This article was originally published on August 31, 2015.
Australian culture is rich, it is strong, and it is good. But often, discussions with “progressives” tend to bring up the old fallacies that Australia doesn’t have a culture, or if it does, it is just plain old racist. The way the argument is couched can often throw one off, with the casual dismissal that our culture is just about beer, sport, beach and BBQ’s, followed closely by a reference to bogans and flag waving. The thing is, we do love beer, sport, beach and BBQ’s, and there is nothing wrong with this.
But it goes deeper. The reason these characteristics spring to mind so easily is because we live in a society which is so free and prosperous that we can be so engrossed in such pleasure without having to constantly contemplate why. We value the scientific, diplomatic and cultural achievements of our best and brightest too, but it is a free country, so to each their own.
Our easy going culture is founded on something very rigorous – the most intellectually compelling compendium of thought in the history of mankind. The European philosophers – whose ideas such as the social contract, the separation of church and state, the pursuit of happiness, natural law, the concept that the individual is a worthwhile entity in and of his or himself, – ushered in the Enlightenment, Industrialisation and Democracy, and are responsible for the liberation, wealth and leisure of more people than any movement in human history.
Australia is what a country built on Enlightenment philosophy, passed onto us by virtue of our British heritage, looks like – prosperous and free. If Australians chose en masse, (rather than beer, sport, beach and BBQ’s,) to engage in kangaroo jousting, gum leaf roasting, and Mongolian throat singing as an expression of our freedom, then that is what we would do, that would be our culture, and that would be what “progressives” mock and criticise us for. Essentially, we do what we do because we can.
It is interesting to compare our culture with that of our cousin, the USA, who invented rock’n’roll and went to the moon, because they can. Notwithstanding Australia’s many scientific and cultural achievements, you could argue that the more proactive and assertive culture of the Americans is simply a slightly different expression of the same freedom gifted to us by Enlightenment philosophy.
And Australians are a very historically literate bunch. The feeling expressed every ANZAC Day, deep, but simple, shows that we appreciate all too intimately the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have made, and continue to make, in defence of our freedom to drape ourselves in the Australian flag at the cricket or at the Australia Day BBQ.
Our country, and by extension the broader Western society in which we share a part, is so free that we have been able to extend the freedom to do whatever you want to more people than ever before. It is so free that we have been able to examine mistakes we have made in the past and apologise for them, (sometimes overly or unnecessarily so,) and tried to remedy them.
When you look at it this way, you really have to marvel at the mindset of someone who hates this country, its history and the philosophy on which it is built, so much that; they are prepared to burn our flag; rather than celebrate the achievement of the freedom and tolerance we share today, they look backward with disdain on our forebears and condemn them for not thinking the way we do now; they want to completely change the culture and identity of our country and completely cut us off from our British roots; and to reject the Enlightenment philosophy on which our country was built and regress to a dark, socialist, misanthropic view of humanity and its achievements.
It is bizarre that a “progressive” cannot see that every deed and idea of our ancestors has laid the foundation for the freedom we share today. Rather than condemning them for not allowing everybody the freedoms we have today, we should be thanking them for laying the foundation for our current freedom.
So to summarise, Australian culture is primarily based upon doing whatever makes us happy, and this is because the principles of Enlightenment thought, passed on to us by our British heritage, have been applied so successfully.