Our Unforgiving Age of Pistols at Dawn

Next year, my greeting will be ‘Happy 26th of January!’ It seems the safest way to put it.

Like most institutions these days – think the Liberal Party and the Catholic Church, just for starters – our nation seems hopelessly divided and descending into a cold civil war.  On just about every issue you can think of there seem to be two semi-armed camps with little interest in compromise and a ‘total war’ mindset.  From Aboriginal affairs and energy policy to climate emergencies and COVID vaccines, it is pistols at dawn.  Take no prisoners.  Never sue for peace.  Never accept defeat, even on issues that seem to have been well and truly settled, like the endless broken record that is the campaign for a republic.

Australia Day (AD) has become well and truly caught up in the warfare.  Every other day now seems to be Aborigines Day.  You would think they and their vociferous champions might grant one day per year, an Aussie Festivus for the rest of us.  (For the record, I have never been that enamoured of celebrating on January 26.  It seems to me it is more Sydney Day than Australia Day, never quite understanding why a Victorian, say, would get remotely excited about commemorating Arthur Phillip and a bunch of criminals coming ashore at Sydney Cove.  My great-great-great-grandfather, Pierce Collits, who arrived in 1801, was given seven years for receiving a very minor amount of stolen calico).

Mind you, this sense of embedded social conflict over things like our national day may simply be the false impression one gets from the chattering classes — the dripping wets, as we used to call the woke – and those with group-based axes to grind who delight in iconoclasm and fomenting rebellion.  They speak very often and very loudly; you cannot turn on a radio or read a news report without hearing from them.  You might say they have a voice.  Out there in normal-land, where people gather for barbecues and such and generally enjoy fellowship on January 26 – some people even dare to fly a flag, which these days might well be seen as a revolutionary (or possibly a racist) act – these debates probably seem very remote and very arcane. 

It isn’t that straightforward, though. 

Cultural symbols are important for free peoples and Australia Day has become a key battleground. In workplaces, for example, you will increasingly be given a choice as to whether you want to take the holiday, even though you maybe weren’t given a choice as to whether you take the COVID jab.  (As an aside, I always thought republicans should be forced to go to work on the Monarch’s birthday).  Councils are now refusing to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day.  Invasion Day protests are clogging streets and open spaces. The ABC, ever helpful to the Left, even publishes on its website the times and places of rallies.  God knows what today’s schoolchildren are told to think about Australia Day.  All these things diminish the event and all that it signifies.  That is, of course, the intention of those who set out to destroy what they see as the evil of patriotism. It’s another scalp for those who want the whole show to come crushing down, to be rebuilt from the ground up in their image.  Just like faith and family, nation is to be obliterated by the cultural revolutionaries and their useful idiots in the agenda-setting institutions, the elites who increasingly determine the content of our lives.  The gloves are off, and we are in a war that the other side does not intend to give up or lose.

Should we change the name of Australia Day as well as the date?

Invasion Day?  I don’t buy it.  It was hardly an invasion according to most definitions of that word.  By the standards of historical invasions, and countries have been invading other countries since Noah was loading up his ark, this was no invasion. And if by linguistic legerdemain you still wish to call it an invasion, it was certainly a pretty benign invasion, given the relative lack of violence that ensued, the massive benefits to the Indigenous of the Brits’ arrival (described below), the subsequent inclusion of Aborigines in the economy and social and political life – yes, this took a long time – and the generous though often misplaced efforts to right the wrongs of colonial life and give Aborigines positive discrimination.

Occupation Day?  It was certainly an occupation of sorts.  From the perspective of the British government in 1788, it was the solution to overcrowded prisons and typical of the way governments think and behave.  The colony lasted against the odds, ultimately to prosper, warts and all.  It has taken 200-plus years to get right the relationship between the increasingly less-British rulers and the locals.

And if wasn’t the British, it would have been someone else.  It was, after all, the age of imperialism, and no one on God’s earth can unsee that.  I was always taken with the late Frank Devine’s line, uttered at the time of the tedious ‘Sorry’ debates, that the Aborigines should just forgive us.  It won’t happen, of course.  Victimhood offers far too many rewards, as we can see from the absolute explosion of self-identifying indigenous in recent times.  Everyone now wants to so identify.  One of the rewards is endless moral superiority, along with all the grants and other material perks.

The whole notion of “first nations” on which the claim of occupation has been built is a post-hoc construct that does not fit the facts of the people who in 1788 sparsely inhabited the continent. The notion of terra nullius, though much disputed by the same chattering classes, has considerable force. 

