right anti-immigrant slogan, translating as "We will cleanse Russia of all non-Russians":
The shirt's overall design is an odd jumble of ersatz French logo and Russian iconography, but there is no mistaking the nature of the sentiment, which uses the old word for Russia, "Rus" as a way of distinguishing between ethnic Russians and those with Russian citizenship. "I've spoken to a Russian friend," says Mr Shuttleworth, "and she said you would be arrested if you wore it in Russia."
The phrase is typical of those painted on foreigners' homes by Russian neo-nazis.Burton has blamed one of its suppliers for the gaffe, saying it was told that the slogan read merely "be proud of Russia".
There's an opinion piece in The Age's blogs about how the rest of the world is sick of travelling Australians, who, after long years of being regarded as lovable, are getting a reputation as the "New Yanks":
Firstly, we're suffering from a serious case of overexposure. The fact that Australia is so far away from anywhere else used to mean that not many of us made it to foreign shores. Now, not only do we have air travel, but we have extremely cheap air travel, meaning that any wanker who can manage to scrape together a few hundred dollars can go and prop up the tittie bar industry in Phuket for a week or so.
We're now seen as the arrogant, loud twats who complain when everything's different to how it is back home. Australians always had a reputation for liking a party, but now we're the obnoxious drunks, abusing the bar staff because their English sucks, whingeing that we'd kill for a Carlton Draught instead of this crap we're being forced to drink.Though to be fair, crap Australian domestic beer is a notch above crap British domestic beer. A Carlton Draught or Toohey's may not compete with the best of the Czech Republic (or, for that matter, a pint of Samuel Smith's Old Brewery), though it's decidedly more drinkable than Carling (which has a monopoly on live music gigs over a certain size) or Foster's (which nobody in Australia actually drinks; much like various TV soaps, it's a product made primarily to be passed off to foreigners).
Another reason for Australia's declining image could be its politics. Whilst Australia has traditionally been such a minor player on the international stage to evade notice, the present government's determination to be a cheerleader for everything that pisses off liberals, from the Iraq war to blocking the Kyoto protocol, may have created an impression of Australia as the Big Red State Down Under. And then there is the rise of a rather ugly strain of muscular nationalism among young Australians these days (witness all the flag-waving, the stereotyped chants of "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi" — incidentally, is there a more aggressively mindless national slogan anywhere? — and other generally boorish behaviour), which may be a cultural artefact of the Howard Culture War and the vanquishment of the more thoughtful (if sometimes woolly) liberal/cosmopolitan Whitlamite values of the previous few decades by an atavistic right-wing jingoism — the values of idiot certainty backed with force.
But yes, here in London, the stereotype of an Australian about town seems to involve drinking vodka by the bottle, cracking onto every available-looking female, talking loudly about how much everything is better in God's Own Country, and passing out in one's own vomit in the gutter outside Walkabout at 3am.
Meanwhile, readers have posted their own anecdotes about Ugly Australians to the article:
As an aussie living in London, I find nothing more embarassing than walking past the pub on my local high street (the slug and lettuce in fulham for any fellow londonites- aka the 'sl*ts and legless') where any night of the week you'll find it packed by 8pm with slaughtered aussies singing along to ac/dc, bryan adams or - way too frequently- country roads drinking snakebite and black (lager, cider and blackcurrant cordial). You'll also find the aussie bar maids and mates will stand up on the bar with their tops off on regular occassions. And people wonder why we're getting a bad rep abroad...?
I agree completely... My friend from Montreal started calling us 'pigeons' because we are everywhere... not that like the comparison but I would have to agree with him.
As I read this article I was having flashbacks of living in the Lakes District and attending an Australians-only party (shows how good we really are at assimilating). One of the head honcho Aussie jocks was running around the village with an Australian flag draped over his shoulders and a plush crocodile under an arm, shouting 'Crikey!' to the unimpressed townsfolk.
As a long-term Londoner I have to fully agree with Damien that John Howard has done more to harm the image of Australians than any drunk in Earl's Court or Shepherd's Bush. He has made Australia so isolated with his unquestioning (and unthinking) blind allegiance to Gerorge W. and his attacks on basic human rights that Europeans now believe that Australians care about nobody but themselves. Until you guys vote John Howard out and rejoin the rest of the world nobody wants you!Which reminds me of a joke I heard. There's a Londoner, an Australian and a South African having a drink in a pub. The Australian finishes his drink, throws his glass in the air, pulls out a gun and shoots it. "In Australia, the lucky country, we're so rich from our natural resources, we never need to drink from the same glass twice", he says. The South African finishes his drink, throws his glass in the air and shoots it. "In Sarth Efriker, we're so rich from our diamond mines, we never need to drink from the same glass twice", he says.
