Why I'm not a proud Aussie
This article was initially published on The Sydney Morning Herald.
Words: Ben Groundwater
Sorry proud Aussies, I don't get you. I don't agree with you.
This is not just the southern-cross-tattooed proud Aussies I'm talking about, the VB drinkers watching footy in the bars of Kuta. This is all the Australians who pronounce pride in their place of birth, who are the first to grab you in some foreign hostel and tell you what's so damn great about Straya.
For some people, travelling far from home makes them increasingly proud of that place they left behind. It sends them misty-eyed about gum trees and koalas, about beaches and bars, about what it means to be from that land. They've never felt more Australian than when they're away from the country.I don't get you.
That's fine if you feel that way, but I've always thought differently. In fact, the more I travel the more I become convinced that the whole concept of nationality and nationhood is irrelevant. Where do you come from? It shouldn't matter.
I haven't been in Australia for four or five months now, and there are things I miss about home. But I've also met so many great people from so many great places that I find it hard to maintain that I come from the best country in the world – or that anyone comes from the best country in the world.
(Australians aren't alone in this patriotic belief. As you travel around you realise that a lot of people, regardless of whether they're from Thailand or Turkmenistan, Britain or Bahrain, tend to think they come from the best place in the world. Go to Colombia, with all its well-publicised problems, and most locals will tell you they wouldn't dream of living anywhere else – this is the best country in the world. It seems like it's human nature to be proud of your patch.)
But what are we really so proud of? The dumb luck of having been born on a certain piece of land that then becomes "yours"? And what makes your country so much better than everyone else's – other than your familiarity with it?
I dislike the whole concept of nationhood, the way people support their country like it's a football team playing in a grand final. Like we have to choose sides. How much better would it be if we'd all stop taking pride in the little slices of the globe we happened to pop out in and starting just being citizens of the world?
It might sound corny, but it could happen. We could ditch the parochialism and the patriotism and just treat other human beings as other human beings.
I'm not preaching some naïve "opening of the floodgates" or the erasure of national borders. But as the world shrinks with budget travel and immigration and multi-culturalism and internet connectivity, when you can chat to an Iranian on Twitter or head down to your local Ghanaian place for dinner, we should all be becoming less patriotic, less concerned with coastlines and borders and where we came from, and more interested in the globe as a whole.
Forget being a proud Australian who comes from the best land of Earth. Forget zealously protecting your patch from "other" people trying to move in. Forget grouping people by their country so you that you can tell everyone what Germans are like, or what Americans are like, or what Israelis are like.
Forget nationhood and patriotism entirely, and just be a decent citizen of the world. That's something you can be proud of.
(Image via Getty)