But let us stipulate that the land down under was occupied on January 26, 1788 and we might still want to ask, ‘What do Aborigines think now about the fruits of the British occupation?’  I say “the fruits”.  I do not mean the justice of it.  As I say, that is a question whose ultimate futility should be obvious to all.   Here we can usefully employ the philosophical method of John Rawls, the eminent late-twentieth century American thinker.  Rawls termed his version of the state of nature, which political philosophers had used for centuries to determine the best form of governance, the “original position” under a “veil of ignorance”.  It is all about ‘consent’ and an implied social contract between the governors and the governed. In other words, what type of government would a rational individual not knowing his future circumstances choose to live under?

Specifically, what might an Aborigine in 1787 have chosen to be his future circumstances? 

Continued hunting and gathering, or something better?  Don’t give me the nonsense about sophisticated agriculture and stone-built towns spouted by Bruce Pascoe. The Aboriginal economy profited massively from the arrival of the industrial-revolutionaries from the northern hemisphere.  Not every Aboriginal life was materially improved quickly, of course.  Yet two centuries later, the large majority of indigenous people are doing well economically, as Gary Johns has pointed out in his recent book, The Burden of Culture (which can be ordered here).

Aboriginal innovation was minimal by international standards.  Western ideas, totally foreign to the Indigenous Australians, of course, have brought their advantages, surely?  For those progressives who, by definition, see the march of history as one of endless progress, both material and moral, it is a little odd to take the side of the noble savage over more sophisticated moderns and to be endlessly cheering a culture that, on any reasonable assessment, was (and in many parts still is) patriarchal, misogynist, abusive and violent.

What about giving up sovereignty, though?  Was that element of the implied Rawlsian bargain worth it?  Aborigines didn’t formally get to vote until 1962 (though many had been doing so long before that), but they do, as individuals, have more of a say in the way they are governed than they did in 1787.  They don’t get everything they want – assuming they agreed with one another about what they want – but neither do other Australians.

No, I am not convinced that the Aborigine of 1787 would have chosen more of the same life. In which case, I wonder how many Aborigines who live their lives quietly each day and year and who don’t go in for the revolutionary politics of their loudly-voiced betters might be given to thinking each January 26 that whitey life isn’t too bad, that it has delivered multiple advantages to them and their clans.  Or perhaps they all really do hate their lot, blame you and me for it and will do so forever. To those I would simply say, Happy 26th of January.

We all get to live the lives that are placed in front of us — and only those lives.  I don’t get to lament what might have been two centuries ago if only X and not Y had happened.  I don’t get to claim the mantle of group rights and stake claims against the crimes perpetrated against my Irish forebears by the awful English.  All sorts of groups have suffered injustices.  To choose randomly:

♦ The Huguenots were thoroughly done over by French Catholics.

♦ The little girls of Rotherham were groomed and raped by Muslim men while authorities turned a blind eye.

♦ English Catholics were shunned for centuries after Henry the Eighth (the other troublesome Harry).

♦ Postwar Italian migrants to Australia were called wogs.

♦ The Russian and French monarchs of the day were slaughtered by thugs proclaiming a just revolution.

♦ Europe had its Hitler and its Stalin when what it wanted was Churchill and de Gaulle. 

♦ Invaded by the Third World, Europe continues to pay for the sins of imperialist forebears.

♦ Before Constantine, Roman Christians were eaten by lions as heathens cheered.

♦ Cambodia was tormented by the combined efforts of Pol Pot, Nixon and Kissinger.

♦ The Jews have been copping it from everyone, everywhere they find themselves.

♦ Hong Kong was delivered into the hands of tyrants.

♦ Taiwan cringes in fear of a Communist invasion.

♦ The late George Pell should not have been persecuted, and certainly not convicted and incarcerated

Yes, the history of the world is one of greater and lesser unresolved injustices and of not much else.

By good fortune and a little liberalism on our part, Australia dodged much of this. Two centuries of relative peace and harmony are now up for grabs, as those with an interest in subverting our history and heritage, imperfect as it has been, set out to divide our people and destroy our culture one institution at a time. 

Half a century back, Anzac Day was under siege from the usual suspects.  Alan Seymour rote a play about it called The One Day of the Year.  That was about our warmongering.  Declared to be “over”, Anzac Day subsequently made an almighty comeback.  Will Australia Day?

AN AFTERTHOUGHT: A more unifying date for celebrating our nationhood, for both Aborigines and non-Aborigines alike, would be January 1, the day in 1901 that we became one nation.  Before that, we were a bunch of colonies.  (Some might argue, after the experience of ludicrous border closures during COVID, that we still are a bunch of colonies).  Does anyone seriously believe the Australia Day wars would end if the date were to be moved?  Angry discussion of the perceived crime of “invasion” would simply move to another day.  Whatever the date, forgiveness will never be granted by those who won’t extend it today..

