Want to scare an Australian? Want to instill a deep, soul-sucking fear that will chill them to their core?
Suggest changing the date of a public holiday.
For a fair while now, indigenous Australians have been pointing out that if we’re going to have a day celebrating our country, maybe we shouldn’t make it on January 26, given that’s the anniversary of the day their genocide started.
Which seems like a fair point. Given how much we’ve shafted them over the years, it does seem pretty morbid to celebrate our country on the day they lost it to invading Brits.
No big deal, right? We just shift it to another day, and make it a celebration of all of us together, yeah? January 16, maybe. Whatever. Pretty much any other day of the year would be fine.
But something bizarre has been happening. Instead of just accepting this unbelievably simple and valid request, Australians have been going to war against the idea on social media.
The childish gut reaction of “no! I don’t wanna!” has turned into an unending series of dopey racist arguments like:
- hey we weren’t alive then, so not our fault even though we’re still reaping the benefits, why should we have to slightly adjust our calendars?
- they’re playing the victim card, just because we started slaughtering them by the hundreds of thousands on January 26
- it’s a day for everyone to celebrate together, they need to stop whining and join in the party on their day of mourning
- things weren’t a complete utopia before we arrived, so we totally didn’t do anything wrong
- they should just get over it and move on, while we go cook some more ANZAC biscuits
- racism will go away if we’d all just stop talking about race, according to white people who don’t suffer from racism
- it’s good we got here first because other invaders would have been worse than us, like the Japanese, because apparently people want to double up on their racism
- or, my favourite batshit crazy one: they should be thankful the Brits arrived and improved their lives, because apparently a military force appearing and wiping out three quarters of your population is a sweet deal
All of these arguments are both dumb and irrelevant.
The simple fact is, we did something horrible and we’re still reaping the benefits. We’re consuming stolen goods, right in front of the few remaining original owners. You’re munching on a stolen Mars bar in front of the shopkeeper, indignantly yelling at him you owe him nothing because someone else stole it and gave it to you.
This is not subjective. This is a matter of Australian and international law. The Brits were only allowed to settle here because the land was claimed empty – terra nullius. That claim was overturned by the Australian High Court back in the 1990s.
But you know what? We don’t have to leave. We can stay here, in the homes we grew up in. There’s not really anyone seriously asking us to do otherwise.
We just need to move our day off, slightly.
Some of these crazy yahoos say that it won’t be enough – we’ll do that, and they’ll just ask for other stuff.
Maybe. Maybe not. Who gives a crap? That’s well within their rights. We royally screwed them over. We killed most of them. We took their land and resources. We’re nowhere near the point of unreasonable demands – and the current one takes near zero effort to fulfil.
If they do ask for anything else, we can talk about that. Shifting a holiday really is the very least we can do. Pathetically easy. But people are still crapping their pants like angry toddlers about it.
Grow the fuck up. Change the date.
Pavlova photo by Katie Humphry