Please forgive me for starting with an enormous cliche but: "Man is a social animal". And that observation underlies some further remarks that I want to make about group belonging and connectedness to others generally. I have of course written at length on that before and pointed out the paradox that conservatives -- who very much respect individualism and individual liberty -- are also the ones who are most at ease with being members of a group -- such as a nation -- where pride in group membership is of course called patriotism. Being human, Leftists too have such a need but their miserable and constant criticism of the world about them normally inhibits their feelings of group membership. So when they do find a group that they approve of they go completely overboard -- as with Obamania or Nazism.
And the constant Leftist accusation that any group loyalty is "racism" has inhibited or even destroyed some of the group loyalties that people once felt. I don't blame my readers for being unaware of it but particularly ethical or generous behavior was in the early 20th century often referred to by the English as "white". "That's very white of you" was once a great compliment and expression of appreciation. Yes. People were once proud of being white. These days that is a huge no-no, of course. Black pride is great but white pride is now allegedly an unmitigated evil. Even though the people who defeated Hitler were in fact overwhelmingly -- white.
And where shreds of the old group loyalties have survived Leftist attack, it is remarkable how popular they are. People need such things so they grab what is left. And I want to give three examples of that -- all largely from my own experience but not solely so.
The first is ANZAC day. ANZAC day is a great Australian tradition. It commemorates the landing of Australian soldiers under British command in Northern Turkey during WWI. Due to typical British military bungling, it was a disaster but the heroism of the troops in their parlous situation was widely reported and admired. And the anniversary of that landing is now Australia's most significant national day. It is the day on which we remember our many war dead and there are traditions about how we do that. A central tradition is the dawn service. The original ANZAC troops went ashore at dawn and at that very time their sacrifice is honoured to this day. A service is always held at a local war memorial or cenotaph at that time. And certain traditional words are said there at that time too.
So who goes to these services? Old guys who still remember their war service? They do indeed. But lots of young people go too. They sense a great national tradition and they grasp it eagerly. And although the original ANZAC troops are now long dead, the crowds at the commemorative services are bigger than ever. It is to this day a great day of Australian pride and undoubtedly Australia's most solemn day of celebration. It goes from strength to strength. There have been Leftist attempts to mock it but such attempts have been like water off a duck's back. A book mocking it was in fact for a time a set text in many Australian schools but even that did not succeed at working the usual Leftist destruction.
And my second example is much more mundane but in a way more amazing. To understand how amazing you need to know what the Scots and the English think of one another. It is not good. Tolerance describes it but there is not much more than that. And sometimes even the tolerance breaks down. Old memories going back to the 13th century die hard, amazingly enough. Yet at my last Burns Night -- an ineradicable and unashamed Scottish celebration of great sentimentality -- I had several English-born guests present -- with attitudes to all things Scottish that were typically English. They didn't even really like the pipes (bagpipe music)! Yet I started the night by distributing the words of "Scotland the Brave" and asking everyone to sing it. It is of course a great patriotic and very sentimental Scottish song so I was mildly surprised that my English guests sang it with as much gusto as anyone else. They "got into it" as well as anyone else.
And that is not just something from my own social circle. It was recently reported that there were in fact this year more Burns Night celebrations -- always highly ritualized and traditional occasions -- in England than there were in Scotland! Such is the need for old customs and unashamed feelings of connectedness and uniting in something significant.
And then there is Australia day. Australia day was for a long time more an official holiday than a people's holiday. Australians are in general patriotic but not ostentatiously so. The day commemorates the first landing of British settlers in Australia on Jan. 26, 1788. Leftists fume about it of course and say it should be renamed "Invasion day" because there were already at the time black people living in Australia. And Greenies think it is a tragedy too -- because of the "damage" the white settlers did to the natural landscape. So on the Australia Day just past there was a call to move the day of celebration to some other date -- a call which our centre-Left Prime Minister firmly rejected. He has good political instincts.
The interesting thing about Australia day, however is that HAS now become a people's holiday. As mainstream Australians have been fed -- in the schools and from the media -- a steady diet of white guilt and how wonderful blacks and Muslims are, the more they have turned to celebrating their own identity and history. And Australia day is an opportunity for that. It is now common on Australia day to see cars on the road with one or more Australian flags fluttering from them. Various organizations actually hand them out for that purpose. That never used to be the case. And even Australians of East Asian origin (of whom Australia has many) sometimes get into the spirit and wear Australian symbols -- such as the flag -- on their clothing. They see no problems with what the British wrought here and are glad to be Australians. So the Leftist attack on Australian patriotism has in fact energized it and made it an occasion for coming together. I gave an extended coverage of the Australia day just past on my AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog.
Just a very small point to end up with: In my childhood I was often told in tones of awe and reverence that my great-grandfather was in the Black Watch. So what is the Black Watch? Basically, it is just another Scottish regiment in the British army. But it isn't just that. It is the Black Watch and you have to have traditional Scottish feelings and knowledge of history to understand that. Being in the Black Watch is REAL belongingness, a source of pride and honour.
And I DO like haggis! As I have already mentioned, there is a small account on my personal blog of my most recent Burns Night -- for what slight interest it may have.
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me (John Ray) here