Heading home

I’m flying home soon. Sort of. Y’see I’m leaving Vancouver on the 20th of October, leaving the life I’ve led for the last nineteen months (it will be twenty by that point), and heading to Toronto. After Toronto comes a return to New Orleans, then down Cancun way in Mexico (though I don’t plan on spending much time in Cancun itself), back up into the good ol’ U-S-of-A to finally check out San Francisco.

You jealous? Yeah, you’re jealous.

The part I’m real excited about, however, is my final destination at the end of it all. Just over three weeks after leaving Vancouver I’ll be climbing on a plane. Fourteen hours of travel that are also two days later – because timezones – I’ll be climbing off a plane in Charles Kingsford-Smith. Sydney. Home.

I’m so fuckin’ excited. Counting down the weeks, the days, the hours. It’s been so long and I miss it all so much. Friends and family I haven’t seen in well over a year and a half, a brother and a sister whose birthday’s I’ve missed, my dog, Aussie beer, lamb, Thai food and Donner kebabs, the bars and pubs I learnt how to drink in.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m gonna miss Vancouver. No, that’s not true. I’m not going to miss Vancouver. I’ve not been able to form any real attachment to this city despite what it’s given me and I’ve grown tired of its many flaws and pretensions. I can’t look past them like I can with other cities I’ve visited, other cities I’ve loved, other cities I haven’t lived in long enough to become uncomfortable. But I’m gonna miss the people I’ve met here. The good folk who shared a drink, a meal, a board game or a movie with me. That taught me how to bartend or at least encouraged it, allowed me the chance to realise that yes, this is a job I love and want to keep doing. Will keep doing. I might not miss this city, but I will miss them.

They better fuckin’ follow through with promises to come visit.

But I’m not missing them yet. I’m not really thinking about missing them either. I just wanna get home and see my family, see my mates and be able to talk normally to both without needing to repeat myself (Fuck, I can’t fuckin’ wait to be able to talk – and swear – normally). I wanna pat my dog, see cricket and rugby and AFL on the TV instead of baseball and NFL and ice hockey.

What I really wanna do, what I really wanna do, is sit somewhere on the harbour with a schooner, and get very, happily drunk while watching the sun set over Bridge and the Opera house.

I can’t Goddamn wait.

View from across the Ocean (18/9/2016)

Gotta say, when the chips are down and he’s against the wall Mr Turnbull doesn’t back down from anyone.

Except for the right-wing arseholes of his own party of course. Seems like he’s willing to do anything they fucking well tell him too, like a well-groomed sixteen year old boy for a Gold Coast retiree in the steamy imagination of a certain Queensland Senator we all know and suspect is a collection of King Brown snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a xenophobic blowfish. Fucking Queenslanders.

Watching the Battle of the Marriage Equality Plebiscite unfold from over here in Canada (where it’s been legal for quite some time now) has been one of the most entertaining things I’ve seen in the rather drab and dreary first year of Mr Turnbull’s stint as ‘Captain.’ I mean, yeah, I had a great time during the election, but that was probably because I only saw the good bits (*cough*fake-tradie-memes*cough*) without having to endure the actual campaigns themselves. But watching the Plebiscite fail before it even had a chance to be voted on has been just fuckin’ wonderful. And terrible, because there’s a very good chance that the failure of the plebiscite will push back marriage equality for another couple of years.

It doesn’t take a professional journalist with decades of experience reporting, predicting and commentating on Australian politics to figure out that the plebiscite was going to fail before it even reached a vote. I’m certainly not a professional journalist with decades of experience and I’ve figured it out. Shit, I reckon even a collection of King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a xenophobic blowfish would have figured it out by now. I mean, there’s evidence suggesting that a particularly stupid collection of King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a particularly xenophobic blowfish might not have, but let’s give Mr Christensen the benefit of the doubt.

The Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team (I’m sorry mate, you’re a decent pollie and I know the acronym can be pronounced ‘next’ but could you not have come up with a better name for you party? How about the Nick Xenophon Experience?) and a few other crossbenchers have all said they’d block it in the Senate, while the first openly gay Liberal in the Australian Parliament (also in the Senate) has clearly and passionately said he would not support such an “abhorrent” bill. As for Labor? Well, they haven’t outright said that they’d block it. But there are a few signs…

Meanwhile public opinion in favour of the plebiscite has fallen, not least because while the Coalition plans on making it compulsory they have no intention of making it binding. Which means that Coalition MPs would still be able to “follow their consciences” and vote however they want in Parliament. As far as I can tell it means there would be no legislative trigger whatsoever, so we still might not get marriage equality in Australia until Labor wins the next election (and they will win the next election) even if the ‘Yes’ vote wins. Funnily enough, people don’t like the idea of wasting 160 million dollars on a decisive “opinion poll.” At least that’s what the opinion polls are saying.

But shit guys, both Mr Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis* have said they’re open to compromising on the bill! I mean, not on the policy, question, legislative impact and the fifteen million dollars to be split between the two campaigns. That shit’s non-negotiable. But they’re willing to make changes to… the colour of the ballot papers I guess? Yeah. Maybe they can be coloured a nice, ironic rainbow. Labor’s response to this we’re-only-now-realising-how-embarrassing-losing-this-is-going-to-be-so-we’re-getting-desperate olive branch? Well, since shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ first instinct was to call both PM and AG dishonest and lacking backbone, the signs are not positive.

So, why has the PM taken this so far? Good question. Apparently the Coalition believe they had a mandate to see this thing through, and the Coalition doesn’t back down when it has a mandate! Except when it comes to superannuation reform. They’ve gone awfully quiet about that, haven’t they? Despite the fact that changes to super are something they could actually negotiate with Labor and the Greens and pass in a timely manner, saving the budget billions of dollars. But surely members of the Coalition (Tony Abbott’s old mob and collections of King Brown Snakes wearing human suits possessed by the souls of xenophobic blowfish) wouldn’t try and stop prevent something that the Coalition brought to the election and therefore has a mandate to see through?

