Monday, 26 January 2015

Advance Australia Fair

Today is Australia Day, so I though I would write a post celebrating the attitude of Australia. Whilst the nation has undoubtedly done some terrible things in its not-too-distant history, and has its fair share of bigots, one of the things that I really like about Australia is the way that optimism and inclusiveness are promoted as part of the national identity.

Recognising its foundation and continued growth/development at the hands of immigrants, it manages this without (in my eyes) the excessive patriotism of some other countries one could mention. There is a pride to be Australian without the insecurity of thinking/implying that any non-Australian must be inferior.

This is captured in one of my favourite things about Australia the nation, which is the national anthem, “Advance Australia Fair”. There are a couple of things I like about this. First, the lyrics of the song itself:

Verse 1
Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Verse 2
Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

OK, so the reality might be a little different, but as something aspirational you can’t do much better than: “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share; with courage let us all combine to Advance Australia Fair.”

It certainly beats lines about killing and/or being killed by ancient foes, who are now your close neighbours (or even fellow countrymen). Admittedly, Australia’s federation as a nation was a blood-free independence (and they’ve not yet done away with the monarchy completely) but it’s still decidedly up-beat and lacking in ├╝ber-nationalism.

The second thing I like about it is the fact that, whilst performed in 1878, it only became the official national anthem in 1984, supplanting the fusty and outdated God Save the Queen. As merits the national anthem of a modern democracy, it was chosen by plebiscite (i.e. non-binding referendum) - something that I think should be at the heart of a lot more political decisions in the digital age.

You don’t have to be stuck in the past. In my opinion, a national anthem should reflect modern ideals. After all, it’s supposed to be something to identify with. I’d love if it the UK replaced God Save the Queen with something more secular and democratic (even if it does contain the classic line, “Frustrate their knavish tricks”). I’m sure that the anthems of a few other nations could do with a bit of a spruce up too.

Well done, Australia.

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