Then the Londoner finishes his drink, and says, "in London, we've got so many Australians and South Africans, we never need to drink with the same ones twice." And with that, he pulls out a gun and shoots them.
The Age has a piece on another cultural trend in Howard's Australia: the transformation of Australia's obsession with sport into an aggressive, militaristic conformism, intolerant of dissent from the majority view:
It was being used as "gang colours", the producer said; "racism disguised as patriotism". There had been reports of people the previous year, hot on the heels of the Cronulla riots, bullying others into kissing the flag and pledging their allegiance -- and shouting the sportscry "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi oi oi!". Not only the slogan but the whole attitude of barracking seeps across to other things. Eggheads (probably a less derisory term in Australia than intellectuals) are castigated for holding thoughts and attitudes divorced from those of the mainstream. Questionable, but isn't that what intellectuals and artists occasionally do everywhere? Tolstoy no more passes for a typical Russian than Shakespeare could pass for a typical Englishman.
But, as the barracking mood has spread across the country, there has been an exponential growth of the idea of something or someone being "un-Australian". Not part of the team. This idea has become so entrenched that people have been deported who have spent virtually their whole lives here but were infants elsewhere. Undesirable, not ours — although they may have been almost entirely shaped by an Australian upbringing.
The notion of being "un-Australian" is a silly one and should be sent back to the America of the Cold War, where it belongs. If we are truly a nation, then every citizen is a member, enriching it with the narrative, patterns and choices of their lives. Whoever heard of anybody being called "un-French", or even "un-English"? "Un-New Zealand" wouldn't even get to first base — not only because it's a mouthful, but because neither Maori nor Pakeha can claim the whole.Adding to this is a creeping militarisation of Australian public life:
The barracking mentality has become more prevalent at the same time as a deepening khaki tinge has entered our national life. We don't hear much now of Australia as a pioneer of democracy: it's Gallipoli, the Western Front, Kokoda. Our history has been militarised. Then there's our military Governor-General, who does quite a good job (when he's allowed to). There are also things like the recent advertisement for Boags, which has a soldier in uniform, saluting, with his glass of beer. Or The Australian deciding that the Australian of the year should be the digger — advancing democracy around the world. You would think it was 1942.
But now the link (between sport and the military) is much more explicit. It is used to fire up sportspeople. Cricket teams off to England to play for the Ashes have stopped off at Gallipoli. And at the Athens Olympics, one of the girls in the softball team enjoined the others to "think of the Anzacs". "It lifted us," commented another. "It really lifted us.""Think of the Anzacs" could also be a good motivational phrase to encourage Australians to knuckle down and accept the American-style working conditions being brought in as part of the government's industrial relations laws. When you're working longer hours, competing against your coworkers not to be dismissed, think of the diggers who had it much worse.
A military presence has become part of the scene at major football matches. Four days before last Anzac Day, a Hawthorn-Carlton match began with the two teams lined up before an enormous Australian flag, the crowd being asked to stand while two buglers played the Last Post. Then there is the special Anzac Day match: although only 13 years old, it is presented as being as traditional as Waltzing Matilda. War planes flew overhead, veterans were whisked around the ground in a lap of honour, while on television the army logo appeared throughout — along with an advertisement for recruitment. The risk is that sport and militarism are becoming increasingly aligned to produce a blunt equation: sport + patriotism = the military.This could bode ill for other aspects of the local culture:
With the virtual collapse of high culture, and the weakening of its local forms (which looked so promising 30 years ago), we may be left with little else, particularly as sport is so deeply Australian. Most of our popular cultural icons have been sold off. But in becoming more sports-obsessed, the country could also become increasingly illiberal and increasingly militaristic.If the article is true, Australia is in danger of turning into a latter-day Sparta, a muscular, militarised, fiercely conformistic nation with no place for those who aren't part of the team.