I feel like I’ve been asking a lot of rhetorical questions in this post. I apologise.

It’s funny, Mr Brandis came out today saying the Malcolm Turnbull could go down as one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers, alongside Menzies and Howard (and I’ll just throw in Whitlam, Curtin, Hawke, Keating, Billie Hughes – who’s actually, technically a Coalition great – and Julia Gillard). I can’t help but feel he should show some leadership first. Stand-up to the King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the souls of xenophobic blowfish that occupy the right wing of the backbench. Of course, nothing scares a PM like the thought of being courageous.

Then again, maybe we should really stop electing them. Fucking Queenslanders.

One thing you can be sure of is that Bill Shorten is laughing his arse off right now (SCHADENFREUDE!) as the Coalition hands them yet another easy win and a boost onto the moral high ground. This is going to haunt Mr Turnbull, no matter the result.

*More articles from the Sydney Morning Herald being linked than I usually like – for balanced readings sake – but they were the first ones that came up when I did searches.

View from across the ocean: Australia Day 2016 special

Well, it’s that time of year again. Big Day Out, The Hottest 100, beaches, barbecues, cricket when possible and copious amounts of beer and cider. I’ll be up in Whistler with the rest of my kind (it’s not called ‘Whistralia’ for nothing) listening to Triple J count through all the songs I’ve missed after being away from decent radio for soon-to-be-a-year (Christ, that came quickly) with some mates. ‘Cause that’s what being a 20-something Aussie abroad is all about. Meanwhile, the grown-ups are (as always) talking about serious issues, like whether or not the Australia should become a republic or the never-ending argument about whether or not we couldn’t find a more culturally sensitive date than January 26th to celebrate what passport we hand into customs. If it sounds like I’m making light of it, it’s only because Indigenous Australians have every right to feel a quite miffed about it and we should have fixed this years ago. That and, quite frankly, there are people who are far better at communicating exactly what the issues are and how they need to be addressed. I just take pot-shots and write about video games.

Then again, ignorant white racists have had a good year since the last Australia Day. Reclaim Australia is still going surprisingly strong despite the rest of us pointing out to the ignorant pensioners in the group that they’re marching with skinheads. What about that guy that became the face of Reclaim Australia getting all angry about us judging a book by its cover? How fuckin’ funny was that! I was laughing my arse off when he claimed that he wasn’t racist because he had a Bangladeshi mate, whose name he didn’t know so he just called the guy Bangladesh. I mean, mate, referring to a guy by his heritage group because you haven’t actually bothered to learn his name is not the best way to prove you aren’t a bigot. All it does is show how lacking in any sort of self-awareness you are. But, nah man, it’s because of your facial tattoos. Sure. Mind you I think we now understand the demographic that must keep voting for Senator Barnaby ‘is this champagne halal’ Joyce. He wasn’t the only polly to make a bit of an arse of himself bigotry-wise of course (Peter Dutton had a moment or two, for example), and even Pauline Hanson got a moment in the spotlight again with her “all terrorists are muslims” thing, completely ignoring (amongst many others) the Catholic IRA, Hindu Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (until quite recently), pre-Israel Jewish hotel bombers and by-this-point-mostly-just-lip-service communist FARC guerrillas only now having peace talks with the Colombian government. I could go on, but at some point it just starts being facetious. And I need time to mention those fuckwits who reckoned the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla Riots was worth celebrating, as if a bunch of drunken idiots wearing the Aussie flag beating up anything darker than Wonder White is something to be proud of.

But things have improved a little. The guy who this time last year was handing out knighthoods to bloody Prince Philip has been replaced by a centre-right republican (not the type any yanks reading this might immediately think of) who had too many centre-left tendencies for his own good last time he was running the Liberal Party. Thankfully a lot of those on the further right who gave Malcolm Turnbull the boot the first time round came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to have a job if Tony Abbott kept eating raw onions (I believe he kept a basket of them under his chair in parliament) and generally doing and saying things that made the population collectively mutter “for fuck’s sake!” under their breaths. So Mr Turnbull’s back in the top job. And there was much rejoicing. Hooray for self interest. Etcetera, etcetera. Except for Labor and Bill Shorten, who’s losing even more ground to Turnbull in the preferred PM polls. Wonder how long past the next election (due this year I believe) before Mr Shorten is replaced by someone who can actually win. Like Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese or (we can dream) Penny Wong, all of whom seem to have been putting up far more of a fight than Mr Shorten has in recent months (at least from my limited perspective across the Pacific). On the bright side for those of us who like taking pot shots, Mr Abbott had announced he’ll contest in the next election. I reckon it’ll be hilarious regardless of the results.

Lot to talk about, politics-wise from the past year. Been far too long since I wrote one of these as well. Even in just the past month or two we saw the Liberal ranks partly gutted after an attempt to jump ship to the Nationals was prevented and another member was removed from Cabinet after inappropriate behaviour towards a DFaT bureaucrat was reported. The Brits got a bit upset when the same-sex marriage of a couple was not recognised, after one of the husbands sadly died on their honeymoon. Even Christopher Pine called it a pretty heartless and unnecessary act (because it is, you heartless bastards), and as I understand it the South Australian government has since (quite rightly) apologised.

Could go on, but we’d be here for a while. Going back to Australia Day, you guys seen this Deadpool thing?

Fuckin’ funny. Nice to see that even the Merc with the Mouth can’t help but like Hugh Jackman (who really is just delightful). Reminded me of Ron Burgundy’s messages before the Melbourne Cup…

… and after our (I think it was) last election…

… joining our tradition of Australia Day messages that are funny despite being thinly veiled advertisements. You know what I’m talking about. And just in case you don’t, here’s Sam Kekovich:

Looking back at that, he says a few things that I can’t help but feel you wouldn’t get away completely with saying these days. Cringed at a few moments. But when I was 15 this was the funniest goddamn thing in the world. Mind you, it’s pretty easy to make a pubescent boy laugh, so yeah. Still not all that hard to make me laugh, if I’m being honest with myself.

