Here’s the thing about Facebook: it allows you to know what people really think. Before Facebook (BF), You would need to speak to someone in-depth and spend a lot of time around them to find out all their opinions and thoughts on various subjects. But now, in the Facebook Era, it’s all there and you can scroll across vast fields of the minutiae of every man’s opinion on this and that. It’s a magnificent way to share information (my Facebook wall is at least 50% links to interesting things to read and cool pictures of awesome shit) but it also reveals a lot about the way people really think.
I had a whole post written today and it was going to be so easy – I’d press ‘Publish’ at lunch time, la-de-dah. But when I opened my Facebook this morning, it was a barrage of negativity, hate and xenophobia disguised as nationalism and I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut on it.
You might or might not be aware that tomorrow is Australia Day. Australia Day is generally a pretty good day – it’s in summertime, everyone has BBQ’s and often does the beach thing or the picnic thing with family. It’s a day to just hang out and enjoy how fucking awesome and beautiful this country is. We get a public holiday and a day off work, which is A+ news in my book.
But Australia Day also has a lot of negative implications, too. The 26th of January is the day that Arthur Phillip came ashore at Sydney Cove, planted the flag and claimed the land in the name of King George the third. Sure, other folk kinda already lived here, but the English didn’t let that bother them! Colonialism! The might of the British Empire! So on!
So, to Indigenous Australians, the day marks the beginning of the end of their sole occupation of the land, a history that stretches back over 40,000 years. And I probably don’t need to tell you that the day marks the beginning of an age of bloodshed and misery for Indigenous Australians.
Anyway, the lead up to Australia Day always brings out the National Pride. And to some people I know, that means busting out the thinly veiled racism and bigotry. Which they then plaster onto their Facebook walls. The most prevalent of these this year is the whole notion that our demon-woman, childless-unmarried-atheist Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants to change the name of Australia Day to Citizens Day.
If anyone bothered to do a bit of an internet search on this, they’d come to find pretty quickly that it just isn’t true. Here’s an article from Hoax Slayer that took me about thirty seconds to find which explains the whole thing, where it came from and why. While Australia Day has already had three name changes in the past, there’s no plans to change it again. But people don’t think about what they read and see. They just blindly believe and click ‘share’.
And a lot of these posts come with extra text that reveals a level of bigotry that makes me ill. I don’t hate anyone – not a single person. I think some people are dicks, sure. But I don’t have the energy and fury in me for hate. It’s too ugly an emotion. And I certainly don’t have it in me to hate whole races or cultures. These folk cite certain incidences and events as evidence enough to damn a whole culture. Me? I recognise that there are asshats in every culture and to judge an entire bunch of people by a few folk who act like shits is fucking stupid. It’s like another culture looking at the worst of us and judging that Australians are all a bunch of jerks.
I’m an incredibly white person myself – I’m Irish on almost all sides. My folk came here on boats back in the day to find a better life, and they did. I love Australia and feel pretty happy that I was lucky enough to be born here. And you know what? I hope that other folk who are in similar situations can come here and make a good life for themselves too.
This is not my country, it’s everyone’s. And whatever we call the day that celebrates it, so be it. Change it, keep it the same, it won’t change the sentiment. This is a good place. I like it here. You do too. Let’s all go and have a sausage down at the beach and be friends.
So yeah, if we are ‘friends’ on Facebook and you feel like, as a mighty keyboard warrior, expressing some hate in the form of bullshit re-posts and thinly veiled bigotry? Do me a favour, save me some time, and unfriend me now.
(Oh, by the way, here’s an amazing blog post by a friend of mine who expresses her love for the multi-cultural aspects of Australia. Really, go and read it, she says all the things I want to say with such eloquence and grace that it took my breath away. )