Our place in the sun
IT’S not up to me, and probably just as well, but if I could give Australia a motto to put on the coat of arms it would be: “Swim between the flags”.
Simple, practical, and so emblematic of the easygoing and relaxed nature of our democracy: our national passion, the beach – where everyone is an equal, having fun, relaxed. In a country obsessed with land and house prices the most expensive stuff is actually sand (or as near to it as you can get).
Other nations should be so lucky to enjoy such a luxury where concerns of civil strife are so far away, and safety at the seaside is the simple message that seems most relevant some days.
Instead, nations comparable to ours – and there aren’t many – have anthems roiled up about ruling the waves, or rockets exploding in air, and storming the walls of the Bastille. We celebrate Australia Day at the grassroots level, first and foremost, because that’s where its gentle heart is and where it belongs.
All those little ceremonies in local parks; a sausage sizzle or a BBQ in public places and in millions of private backyards. No demonstrations of military firepower and might rumbling through the streets.
And there’s Australian of The Year. If they’re a dud we’ll get over it because we know there’s another one next year.
The lucky country got lucky twice. It’s an island, a big one. Countries that share borders tend to have recurrent problems. And second, its modern society is built on strong and worthy institutions, the rule of law and a civic notion of fairness. People have done a lot to protect these very things over a steadily lengthening time that is starting to add up to something. None of it is to be taken for granted. The gift to us of these attributes is that, really, when all is said and done, we don’t have much other to worry about than not getting caught in the rip. What a blessing.