You am I

For a very short while I thought about writing in to respond specifically to an article I read in The Daily Telegraph. About five seconds in I abandoned the idea – it’s not a venue for sharing ideas, more an echo chamber for poorly thought through social positions. What follows is an example.

You could pick up any edition of this tabloid and read about how the plight of Indigenous Australians is their own fault. It’s obviously not a new narrative. I must have seen it dozens of times before just this year alone (it’s Febuary) but on this particular morning I happened to notice an excessive use of inverted commas around the word “we”. I can’t remember who the “reporter” was specifically but it doesn’t really matter. She was trying to emphasise her sarcasm, pointing out that, of course “we” (I.e us the contemporary readers) aren’t responsible for what happened to the aboriginal nation because “we” weren’t born yet. How could we possible be responsible for our forbear’s actions if “we” weren’t personally there? How could “we” feel guilt or remorse when it wasn’t our own individual hands that poisoned the water wells, or took children from their parents? It wasn’t “me” so why should I even entertain the idea of assisting in reconciliation with a people and culture that was anhilated upon the arrival of our ancestors?

Turn a few pages and find an article on ANZACS. We fought alongside the allies to defeat Hitler in World War II. We were bombed by the Japanese. We showed our Australian spirit on the Kokoda Trail. We fought at Galipoli. Turn the pages again (past all the pages and pages of advertising) to the sports section. Remember when we defeated England in that famous test match, all those decades ago? Remember the nationalistic spirit that was emboldened when we won the right to host the olympics in Melbourne?

I wasn’t scrambling for cover from machine gun fire on a cliff in Turkey. I wasn’t stricken with malaria in the Mekong delta. I didn’t run in the 100m sprint, winning a medal against all odds. I didn’t knock it for six and score a century. But we sure as hell did.

So how is it we did all these things but “we” weren’t involved in the other, less tasteful, parts of our history?