Attendees at the Sydney Big Day Out have rejected the organisers' call to leave flags at home; the festival was a nationalistic show of strength, with flags everywhere, and an underlying atmosphere of jingoism.
However, political leaders rejected his appeal, and today many fans on their way to the event appeared to be ignoring his request as well.
Rather than the flag being a victim, as it was portrayed in arguments about its use at the Big Day Out, academic Roger Bell believes it was used as a heavy hitting weapon by over-nationalistic aggressors at Cronulla, and that this mood carried through in the weeks leading up to BDO.Could this be more evidence for the hypothesis that today's youth have rejected the left-wing values of the 1970s and 1980s and shifted dramatically to the right (see also: Vice Magazine, Hillsong) and line up on the Howard government's side of the culture war, or even that Howard's Australia is developing a US-style culture of flag-waving jingoism, coupled with the intolerant, aggressive majoritarianism that has been on the rise?
"People I know were in the audience last year and witnessed people basically being made to kiss the Australian flag and if they didn't they would get their head beaten in," Ms Ashworth said.I wonder whether one could be beaten up for wearing one of those Dangerfield "Worst Prime Minister" T-shirts to Big Day Out.
As football mania sweeps England and one scarcely sees a white van or large shaven-headed geezer without a dozen St. George's flags, England's neighbours are reacting to the conflagration of jingoism in different ways. In North Wales, the heartland of Welsh nationalism, a police chief has warned England fans to avoid flying the flag for fear of antagonising Welsh fans. Meanwhile, up in Scotland (a nation which usually supports whoever's playing against England; it's not uncommon to see Scots declaring themselves as honorary Bosnians or Ghanaians or whatever for the duration of a football match), schoolchildren who say bad things about the sassenach will be excluded from classrooms.
In this Australia Day edition*: John Howard claims victory in the culture war; in his personal aircraft-carrier-off-the-Californian-coast moment, Australia's conservative Prime Minister has asserted that the forces of relativism, debates about Australian national identity and the Marxist-Keatingist "black armband" view of history have been decisively vanquished; consequently, Australians are free to feel no guilt over the past, to not apologise for anything, and gleefully ignore the fact that effete, garlic-eating Euroweenies and latte-sipping traitors in their own ranks see them increasingly as ugly, gormless redneck cowboys. Howard also called for a "coalition of the willing" to fundamentally change how Australian history is to be taught; his view is basically centred on the Western cultural tradition, with, as one would expect, a lot of emphasis on "Judaeo-Christian values" and other things conservatives fawn over, as opposed to, for example, the post-Enlightenment liberal-secularist tradition or pluralism.
Another sign that, in Australia, the conservatives may have won the culture war: sales of Australian flags have increased by 300% in the past five years; perhaps Howard's campaign to socially engineer a US-style culture of flag-waving jingoism in Australia (witness the recent federal requirement for schools to have flagpoles and flag-waving ceremonies) has borne fruit?
* referring to it by other names, such as "Inv*si*n Day", may be seditious under Australian law.
A survey has revealed that, while Australians overwhelmingly support globalisation, they see US foreign policy as a potentian external threat on a par with Islamic fundamentalism. 58% of Australians have positive feelings towards the U.S., though only one in five would support Australia going to war with China to defend Taiwan if the U.S. did so.
As far as the Americanisation of Australia goes, when do we get nifty things like a bill of rights? We can quite happily leave behind the oversized Hummer SUVs, conservative Christian political powerbase (even though Howard would really like one of those), culture of flag-waving triumphalism (and the boxing-kangaroo flag at cricket matches doesn't really count) and Clear Channel-style homogeneisation of mass culture (though, it could be argued, that Australia has its local version of the last). For that matter, a legal notion of Fair Use to go with the draconian copyright laws we just got from the U.S. would be good, though, of course, there's no multinational profit in harmonising that particular part of intellectual-property law. Still, at least Australians still get 20 days of paid leave a year (as opposed to the 5-10 the average American working stiff gets), and aren't exposed to as many environmental toxins (for which America can probably thank Reagan's pro-corporate rolling back of pollution regulations), so there are a few small mercies to be thankful for. I wonder how long they'll last.
Strange bedfellows: It has emerged that, during World War 2, Scottish nationalists allied with the IRA attempted to establish an alliance with Nazi Germany, with the aim of establishing a Nazi-allied Scottish Republic in the chaos of the Blitz, (via Lev)