Last thing I’ll mention is that the Republican movement does seem to be building up steam. All but one of the state heads have signed onto the call for an Aussie head of state, we have republicans on both sides of the federal leadership and we’re still not all that keen on Charlie taking the throne eventually. More importantly most people are probably pretty indifferent to shifts in a distant monarchy. Can’t get enough of those royal babies though, can we?

Anyway, I’ll be boarding a bus up to Whistler pretty soon. Stupidly excited about it all. Drinking and skiing and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100. That’s probably what I’m most excited about. Most likely be sitting there with the Shazam app running through the whole thing. Who’d you guys vote for?

View from across the ocean (23/10/2015)

It was an important week back home, as we finally saw an end months in the making. I am of course talking about the finale of The Bachelorette Australia, where Sam Frost finally found love with her new beau Sasha hard-to-pronounce-Eastern-European-name. Frost of course was the lovely lady given the final rose at the end of the last season of The Bachelor Australia, only to be dumped a week later by Blake “you’ve got a stupid name and weren’t good enough for her anyway” Garvey who changed his mind and went with the runner-up. Six million capital city Aussies (that’s more than a quarter of the population of the country) tuned in to see Sam get her happy ending, and what a fairytale it was.

I didn’t watch it, mind you, but I am gonna miss the funny recaps and social media quips by the hilarious people who did. Still glad you two found each other, Sam and Sasha.

Something else that I wasn’t a big fan of but enjoyed all the online piss-taking that just ended? The political career of Joe Hockey. Though that was less ‘fairytale ending’ and more ‘at last the nightmare is over’ as he finally got around to quitting after his boss and biggest supporter got booted out of his own job. Tony Abbott might not be leaving parliament anytime soon, but it’s no surprise that the bloke who (it can be pretty easily argued) was the individual most to blame for that downfall (sorry Peta Credlin haters, Joe pissed off the voters more) has decided to quit while he’s got any scalp left. Or maybe he just wanted everyone to start being nice to him again. Certainly heard a lot of cheery speeches in parliament from his side of the fence congratulating him on years of loyal service to the nation, while his own speech was a self-congratulating belief that he’d left the nation better than what he started. I can’t help but feel that the latter was met by a collective muttering of “my arse,” while the latter was actually a coded thanks that Joe had fallen on his sword instead of making them feed him to the lions in a colosseum filled with cheering swing voters. Except for Julie Bishop, who didn’t give a speech and was promptly accused of, I’m not sure, disloyalty or something? Being impolite? Not lying through her teeth about what a great job she thought he’d done? Something like that. Somehow just as cheerful were the eulogies by all the satirists who’re gonna miss drawing Joe and his cigar. Even I got in on that action once or twice. I didn’t draw the best likeness, but then again I didn’t do it for a living.

Joe Hockey and random talking Edited 23:10:2015 copy

Truthfully though, this was a long time coming and nobody was that surprised. It certainly seemed to cease being one of the main headlines. Turnbull’s managing to keep things steady, talking about infrastructure investment and a changing economy and a plebiscite on marriage equality and not giving a couple of million dollars to a climate change skeptic. So much so that we’re barely paying attention to Cory Bernardi, and Peter Dutton’s offensive use of the word “Negro” hasn’t had nearly as much airtime as it would have gotten under the ancien regime. Mind you, he’s got Jacqui Lambie calling him out on inappropriate use of racist language in his capacity as a member of government, and when you’ve got Jacqui Lambie throwing down the political equivalent of “if you haven’t got anything nice to say, best not to say anything at all” then you really ought to think about your behaviour.

But of course none of this really matters against the fact that Sam Frost has finally found love. Good luck mate, you deserve it!

View From Across the Ocean (2/8/2015)

Not nearly the same, so stop telling him it is.

About a week or so ago I was mocked by a customer for being an Australian. He was a young man, just old enough to drink in British Columbia out with the family, and kept on calling me “mate” with a stupid grin on his face and a poor attempt to mimic my accent. “There you go mate,” he’d say. “Thanks mate,” he’d smile. “There you go mate,” he’d say again, just in case I didn’t hear him the last ten times. Kept on saying it every time I checked on the table. Now, I’m not averse to a little bit of ribbing over my accent or where I’m from. Some customers will call me mate once or twice in a good-natured way acknowledging that I’m not from around there. Usually I might be able to make a few jokes about the weather because of it (“it’s not that hot mate!”) or make fun of Caesars, the apparent national drink (“honestly, it’s like a nation-wide Stockholm Syndrome!”) I’ll frequently make fun of myself when a customer misunderstands or mishears me (“yeah, I talk funny.”) Nothing serious. But this kid, this kid was making fun of me. It was in his tone, and he just kept on fucking going. Got on my nerves pretty quick. But it was a minor issue, and I wasn’t going to call him on it. That’d only lead at best to lacklustre or lack-of-completely tip, or at worst a complaint to the manager (and “he kept calling me mate” would not be a particularly strong defence). So I put up with it, swearing up a storm when I was out of earshot in the kitchen but otherwise taking care of the table with my usual smile and care. Because that’s the job. You just gotta deal with shit like that.

Now, I wanna be very clear about something: this is in no way comparable to what’s been happening to Adam Goodes.