15 thoughts on “Our Unforgiving Age of Pistols at Dawn

  • vicjurskis says:

    Interesting article thanks Paul. Adds a bit of context. But 26th January is much more Australia Day than Sydney Day. Right from the start, all Victorians and other Aussies should understand that had Phillip not planted the Union Jack at Sydney Cove/Warrane on 26th January, it would have been a French Colony and there’d be no Victoria. Phillip found the right place to start building our nation and shifted camp from Botany Bay under the nose of La Perouse.

  • Stephen Ireland says:

    Gee, Paul, some pretty heretical stuff there. Fancy promoting the idea that two public holidays be combined into one. Do you realise how important to our culture are the multiple opportunities for long, long weekends each year. Such entitlements are not to be treated lightly; better ask the ACTU about that one.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    We know from virtually infinite experience that even amateur malcontents can never be satisfied. Professionals like the Aboriginal Industry, Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and the Me Too movement are orders of magnitude worse. They are not interested in the professed aims of their causes which are merely vehicles for their troublemaking. It’s troublemaking that is their raison d’être, and appeasement simply rewards them.

  • Daffy says:

    26 January is an important holiday. It gives as one final January break before the work-a-day grind recommences. But I vote for it to be sub-titled ‘Rescue Day’: the day Aboriginals were rescued from the grinding deprivation and poverty, abuse and violence to which they, and particularly their women and children were subjected.

  • Biggles says:

    What a pathetic coward you are, Paul. ‘Happy 26th January’ my foot! Pulling your pants down to the tiny aboriginal activist brigade. A pox on you and your ilk.

  • Macspee says:

    I always understood it celebrated the day Australians gave up British citizenship and became Australian citizens – 26 January 1949. What could be better?
    Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

  • Tony Tea says:

    Two public holidays into one don’t go. And the Australia Day agg will just be imported into NYD. In fact, whatever date it gets moved to will cop flack.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    For each one of us to even come into being and consider these issues, the right maternal ovum out of the 100,000 or so any given woman will produce in her lifetime, has to meet the right paternal sperm cell, out of the 200-500 million per ejaculation he will produce. The odds against any one of us being here are more than astronomical. That also apples to each of the pale-skinned part-Aborigines generating all the noise about ‘Invasion Day.’
    Basing myself on the findings of the ANU palynologist Gurdip Singh in the sediments of Lake George, NSW, I can say with fair confidence that the first invaders were the firestick-farming Tasmanian Aborigines. The continent was most probably populated exclusively by them, from the NW tip of PNG to the southernmost point in Tasmania.
    The next invaders were the Murrayan Aborigines, heavier built than the Tasmanians, there followed as the race-callers say by the more slender and ‘gracile’ Carpentarian Aborigines.
    Bringing up the rear were the European and Asian ancestors of the overwhelming majority of modern Australians, including those identifying as Aboriginal. Without those invaders, none of the said lightly-to-medium tanned Aborigines would be here to raise any objection whatever.
    Change any one of the variables in the above, and you immediately affect all the rest. I always celebrate January 26, because without it I certainly would not be here or anywhere else on Earth. All my grandparents, from various separate European locations, met here in Australia thanks to it.

    • Brian Boru says:

      The first, second and third invaders criticizing the fourth invaders. If we don’t smarten up and cease the internecine squabbling there will be a fifth lot of invaders.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    Paul Collits writes ” It is all about ‘consent’ and an implied social contract between the governors and the governed. In other words, what type of government would a rational individual not knowing his future circumstances choose to live under? ”
    No, that is not all. In society today, there are many heirarchies as well as the well-known government-voter structure. We have police heirarchies, with top police deciding what people can and cannot do. We have financial heirarchies, with banks deciding who should have low-cost loans. We have educational heirarchies, where the Pd.D. tries for influuence over those who left school at 15. There is a royalty heirarchy, especially in Britain, where the top person has more access than most to gaining a lot of money. There are more such structures.
    At times, I think that history shows that the greatest blossoming of the arts like painting, literature, music has happened when there were big gradients in these structures. Communism, when practiced, is not notable for such blooming, because the gradients between top and bottom are less. Then reality strikes my thoughts to warn me that one should not believe all that is written as history.
    Paul, it would be interesting to show a list of “advances” as well as your list of “injustices” to help understand their causes.
    There is little value, IMO, in trying to relate what happened in 1788 to what is happening today. As one who used to analyse aboriginal affairs for a living (among other more productive activities) I have seen the failure of every “cure” that has been presented for the aboriginal “problem” in my lifetime. Now, society is not even sure of what the problem is, who should be troubled by it, who should fix it and with what cure.
    Maybe we have been selecting the wrong heirarchies as foundations for fixes. For example, it could be ordained that “policing” is to be the main weapon, so that being drunk in public causes a time in jail for most cases. Similarly for domestic violence, under age sexual abuse, ritual murder and payback, illegal drug use, misuse of public funds (the stories I could tell about ATSIC!). There has long been a failure to prosecute under existing law.
    Or, another structure like the heirarchy of money could be ordained. See how long unrest about flags and holidays would last when sit-down money was stopped because it was unearned.
    These are just my hypothetical ramblings, but they might stress how easy it is to fail when basic assumptions and available cures are selected wrongly. Geoff S.

