Australia – can we rekindle our past promise?
Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-01-26
On our national day we must realize that to remain true to our history’s noblest aspect, to extend the realization of the promise of its founding, the nation must cease to exist.
Australia was formed and maintained by a union, by the ceding of power to a newly created government, and the dissolution of the militias of the merging colonies that removed the possibility of war between us, and the idea, as yet incompletely realized, that we are obliged to give everyone the same rights, the same assurance of the protection by law and health services, the same confidence of protection from starvation, ignorance and misery.
Any improved welfare of all, the greater good, has depended on yielding powers and resources, not claiming them.
This promise of our past is not being realized, those principles no longer being applied. Commitment to a common wealth has wilted, replaced by short-sighted avarice, ignoring the obvious rushing outcome: history’s greatest tragedy of the commons and its greatest common tragedy.
We have dropped the torch of early ideals, the only advance being the yet imperfect acceptance of the immateriality of accidents of birth of our fellows: the color of skin, any faith of forbears, the borders within which they first drew breath.
While air, seas, rocks, flowers and fauna of this world are by Nature common to us all, they are not shared by all, neither between polities nor between persons.
It seems that only injustice, the product of avarice, itself the outcome of ignorance in both proles and plutocrats, is the lot of the vast bulk of humans, our cousin hominids, and indeed the biosphere.
Our greatest hypocrisy lies in claims that we value egality.
Augustine of Hippo prayed "Lord, make me chaste, but not yet". That Christian saint’s tradition continues to poison us, we recognize a virtue but push it away: "Lord, make us fair, but not yet".
We revel in our harsh geography and the myths of our responses to frequent extremes of nature, the droughts and floods endured by sharing sweat and assets, so well portrayed in White’s "The Tree of Man". But the deep function of myth is education and changed collective behaviour, while our response to the looming geographical disaster and consequent conflict and inequity shows we have not learnt the lessons. If anything, our collective arrogance and mutual danger, through our rewards for politicians appealing to the primitive parts of our nature that are selfish and myopic, have increased rather than moderated.
Until the morals from these myths are realized, both in our minds, and in future actions, by subsuming our nationhood into the single world polity that both reflects the global realities, and is needed to mitigate the threats facing all peoples, then we are lesser folk than our forbears: smaller in mind and spirit, with withering stature in the world, finally condemning our own future well-being more than we now disregard the welfare of others who share our planet.
This Australia Day, a rare conjunction with the starting New Year celebrations of a culture so different in tradition yet so similar in its philosophical underpinnings, should focus our minds on risks shared with those in other lands, the rewards for common action, and the ultimate futility of thinking there is a separate destiny for us, that separate nations and different entitlements can be sustained.
Just as our nation was formed as a collective, it must dissolve into a greater collective, with fairness to all, not within the borders that must and will disappear, but bounded only by the atmosphere we all breathe.
Nearly forty years ago, I witnessed all humanity as one pair of eyes on our Moon. Within the next forty years, we must see all humanity as one people, one polity, one past, one present, one future.