For those non-Australians who might be reading, Adam Goodes plays AFL for the Sydney Swans, was a goddamn recipient of Australian of the Year and is, very importantly, an Indigenous Australian. And over the past few years an alarming number of white Australians have been getting increasingly upset about this uppity Aboriginal who has no issue being proud of (and displaying) his cultural heritage and is quite willing to call out acts of racism when they happen. Honestly, man’s a fucking legend and an amazing player. Honestly, it is fucking disgusting how he’s being treated, what with the other team’s supporters actively booing him and the obvious targeted racism. Just as disgusting? All the white men telling him to just deal with it, telling him that it’s not racist, or telling him that he’s in the wrong for calling it for what it is when he experiences it. Ignorant, hurtful and indefensible behaviour. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a bit of sledging and heckling in sports, but all those white commentators who have had the privilege to have had never needed to deal with racial abuse and think it’s just par for the course need to pull their heads from out of their arses and recognise that there are lines that should not be crossed, and calling out racial abuse for what it is should be lauded instead of condemned regardless of whether it came from the mouth of an old man or a 13 year old girl. She didn’t call him “mate”. She called him an ape. That was wrong, and someone needed to tell her that. Saying that he should just put up with it, ignore it and let it continue is wrong, because racism (alongside homophobia) should not be tolerated in any professional environment.

It is gladdening to see the Swans, their supporters, NSW Premier Mike Baird, so many other members of the sporting community and commentary, politics and now, at last, even the Prime Minister stand besides Mr Goodes. Enough to drown out the arseholes standing against him? I reckon so. Especially as long as good folk follow in Mr Goodes’ example and call out racist shit when they see it.

Who will rid parliament of this troublesome speaker? … Oh, sweet.

Seriously, why the hell was Bronwyn Bishop still the Speaker for the House of Representatives (the lower house of Australia’s Federal Parliament) for so long? For those beyond Oz’s borders, a few weeks ago Ms Bishop got in a bit of trouble when it was discovered that she (and two staffers) spent $88,000 of taxpayer money on a whirlwind two-week tour of Europe trying to get support for a plum new job. Then even more trouble when it was learned our supposedly unbiased and impartial speaker spent over five grand taking a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong to a Coalition Party fund-raiser, about an hour’s travel otherwise in her taxpayer provided commonwealth car. Yeah, let me repeat that. Five grand of taxpayer money to take a fucking helicopter because she didn’t want to be too late to a party. A fucking helicopter. It then took her 12 days to issue an apology so weak it could have been called Bud-Lite, showing a serious contempt for the people of Australia who were obviously outraged by her spendthrift ways. I mean seriously. A. Fucking. Helicopter. She lost the respect and confidence of the people and she lost the respect and confidence even of members of her own party.

Yet Prime Minister Tony Abbott failed to do the expedient thing and remove her, sticking by his chosen Speaker and merely putting her on probation. Meanwhile the Memes grew in number, everyone forgot about the Royal Commission into the Unions that had revealed some less than savoury donations to Labor Campaigns including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s, and Malcolm Turnbull once again reminded everyone about how great life would be if he was still head of the Coalition with a simple picture of him boarding a train to Geelong instead of a chartered aircraft. And, of course, everyone wondered when the axe would fall and Mrs Bishop’s head would roll off the block.

Well, it finally happened. She resigned, citing her “love and respect” of the parliament and the Australian people (Baaahahahahahahaha) as the reason for stepping down. Thank god for that. We’re finally rid of her. Maybe the House of Representatives will finally have a someone in the Speaker’s chair who takes the whole ‘impartial’ and ‘unbiased’ parts of the job seriously. The big question now is how badly bruised Mr Abbott is by the whole affair. Badly, by the looks of it, with a few broken ribs and Labor not letting up. I’ve seen no shortage of Abbott government detractors gleefully celebrating the fall of Mrs Bishop and the splash damage done to Mr Abbott in her wake. Schadenfreude. The PM’s announced review into MP entitlements might do a little to earn a bit of trust and credibility back, but his continued allusions to Mrs Bishop being a victim of the system rather than admitting she did wrong (and she did very wrong) isn’t going to do her any favours.

Anyway. I was going to have a go at Senator Cory Bernardi’s continued crusade against Halal food in Australia (now targeting the Australian Institute of Sport, who responded like a champ by apologising to anyone who might have eaten non-Halal food thinking it was Halal), but I think I’ve hit the Coalition enough for now. See you all next week.

View from across the ocean (28/5/15)

I said it a couple of weeks ago and I’ll say it again. Politics is weird. Bit more emphasis this week.

Let’s start with the Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce getting on TV and letting us all know that Johnny Depp, currently on the Gold Coast filming the latest likely far-from-greatest Pirates of the Caribbean film, had to either send his Yorkshire Terriers (delightfully named Pistol and Boo) back to Hollywood or they’d end up being confiscated by customs and, I shit you not, euthanised (the terriers were undeclared by Mr Depp and not noticed by customs ’cause he arrived by private jet. This has apparently garnered a lot of attention in the USA (because of course it would), though I haven’t seen much about it on the Canadian news I occasionally follow (admittedly I don’t follow a lot), so it’s probably not news to everyone. But goddamn, I like picturing the scenario that led to a government minister getting on national TV and threatening a celebrity’s dogs. I can just imagine some customs officer reading through some magazine during his or her lunch break, seeing a picture of Johnny walking his dogs and going “Shit, did he declare those?” then showing it to a supervisor who decides to send it up the chain (’cause would you want to make a decision about what to do about Johnny Depp’s goddamn terriers?) in a progression of similar scenes until it landed on the desk of Mr Joyce, who I assume immediately called a press conference (with the Facebook ‘like’ button or hashtags appearing comically in his eyes). He certainly seems to have enjoyed all the press a bit too much (enough to get Kyle Sandilands to call him a wanker, and Kyle Sandilands would know). Maybe he was just hoping that Depp would pack his bags and go with them. I mean, none of us want to see another Pirate of the Caribbean film, but this isn’t the way to stop it Mr Joyce. This isn’t the way. The dogs, as I understand it, have since been sent home on another private jet.

