What is today – Invasion Day or an official holiday to celebrate a nation state or just another long weekend?
“Spud thought that it must be really crap to live in Australia. The heat, the insects, and all those dull suburban places that you see on Neighbours and Home and Away. It seemed like there were no real pubs in Australia, and that the place was like a warm version of Baberton Mains, Buckstone or East Craigs. It just seemed so boring, so shite. He wondered what it was like in the older parts of Melbourne and Sydney and whether they had tenements there, like in Edinburgh, or Glasgow or even New York, and if so, why they never showed them on the telly.” From Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
The post-modern nation state is a brand name to be marketed to tourists as a holiday destination and multi-nationals as a place to do business. The old quasi-religious image of the state has to be re-branded with a new more marketable image that emphasises the product. The Australian Export Tourism Council spent $40m to fund Baz Luhrmann’s movie epic “Australia” to create a hyper-real version that is more marketable than the reality. Patricia Goldstone in Making the World Safe for Tourism (Yale University Press, 2001) examines the relationship between tourism, international politics and big business. She looks at how countries are marketed as a brand and the influence that this has on the governments of those countries.
The aesthetics of the modern nation state itself is a shabby patchwork assemblage with a few tatty old items bought from a junk shop, glued together and freshly painted. A modern state decks itself out in the old regalia of a feudal sovereign with a banner and the coat of arms. Without the blessings of priests, the state must make a religion of itself, with hymns and holy days. So, I am not celebrating Australia Day (I had better things to do today). I would take a day’s leave from a corporation, if they employed me, but I would not celebrate that corporation. I am sure that certain international corporations have had substantial influences on my life but I do not celebrate this.
I support Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson’s suggestion to change the calendar date of Australia Day. I can guarantee that everyone would be celebrating Australia Day if it were January 1. The Australian constitution came into force on 1 January 1901. And if celebrations started at the stroke of midnight the party has already been primed. This subversion of already popular celebrations is the one way to ensure that new holiday is celebrated: it worked for the Christians when they converted Mithras’s birthday into Christmas.