I was sharing a coffee with a friend of mine recently and he was recounting an all-too common story of being tailgated by a young 'hoon' in a hotted-up ute with 'mag' wheels. At the traffic lights, the music was blarring and the young man was proudly flashing his 'tatts' on his sun-bronzed arms and played with his 'goaty' beard as he tapped the steering-wheel aggressively. As the lights turned green, the ute raced-off, wheels screeching.
We both agreed that beneath the young man's aggression and 'loudness' was probably a young teenager who was essentially insecure, imature, unsure of his place in the world, and desperately trying to make a statement about who he is. Ho hum!
It was an ironical discussion because shortly after, we started talking about Australia Day.
'I love Australia Day", rejoiced my friend. "Already got the flags flying on my car; the 'barbie' is ready-to-go and the beer is cold. Bloody brilliant. I am an Aussie and proud of it!"
As the discussion expanded into a conversation about who we are, where to next for Australian society and immigration etc., my mate told me that people who come to our country can 'either be Aussies or f...ck off'.
It's interesting really, as I love my country and I am very proud to be 'Australian'. Yet come Australia Day many of us seem to have this desperate need to be loud and to drive around telling anyone that will listen that 'we are Aussies' and saying silly things like if 'people don't like it they can piss-off'. We seem to enjoy the occasional punch-up, and getting drunk. All makes for a great day!
We also seem to be so focused on 26th January as our 'Australia Day' that we completrely forget to even acknowledge - yet alone 'celebrate' - our true national day; 'Independence Day' when our nation was born on 1st January 1901.
Now, to be honest, not all of us are like that. But maybe on this Australia Day we should reflect a little as to why we are still a bit 'unsure' of our place in the region; a region dominated by Asia. And why we 'sort-of' still feel warm and fussy when the Queen comes out to see us? And why we still feel insecure about the possibility of 'going-it alone' as a nation.
And why we still feel uncomfortable about immigrants coming to our country? Can you imagine if we hadn't let the Italians and Greeks come here back in the fifties and sixties? So much for a pasta, pizza and cappuccino, or 'alfresco' dining at local cafes!
Meanwhile whilst we 'tuck' into a nice fresh salad to complement the snaggers on Australia Day, maybe here in Wa we need to thank the Vietnamese boat people who apart from traumatising us by coming to our country, have gone on to be doctors, surgeons and to produce over 40% of the vegetables grown in our state. This supplies us with some of the best vegies in the world, but also means these producets can be exported to markets in Asia as our Vietnamese people network with their colleagues in Asia. A true 'win-win'.
Australia is a wonderful example of how a multi-cultural country can work, and how we can save ourselves economically by allowing immigrants to come and live here.
We are young. 200 hundred years or thereabouts. And we still have a lot of growing-up to do. But lets hope that we can find the political leaders who will give us the dream to follow; the vision for a bright and vibrant future so we can really achieve the greatness of which we are truly capable, rather than just 'muddling along' trying to be 'tough' and loud'.
In the meantime, I guess we will have the barbie; still get drunk, and still stick our flags on our car doors to tell the world that we are 'bloody Aussies mate!' And we can also contemplate where we are at present in our journey as a nation.
And if we are not sure, perhaps we could just ask the young hoon in the ute that my friend was talking about?