Credit where it’s due, when Mr Joyce wasn’t threatening famous people’s pets this past week or two he’s been trying to calm down the anti-Halal movement amongst some of the Coalitions fan-base. And members. Senator Cory Bernardi, whom I have previously indicated I have a very low opinion of (and that ain’t fuckin’ changing any time soon), has managed to wrangle a Senate Inquiry into the Halal certification “racket”.  It’s alright though, ’cause he’s probably had Halal food before and it didn’t bother him too much (on an Emirates flight and everything!) He just wants to make sure people have all the information so they can make ethical decisions about what they eat. Because if you’re gonna be an Islamophobe you may as well have the government giving you advice on best practice. Thankfully members of the government across the lines who aren’t complete fuckwits, including Cruela De Vil himself Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, have pointed out that getting rid of Halal certifications will make it awfully hard to export our beef to such mostly-Muslim nations as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. This would be bad for consumers, who’d see the price of meat go up to cover the loss of international markets making it more expensive to put meat pies on our kid’s plates (won’t someone think of the children!), and worse for the farmers who are already officially dealing with a major El Nino event and another big draught (won’t someone think of the farmers!) If you can’t beat’em with an argument about not being a bigot, beat’em with an argument about not ruining the lives of our farmers and small businesses.

Then there was the insurrection (love that word, don’t get to use it as often as I like) in Cabinet this week, over a proposal by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, backed by the PM, to revoke the citizenship of sole Australian citizens assisting terrorists. Those who stood against such a suggestion included such lofty figures as Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and (dum dum duh daaah!) Barnaby Joyce. Unfortunately, Mr Dutton is still to be given the discretion to revoke the citizenship of dual-nationals for suspected crimes (not convictions, suspicions). I won’t go through all the reasons why I think that’s a bad idea, because other people already have far more eloquently then I’d be willing to. Suffice to say that while I, like so many others, would like to wash my hands of the Aussie-born arseholes posing with assault rifles, black flags and severed heads, revoking their citizenship is an impractical move that raises all sorts of issues regarding rights and discrimination, that is more likely meant to appeal to our knee-jerk intuition and secure a few more ‘tough on national security’ points at the polls than to actually discourage and prevent home-grown terrorism.

Then there was the budget. Good god there was the budget. The feel good budget. The fair budget. The budget of a desperate government knowing that it wouldn’t survive if it pissed off ninety percent of the voting public a second time. And, well, they managed to deliver, more or less. It’s certainly not the kind of budget to get economists jumping for joy. Too many cuts and some big, expensive plans for the future (like new tax write-offs meant to get small business owners on side) without any notable revenue raisers, or even the cauterising of the notable tax-dodges (like on high-income superannuation and negative gearing, something my generation will keep on griping about). Then there’s the piss-weak funding for everyone-agrees-this-is-a-problem-but-no-wants-to-do-the-hard-work-to-fix-it issues like preventing and reducing domestic violence. Oh, and of course there was the hope that no one in the media would pick up on the fact that Labor’s 18 billion dollar deficit was a “budget emergency” but a 44 billion dollar deficit isn’t.

Mr Abbott went and coined the term “Tony’s tradies,” an homage (a proper homage, where you don’t pronounce the ‘h’ and everything) to “Howard’s battlers,” the traditionally Labor-voting working class that kept former Prime Minister John Howard in the top job. Everyone seems to have ignored and forgotten it after having a good belly laugh (seriously Mr Abbott, surely you can hire someone to come up with better than that). The budget has certainly been better accepted than the last one, and the appeal to the middle class was probably the right way to go. God knows it’s nice to have a budget with a positive spin, trying to boost confidence instead of screaming that the macroeconomic sky is falling. All in all the Coalitions top players have done pretty well for themselves as well, bar a few slips here and there. At least they’ve done a far sight better than last year. Enough, at least, that Bill Shorten will actually have to start singing for his supper as Opposition Leader instead of just letting the Coalition do all the work for him. Can he do it? Maybe. I’m not filled with confidence over his past performances. We’ll just have to see.

Except Joe Hockey, of course. Couldn’t let a budget slip by without alienating another chunk of the electorate. This time? Mothers, wroughting the Paid Parental Leave system without their husbands’ knowledge. Ah well, such is life.

Joe Hockey and random talking Edited 28:5:2015
I really need to draw another Joe Hockey. The real man’s jaw is squarer than I do him justice. It’ll do for now though.

Truthfully though, the Opposition’s budget response was not any better, leaving me pining for the days Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan. Say what you want about how they came into leadership of the Labor party, they could put together a budget.

Continuing on. The recent yes vote in Ireland in favour of marriage equality has spurred on other nations to act, Australia amongst them. The Greens made a push in the Senate, and a few days ago Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek announced they would be sponsoring a bill in the Lower House. While I desperately hope it passes, and there’s good noises coming from all sides, there is more than a little doubt since it would be a ‘Labor’ bill being passed, rather than one that the whole Parliament could own (which Mr Abbott would prefer and would likely be more successful). Here’s hoping though.

In international news, the UK re-elected the Tories with a surprising majority, immediately filling my Tumblr feed with commentary from disenfranchised Scots who were just so disappointed with the rest of the UK. Seriously. I mean, I’m a left-leaning Aussie living in Canada, but it seemed to me like Cameron and crew were the best option in what is still a sensitive economic climate (but what the bloody hell would I know, yeah?) Shit, you guys have got an economically responsible government that’s being kept in check by a pro-Europe progressive PM with a decent track record on minority rights. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get one of those? Australia’s last one was in the bloody 80s. A definite negative, however, is that Mr Cameron has bowed to populist and party pressure to try and renegotiate the UK’s place in Europe and then hold a ‘in or out’ referendum on the matter, but no one’s perfect.

And, of course, there’s the FIFA scandal. Not much to say about this, aside from a very loud well it’s about bloody time. Funny thing, I’ve seen it a lot on the news over here in Canada where the FIFA corruption scandal is so shocking and alarming. There’s been very little about it on the Aussie news sources I kept up with beyond the occasional article updating on the allegations or calls for Sep Blatter to resign. I think for a lot of Australians the reaction’s been a bit like, “You say FIFA’s corrupt? Next you’ll be telling me the sky’s blue and water is wet.”

Alright folks, talk again soon.

Reflecting on the myth, I expect I’ll always be a Nationalist. It’s who I am.

