Sunday, October 11, 2009

Why history matters


I'm not feeling that proud to be an Australian today.

Last week an entertainment show on TV which was popular in the 80's had a 20 year reunion show and featured amateur acts that had won prizes 20 years ago. One of the acts featured a spoof of the Jackson 5 and had men dressed up as blackfaces. Harry Connick Jr was one of the judges. You can see the segment on Youtube.

When the act was 'gonged' off the studio audience booed. I thought 'oh, that's a pretty stupid bunch of people, aren't they horrified by this?'. Well, no. Apparently they represent many Australians. In 'The Australian' newspaper yesterday a poll showed that 81% of viewers thought there was no problem. I followed a blog discussion on this issue and lots of people commented that they couldn't see a problem with it. Australians just like to 'poke fun' ... it's the Australian sense of humour ...

WOW! I am shocked. I seriously cannot believe that Australians are that clueless. And then I realised. We just don't understand history. We don't understand anything about why white men dressing up in 'blackface' is a huge cultural disaster area. We also don't seem to think it matters all that much whether the rest of the world finds us offensive.

Australians like to strongly define themselves by their relaxed and secure lifestyle. If Australians want to maintain their great jobs, big houses and fantastic lifestyle then we need to keep exporting to Asia and encouraging overseas investment. This means we can't keep annoying everyone else and burying our heads in the sand as if it doesn't matter.

It's not OK to just know about the First Fleet, Ned Kelly and Gallipoli. I'm sure that's why lots of Australians thought this week's events on TV were just a bit of a laugh - we're not really taught enough about history.

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