Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Morning Musings - a question of identity

My thanks to Ramana's post Where Are You From? for this link - Ariane Sherine's It may not be racist, but it's a question I'm tired of hearing. The piece begins:

Looking a bit brown still means being asked where you're from. So here's a ready-made answer for the overly curious

Now Ariane's remarks struck a chord.

For many years, I did ask people where they came from. However, as Australia has become more diverse, I stopped doing so. Even language no longer provides a certain clue.

Oddly, I now get asked quite regularly where I come from. You see, as Australian English has shifted, my own version of Australian English has become less common. The linguistic clues that people use to place me no longer work very well.

All this got me musing again on the complex question of the changing Australian identity, including the patterns of transmission and identification.

I have nothing very profound to say. I am first generation Australian on my father's side, second on my mother. Despite that, I had no problem identifying with Australia's past, as well as the other threads in my ancestry.

I wonder if that's still true today?

My feeling is that we have sufficiently discredited the country's past for that identification to be problematic. In its place we have put a new patriotism, wrapped in flag and predominantly military symbols. Of itself, that has become something of a problem to my mind, for the new patriotism can actually divide since it can be used as a rallying call by those opposed to an inclusive Australian society.

A key point, one that I do not understand, is just what vision of Australia is actually carried in the minds of the young of the newer groups in Australian society. I would be interested to see some research on this.

A second key point is the relative weighting of emotional links to Australia and the home countries. My feeling is, and this time it's a feeling based on some experience, is that the linkages to the original home countries are relatively more important now. I think that this is especially true for Australians of Indian and Chinese ancestry.

If I'm right, and I'm not sure that I am, my explanation is this.

Earlier Australian migrants were often escaping economic hardship, war and persecution. They came in search of a better life. Of course that's still true today. We are talking about shades of views, relative proportions, not absolutes. While the incentive to return to the home countries was always there, people were still better off in Australia.

That's not so true today, for growth in places like India and China actually opens up opportunities that can dwarf Australian possibilities. So the young move back to the original homes.

As I said, there is nothing especially profound in all this. It's just a muse! 


Rummuser said...

And a great muse it has been. Our need to pigeonhole people is in our genetics I think. Thanks for the plug in.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thank, Ramana. I think that you could well be right on the genetics one.