Back when I was in high school I planned on getting a tattoo. Specifically I planned on getting the Southern Cross, the five stars that adorn the Australian (New Zealand, PNG and Samoan) flag. Probably on my shoulder. Maybe my calf. Not important. Anyway, at the time the idea behind the tattoo was to demonstrate that I was an Australian and, more importantly, proud of that fact. The Southern Cross had after all long been a symbol co-opted by Aussie culture (despite the fact it is visible across the Southern Hemisphere) from the flag flying above the Eureka Stockade to the plane flown by Charles Kingsford Smith on his record-breaking journeys. Then the Cronulla Riots happened.

To my great and continued shame in the weeks before the riot I supported what was going to happen. I’d heard that a pair of surf lifesavers had been beaten up by bunch of Lebs, and I wanted to hear that those bastards got their heads kicked in for harming an Australian icon. A ‘fight’ was planned. Rumours spread a small army of Lebanese youths were going to descend upon the beach so good, honest Aussies better turn up in force. Other rumours said it was going to be a fairly multicultural affair, with Greeks, Turks and even a few ‘good’ Lebs joining up with their white Australian brethren to beat the shit out of those who were violently refusing to assimilate into our culture, our way of life. I may not have participated but I didn’t have a problem with it happening, and for that I am sorry. I was a fuckwit. I strive to be less of one now.

It did turn out to be a multicultural affair, since there was a pretty multicultural range of victims. A few thousand white morons rocked up to Cronulla and proceeded to harass (at the very best) and violently attack (at the far too frequent worst) anybody who looked remotely brown or ethnic, including Greeks, Turks and Lebs, while a thin line of brave police threw themselves in front of the mob. Watching it on the news and hearing the stories afterward you couldn’t help but be horrified at the thought of a bunch of arseholes wearing the Australian flag attacking their fellow Australians in a misguided attempt at avenging the perceived wounding of an Australian icon. Shitheads looking for an excuse to attack folk they already considered un-Australian.

The anger, the resentment, the disillusionment, the isolation of the communities that had been attacked was visible and raw. It was not the first time that nationalism was used to excuse senseless violence, but it was the first time I’d seen it and its results from more than an academic perspective. For someone who’d always associated the national identity with their own, it was a hell of a learning experience.

*****

This past April 25th marked the centenary of Anzac day, one hundred years since thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula, not even a year into the First World War, at a spot that we’d come to call Anzac Cove. Over the last century the mythology that has developed around Australia’s involvement during the eight month campaign has become a key part in defining the national culture, and I would argue that this mythology is the linchpin upon which most Australian nationalism is built. We don’t have the long histories of art, architecture and enlightenment that many other nations have. We are a young nation. We have our military history, our sport, our bushrangers and then a host of things to be ashamed of like the Stolen Generation and the White Australia Policy. When we have little in the way of widely and regularly discussed positive national mythology to start with, it should be no surprise that what we do have has been latched onto to by the national consciousness. Especially when they refuse to talk about the ‘fun’ parts of colonisation (I’d recommend John Birmingham’s Leviathan: The Unauthorised Biography of Sydney for that) and both pre and post-colonial Aboriginal culture (instead of, I shit you not, the literal bones left behind at a turn of the 19th century butcher’s shop that counted as the ‘Australian content’ of the high school ancient history syllabus).

The key word above is mythology, because make no mistake the popular memory of Anzac Day is far more taken by the stories and legends of the campaign than the actual history. Simpson and his donkey rescuing wounded men until he was killed (he was one of many, but the only one whose name is commonly remembered). The incompetent English landing our brave lads on the wrong bloody beach. The incompetent English soldiers playing a game of football on another beach while our brave lads were butchered capturing Lone Pine (mind you there were plenty of English troops getting butchered at different beaches at the same time as well). The incompetent English officer who decided that the Light Brigade should empty their rifles for a good old fashioned bayonet charge at the Turkish machine guns (actually it was an Australian officer, but that doesn’t make for as good a movie). Aussie troops playing cricket between artillery shells on the rare bit of flat land. Two-up. Mateship. The Anzac Spirit. Humour in the face of adversity. Courage under fire. Service and sacrifice. Warrior larrikins. The baptism of blood from which our great nation was forged or united or whatever. Good stuff. Maybe. Depends.

That bloody waste of life attempting to take the Dardanelles from the Ottomans has become our origin myth, with the Anzacs standing besides the USA’s founding fathers and Civil War leaders, the UK’s Winston Churchill and (literally on the other side of the battlefield) modern Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk as the referential arbiters of the national zeitgeist. We talk about the Anzac Spirit and what the Anzacs fought for with the same kind of conviction that Yank pundits bring to arguments about what Ben Franklin’s opinion on the gun control debate would be. Bringing up the Anzacs is a quick way to add credibility to a statement, argument or ideology. We make bold claims about what they fought for, what they would be ashamed of, what they would be proud of, their preference for lamb over tofu. There are few higher honours than associating ourselves (or our brands) with the Diggers of wars gone by, when we can get away with it. Can’t always, thank god and the law for that. This is of course failing to mention when some bastard on a bus (or train) decides to inform some poor family that the Anzacs fought specifically to keep out anyone not born on the British Isles.

Of course it’s not just the Gallipoli myth that’s used to justify or underpin Australian nationalism. Charles Bean, Australia’s official historian during the Great War, arguably did more to construct the image of the noble Australian sheep-shearer-turned-warrior courteously gunning down Germans with one hand while refusing to salute with the other than any other correspondent at the time or since, and he believed that it would be the battlefields of Passchendaele and Fromelles that would become the great Mecca for Australians coming to pay respects to their honourable dead, not Gallipoli.