    • Brian Boru says:

      “Communism, when practiced, is not notable for such blooming, because the gradients between top and bottom are less.” I don’t know about that Geoff. I have noted that the party bosses always seem to be well off compared to the slaves. Consider fat rocket boy as an example.
      For policy development, I think we should decide what type of society we want, then design for that. Instead we often just apply bandaids to symptoms. We also seem to ignore the possibility of synergy.
      For example, we have trouble with young unemployed people in remote areas but labour shortages in more populated areas. Skilled migration is lazily touted as the answer to the labour shortages. Surely some thinking part of Government or Opposition (if we had one doing it’s job) could come up with a way of solving both problems with one solution.

  • Petronius says:

    To a large extent Australia Day on January 26 is a lost cause if only because in the face of vitriolic attack the spirit of it is waning and it can only decline to die in a whimper.

    As others have proposed, a way out of the imbroglio is to create a new day on 9 May to substitute for Australia Day.

    It could be called Nation Day and mark the day of the opening of the first parliament in Melbourne in 1901, the parliament house by the Duke of York in Canberra in 1927 and the new parliament house by the Queen in 1988.

    This day would remove the stigma of “invasion”, be remote from colonisation, free of the Sydney Cove parochial aspect and pretty much be in tune with modern Australia.

    By way of transition, Nation Day would be created immediately and be celebrated in a modest way so that the people can get accustomed to it. Australia Day would remain for three years and be scaled down in a spirit of amity.

    In year four, with the dignity of Australia Day intact, Nation Day would be launched in its full significance as the primary day of celebration for Australia.

    Happy Nation Day!

  • Anthony says:

    Agreed, Paul. Well said.
    The miscreants spuriously supported by so-called ‘unknown influectuals’ would never be satisfied no matter what day we celebrated the birth of OUR nation. I agree also with the celebration of the First Day Of Federation. I suspect even Mssrs James Cook and Arthur Phillip would agree on that. But, the corollary is if 1-1-1901 is to be used than there exists a clash with New Years Day (NYD). So, we would then be encouraged to install another public holiday. Thus, the First may be celebrated on the 1st, and continue the party into NYD on the second. Perhaps if we could also legalise the usage of LSD-infused marijuana, this would certainly quieten the raucus of malcontents, render the fireworks display on Sydney Harbour as a real crowd pleaser as Lucy danced in the Sky with Diamonds, rendering memories of what they were all shouting about very distant, if lost.

  • lhackett01 says:

    Australia Day is the day all Australians should acknowledge and celebrate the time when the British settled this land in 1788, changing it from its primitive and barbaric condition then to become one of the most civilised and advanced nations on Earth.

    Australia Day honours the establishment of the first permanent European settlement on the continent of Australia. This occurred on the 26 January 1788, the day the First Fleet arrived at Port Jackson, NSW, with Governor Arthur Phillip landing at Sydney Cove and raising the Union Flag for the first time. This is fact. This is Australia Day. All other supposed reasons are put forward in an attempt to lessen the importance of the date, as part of the push to change the date.

    Australia Day is the date that initiated the processes that today created our great nation. We must not submit to activists who are trying to destroy the importance of this day like they are trying to destroy most of the bases of our democracy and Judeo-Christian culture. The Aboriginal perspective, seen from a miniscule proportion of the Australian population, is misleading, deceptive, and being used as a lever to achieve an ideological imperative. It must be ignored.

  • Helmond says:

    Change the date to anything other than 26 January and give it another name if you want, but you can bet the rent that the same raucus malcontents will still aggitate against it.

    I’m also betting that the government will change the date and maybe the name before the end of its term.

    I must say that the proud Indigenous people that I see on the ABC and SBS look like the are doing quite well (and pretty white). And is Stan Grant looking a tad darker these days? The Indigenous folk on the settlements? Not so good and perhaps not so proud.

Leave a Reply