The ‘offended’ strawman.

One of my major gripes with the opposition to ‘political correctness’ is the constant reframing of the debate around being offended. It belies a deep misunderstanding of the actual issue, or worse, a blatant bait-and-switch to argue a point that is actually irrelevant to the debate. I came across this zinger the other day, about the celebration of Australia Invasion Day. Alice Springs Councillor Jacinta Price, herself an indigenous person, weighs in:

What I’m seeing is political divisiveness coming from a minority group of people who claim to be offended because of what took place in 1788. Because of this claim to offence, it is now pushed upon the Australian people to accept that, because they’re offended, we should simply change the date.

Price completely misses the point here. While it’s true that it would be silly to change to date to somehow protect people who are personlly offended, nobody is actually arguing that. It’s got nothing at all to do with being offended; we should change the date because the thing we currently commemorate is a distortion of history told from a biased perspective. I’m not offended by Australia Day; I just think it’s fucking stupid.

Price does elegnatly describe the values that Australia Day should focus on. And that’s admirable. We probably should use our national day to commemorate an event that embodies those values. Thing is, the the establishment of a British penal colony is not, in any sense, an embodiment those values. It’s an event wrapped up in colonialism, racism, and genocide. But even if we don’t celebrate Australia Day for reasons of racism and genocide, we cannot pretend that such things absent from our colonial history. Sure, the arrival of the First Fleet was indeed an important day in the history of our nation, and we should appreciate it… in it’s proper historical context: as a day that made us who we are, but that we probably shouldn’t be proud of.

Isn’t it strange that we’re kind of the odd one out among the other former colonies when it comes to national celebrations? Americans celebrate it’s their day on the anniversary of its Declaration of independence; Canadians, the adoption of their constitution; New Zealanders even commemorates a treaty between the British and the indigenous peoples (despite some issues with Waitangi, they’re miles ahead in this regard). What do they all have in common? They’re all celebrations, not of colonialism, but of of independence. And that’s just the Anglosphere. Across the world, some local version of Independence Day is essentially the norm when it comes to the primary day for national pride. It really is worth celebrating— having shed the shackles of colonial oppression. But bizarrely, we celebrate putting the fucking shackles on (almost literally: remeber, penal colony).

As Price suggests, we should celebrate who we have become as a nation. We should celebrate our rich and diverse history. We should celebrate coming together as Australians. But we can’t do that on January 26. For all her talk about people being divisive, celebrating the event that created that division in the first place is really what reinforces division.

Full vid, courtesy of ABC News:



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