Others point out that far from uniting the nation in a baptism of blood the Great War actually did more to divide it, as the reasons for entering the war (loyalty to Britain, the mother country) and the (failed) referendums over conscription split the country along class, religious and ethnic lines (that can more or less be described as “English vs Irish”). It is far easier to claim that the battles of World War Two did far more to unite Australia than the First did. The Siege of Tobruk where the second round of Anzacs earned a reputation for ingenuity and attack dog enthusiasm for a good fight. The Fall of Singapore, which shifted the mentality of many Australians away from “still a far flung British colony” to a nation that couldn’t keep relying on mum and had to start looking out for itself. The Kokoda Track where the Japanese Army was beaten for the first time, by soldiers referred to as “Chocos” because it was expected they’d “melt like chocolate” upon contact with the enemy.

The debate over which conflict should take precedence in the country’s collective consciousness is one argued by nationalists and national leaders. I’ve always been partial to the Light Horse Brigade’s campaign against the Turks in the Middle East myself, particularly the Battle of Beersheba (called the Last Great Cavalry Charge for a reason). Keating tried to push Kokoda as the fight we should focus on during his tenure as Prime Minister. But when I hear pollies talking about which bloodbath we should remember most fondly I can’t help but remember a few of my old history (and geography) teachers, back in high school, who’d joke that since it was a Liberal PM (sorta) that won the First World War and a Labor PM that won the Second neither party wanted to admit the other war happened (I myself am a bigger fan of Billy Hughes than John Curtin, mostly cause I’m a sucker for anyone who takes the piss out of an American President at important negotiations deciding the fate of the world).

Even the brutal battle at Long Tan during the Vietnam War has entered the positive national mythology. Gallipoli is still king though, and that’s not likely gonna change any time soon.

*****

At university ‘Nationalism’ and ‘Nationalist’ became dirty words, usually shorthand for some reactive leader, party or ethnic group responsible for half the unspeakable acts of violence over the last century or two. The “great disease of the twentieth century” as one of my lecturers called it. After all, it was the actions of a handful of nationalists that lit the fuse that started the Great War, and nationalist pride that allowed it to detonate so spectacularly. Or it became shorthand for the very mockable ignorant jingoists who live in perpetual fear of societal collapse, y’know, the kind of folk who took Pauline Hanson’s warning of an Asian invasion seriously, or who recently piled onto streets around the country (with their swastika-wearing kin) because some jackass reckons that Halal Certifications are being used to funnel money to ISIS or some such shit. Fucken ‘Straya cunt. At one point during a course on religion and violence, when looking at religious nationalism, the tutor asked us to raise our hands if we identified as Australians, identified Australia as our homes. Two people did, and one of them promptly dropped it when he found out that not identifying with any nationality, being a “citizen of the world” so to speak, was an option.

I might sound cynical. I tend to sound cynical. It’s part of my sense of humour. I blame my parents for letting me watch too much Blackadder growing up (though you could argue there’s no such thing). The thing is I am a nationalist. I always have been and likely always will be. I was the guy in that class above that kept his hand up (I remember jokingly stating that the rest of them could “get the fuck out of my country”). There was a time when I tried different labels, like ‘patriot’ (which carries its own clichéd baggage), but the substance hasn’t changed. I identify as an Australian first and foremost, and embrace the heritage and history that comes with it. Good or bad. I still call Australia home an’ all that implies. Living across the world on another continent with a different culture, sports and traditions, I have embraced this identity more than ever. I’ve fallen back on my accent, old slang and old profanity more than I even did back home. I talk about it every chance I get. I love Canadian beer, but I use it as an excuse to talk about Australian beer more than anything else. Poutine’s alright, but you really wanna get a meat pie inta yah. Stuff baseball, cricket’s way better. Good god I miss Aussie coffee, as I keep telling people. And thunderstorms. You can bet that when Anzac Day rolled around, I was happy to talk to anyone who asked about what it meant, and meant to me.

Because I’m proud of what I am. There’s an argument against national pride that effectively amounts to “why be proud of an accident of birth?” The fact that I was born in Australia and not some other nation was random chance, why should it matter that was where I came from? Add to this the fact that I’m the son of immigrant parents (my dad was born in Iraq, mum was born in England, they both came to Australia when they were kids), so I don’t even have that strong a claim over Australian history and heritage. I don’t have a grandfather who was an Anzac or a great-great-grandfather who arrived on a convict ship. Definitely don’t have any First Australian in me. But I’ve never felt this argument had much credibility. I am proud of Australian culture and history because it was part of creating who I am today.

I like who I am today, or at least who I try to be. I hope I’m a good person, though that’s for others to judge. I definitely strive to be one. This is because of the people that raised me, my parents, family, teachers and friends. It is also because of the culture that raised me. Like so many kids growing up I sucked up the mythology around the Anzacs every chance I got, and loved every bit of it. Good or bad. The virtues I aspire to are, rightly or wrongly, tied into that mythology. Egalitarianism, giving everyone a ‘fair go’, mateship, generosity, determination, humour in the face of tragedy, grace in defeat, sacrifice. These are all ideas that are embodied somehow within the mythology of Anzac Day. The Anzac Spirit. They might not always be the best virtues to aspire to, but I aspire to them nonetheless.

Now I’m not saying that other countries and cultures don’t produce good, noble, virtuous people. Nor that our mythology has a monopoly on any of those things above. I’m definitely not saying that Australia and Australian nationalism hasn’t produced more than its share of cunts (see the story at the beginning). That would be fuckin’ stupid. I am simply saying that if I can be called a decent person (and as I said, I hope I can), I can be proud of the people, places and culture that made me that way. I can be proud of my identity.

About six months to a year after I raised my hand and got a few laughs telling everyone else to fuck off, a friend from that class brought it up in conversation. At the time, she said, she’d felt like she was closer to being an Italian than an Australian, identified more closely with her family’s heritage than with that of the country she’d grown up in. This changed after actually going to Italy and learning, explicitly, that she was not Italian. After that, she told me, if asked the question again she’d raise her hand. She’d come to the conclusion that she was an Aussie. It was not her whole identity, she was not a nationalist, just that she identified as Australian.

