Thursday, December 22, 2005

"Ashamed to be Australian" - Deconstructed

I have been intrigued recently by the use of the phrase “ashamed to be Australian”. It seems to be popping up in newspaper columns, newspaper articles and letters to the editor with increasing frequency. I just googled the phrase and achieved 827 hits. Scanning through the texts in which the phrase occurs indicates that there is no political or social issue, and no cultural feature of Australian life which does not make some Australians ashamed to be Australian. For every Australian ashamed to be Australian on one side of an issue, there seems to be another Australian who is ashamed to be Australian on the opposite side of the issue. I think this over-used and essentially meaningless phrase is ripe for deconstruction.

The first point to make is that it is a lame statement. It is a lame statement because it is “unconvincingly feeble”, and “uninspiring and dull” (OED). The advocate who makes such claim is usually referring to a single act of some Australians at some time which he or she finds unpalatable. His or her response to this single reprehensible act is to condemn all Australians for all time – to the point where he or she repudiates his or her nationality. Yeah right!

The second point to make is that it is a LAME statement. LAME is my acronym for “Look At Me Everybody”. I believe that this is the real intent behind an “ashamed to be Australian” claim. The advocate is not ashamed at all. Far from it. The statement is disingenuous. It is a calculated attempt to position the advocate on the moral high ground. The relevant emotion is not shame, but sanctimonious pride.