If, as the hectorers of the Left, ramping up the decibels, always tell us at this time of the year, the date and name of Australia Day should be changed to reflect the guilt and shame they feel at their misfortune in being citizens of an invaded country, why not take the opportunity with the New Year still young to drop any public holiday that gives offence to anyone? A big ask, I know, since there’ll always be some tragic social-media whinger whose life would be meaningless if he couldn’t be offended about something, but we could at least try.
Start with Christmas and Easter – well, here you don’t even have to argue a case for change. Anything to do with Christianity and its benighted opposition to gender fluidity and early infant disposal doesn’t deserve change but outright abolition in our enlightened age. Happily, a combination of secular fanatics inveighing against Christmas carols, Greens councillors who love all trees except the Christmas sort, and craven commercial interests terrified of losing customers among “minority cultures” are already doing a great job burying the Christian Christmas beneath a generic “holiday season”, with Santa still just about tolerated as long as he doesn’t let kids climb onto his knee and keeps his hands visible at all times.
As for Easter, the same forces have turned the founding event of the Christian faith into a festival of buns and bunnies, starting not at the end of Lent but about now.
Queen’s Birthday should certainly go. A day off work to grovel to what the High Court, the ABC, Fairfax and so on will tell you is a “foreign” monarch? Right-thinking people must hope that Mr Shorten’s referendum puts paid to this lingering relic of colonialism.
That leaves Anzac Day, an all-purpose portmanteau occasion for taking offence. It’s homo- and trans-phobic (though the armed forces themselves most emphatically no longer are, thanks to General David Morrison and his high-heeled slingbacks). It’s racist, being all about white conquering males. It’s toxicly masculine, which means it’s also misogynistic and a cause of domestic violence. Our university history and sociology departments have declared as with one voice that Anzac Day is a glorification of war. No doubt they’ll all quickly find travel grants if we are actually threatened with attack.
Which brings us back to New Year. Wide public observance suggests that its capacity for offending is less than that of the other holidays, though if you’re a really keen offence-taker you could object that it does “privilege” a white European calendar over those of other racial and cultural groups. Public orgies of New Year celebration get bigger every year. The city of Melbourne, seemingly unable to find funds to help the growing ranks of homeless sleeping in its streets – officialdom compassionately regards them as a tourist-deflecting eyesore – managed to spend $2.8 million this last New Year’s Eve on meretricious revels that included ten tonnes of fireworks all over in ten minutes. There’s a sense of priorities for you.
Multiculturally speaking, big New Year crowds present a golden opportunity to the kind of psycho supposedly unconnected with Islam who nevertheless wants to take us all out in the name of Allah. Sure enough an “Australian-born Muslim”, suspected of targeting the Melbourne extravaganza for just such an “irritant”, as artful little Waleed Aly calls these attacks, was duly arrested.
New Year remains open to the criticism that its traditional image is Britain-ocentric. “Ring, happy bells across the snow,” wrote Lord Tennyson (no, children, you’ll have to Google him; he certainly won’t be in the national curriculum). We don’t have snow at New Year in Australia (according to climate-change enthusiasts, we soon won’t have it at any time of the year) so about the only lines relevant to this country in these widely quoted verses are, “The year is dying in the night / Ring out, wild bells, and let him die”. That last phrase could be the government of Victoria explaining its exciting new policy with regard to the inconvenient elderly. And if, in true Andrews-Nitschke spirit, you feel like giving the dying year a shove in the right direction, you only have to put your watch ahead by an hour or two and bingo, the page is torn from the date pad, like an image of time passing in an old movie.
Then there’s the Scotch-derived habit of everyone getting sloshed and joining hands and braying, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot?” It certainly should not, if it’s the kind of auld acquaintance that you can accuse of acting “inappropriately” towards you – a schoolmaster, perhaps, or a priest or a director with a casting couch – even a Lord Mayor. Don’t forget any of it. Embellish your memory if necessary. The media and the police will be delighted to hear from you. And if you happen to be a cardinal, they will be even happier to leak tendentious whispers to favoured reporters.
Perhaps the real question is why we need a New Year at all? What’s wrong with the old one? Couldn’t we have the same year every year, sustainably recycled, instead of a year subject to built-in obsolescence and discarded on December 31? Why do we have to change the annual number? Going from 2017 to 2018 mightn’t matter to kids who can’t wait to grow up but it’s a bit hard on what we might tactfully call the more mature person, like all those dads desperately trying to fight off the years by dressing like their teenage sons. Even when the mature person is eternally youthful – Ita Buttrose and Anne Summers spring to mind – the reality is that they’re a year older. That sounds ageist to me.
It would be better to regard the passage of time as the equivalent of one of those continuous cinema shows you used to be able to drop into in dim little theatrettes in city basements when you had an hour to kill. There’s no starting or finishing time. The programme goes on repeating itself and you come and go as you please. The cartoons could be the equivalent of one season – let’s say a happy, laughing summer – and the Movietone news the gloomy depths of winter. The Joe McDoakes comedy and the Scotland Yard mystery can be spring or autumn, according to when you come in. The year could be like that, with its end in its beginning as you might say.
It’s too late now to do anything about 2018. But next year, let’s dump the Gregorian calendar, so out of place in a pluralistic society, and eliminate new years for good. Unless in the course of this year Kim Jong-un, undeterred by academic strictures on militarism, does that for us.