*****

National myths, especially the ‘origin stories’ as I’ve heard them called, are often problematic. They’re often bloody. There is the mythos around first the Revolution and then the Reign of Terror from which Modern France was born. The long, bloody civil war in China against the Kuomingtang and Japanese invasion that ended with the Communist victory. The US Civil War which divided the nation then sort of united it. Kemal Ataturk’s successful defence of the Dardanelles against the Entente invaders, as I mentioned above, and the rise of the Young Turks as the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the Turkey we know and love emerged.

It seems you need a “baptism of blood” to inspire a nation’s existence, self-worth, values and purpose. Dumping a bunch of crooks onto a beach (guarded by another bunch of crooks) and telling them to build a city, or a bunch of old white men convincing other old white men that maybe life would be easier if everyone on the continent shared in a common defence, immigration laws, currency and rail gauge doesn’t exactly excite the popular imagination the same way that a brutal assault on an easily defined ‘other’ for politically malleable reasons, full of daring do and a healthy dose of sacrifice. As I said, we haven’t got much else well-known history that isn’t a dark stain on our national soul.

As far as these baptisms go though, the Gallipoli campaign and the legend of Anzac isn’t too bad. Yes, they don’t really provide us with the cast iron legal foundations upon which our nation is built in the same way that The Revolution gave France “Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité”. But the mythology also doesn’t carry around the same sort of baggage that many other nations and cultures have to (or refuse to). Not like the problematic aftermath of the US Civil War, where the courage, bravery, sacrifice and determination of the Confederate soldiers defending goddamn slavery is still honoured by Americans on both sides of the line. And, while definitely not all angels, the Anzacs certainly don’t carry the weight (or have to live in denial) of a genocide round their necks like the Young Turks do with their treatment of hundreds of thousands of Armenians, Greeks and other ethnic groups. (Of course there is far, far too little official recognition of the Frontier Wars that plagued the Black Australia pre-and-immediately-post-Commonwealth during white settlement and expansion, something that needs to be fixed).

Both the strength and weakness of any mythology is that it is open to interpretation by the popular conscious. Anzac Day certainly has its problems, like the glorification of war, the often one-sided hagiography of our returned and fallen servicemen and women, the commercialisation of commemoration, and the militarisation of Australian culture far too frequently used to create, justify and enforce a dangerous attitude of ‘us versus them’. But we can also use it do great good as well. It’s taken us long enough to admit that there were probably a fair few Aboriginals in the ranks, and that when they returned they were probably treated almost universally like shit (taking us another fifty years before we stopped treating them as part of the local fauna), but whose general experience of army life was one of equality of pay and treatment. It’s a history that can push a simple message through the thick skulls of white Australia: if the Diggers didn’t have a problem with indigenous Australians, then how bloody dare you? Well, it should be simple. One day we’ll get there. Then one day it might not even be needed.

Deconstruction of the myth is a necessary thing, and there are many great examples floating around academia and journalism worth reading. But reconstruction should not be ruled out if it can be used to promote the best values of our culture. We learn from history, but we’re inspired by legends. We need to make sure we’re inspiring people in the right direction.

*****

The non-Australians I’ve met and know are frequently surprised by how we act on Anzac Day. Yes, there is commemoration, as should be expected of the day but there’s just as much celebration. We mark Anzac Day with drinking and gambling, going to the pub to play two-up, punctuated by moments of contemplation. So different to the sombre ceremonies and minute of silence on Remembrance Day. I’m not entirely convinced this is a bad thing. It might seem disrespectful, but isn’t a healthy irreverence one of those traits that we, ironically, revere about the legendary Anzac? We’re certainly quick to step in when someone comes off as overly disrespectful, and it keeps things in perspective. We celebrate the lives of those who went to war for us, still put the uniform and still go to war for us, rather than mourn the dead. It keeps the focus on those who fought for us and still fight for us, rather than on those we fought. War is hell, but peace is great, and most of us have been able to only enjoy the latter because a few have suffered through the former. Maybe it still sounds disrespectful, maybe I sound disrespectful, but I don’t believe that’s the intention. I think, at worst, it’s the only way we know how to do things.

Is that a problem? Maybe. I don’t think so. But I might be part of that problem.

*****

I know the dangers of nationalism. I know the problems its caused. The wars it’s started. I’m not trying to excuse it. Simply trying to explain my own.

I didn’t get that tattoo. There were more than a few marking the skin of those draped in Aussie flags slinging racial slurs and informing the world that the Anzacs fought for Cronulla Beach, that the Lebanese had no right to come and interfere with an imagined social order. The Southern Cross tattoo, at least in Sydney, found a secure place on the uniform of the angry, discriminating Bogan. I’m not saying that everyone who bears that icon is a racist, they’re not, I know plenty who aren’t, it would be ridiculous to make that claim. But in my mind and those of plenty of others including the members of my Middle Eastern, dark-skinned dad’s family, it became part of the stereotype of the ignorant, racist bastards that make their presence known every so often in the worst possible ways. It’s not the worst part (the violence and abuse that makes people feel like outsiders is), but the fact that they try and legitimise the behaviour, legitimise the hate, with a claim of defending Australian culture, the Australian way of life, leaves me angry.

Because I’m an Aussie nationalist. I love the positive parts of that heritage, accept the bad, apologise and promise to always do better. To accept everyone who looked at Australia, or even arrived without knowing better, and decided it seemed like a decent place to live.

A decent place to live, which we can be proud of. That might not be what the original Anzacs fought for, that might not be what our current Diggers fight for. But it’s something I ascribe to the myth. That’s what I drink to on Anzac Day.

Hope that makes sense.

Thoughts and prayers with those currently serving, and those that have in the past.

Quick note: this is not an academic article or an extensively researched piece of writing. Mostly I’m just working off memory. There’s probably more than a few factual errors, and there are a definitely a few half-truths. This is a personal opinion piece, and no disrespect was intended towards most of the folk (live or dead) I mentioned in this post that I didn’t refer to with profanely. I have a sarcastic way of writing and talking.