Australia, It Vanished While We Slept
Paul Collits Quadrant Online July 16th 2018
Like the concerned locals of Britain and, increasingly, of Europe, who every day must confront a new world not of their making, many Australians also feel something fundamental has changed. To put that sentiment in a few words, ‘We have lost our country’
Two current must-reads are Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe and Sir Roger Scruton’s Where We Are: The state of Britain now. Each in its own way, and with a very British focus, speaks to the current malaise afflicting much of the West, and certainly Australia.
Setting aside muddled and weak leadership (with the now notable exception of the United States); universal cultural and moral decline; confusion over shared and, increasingly, disagreement over non-shared values; awful corporate behaviour, now revealed on a regular basis; gangs in suburbia; the disgrace that our national parliament has become; the bullying and non-platforming of opinions disagreeable to the elites; and fawning political correctness by the comfortable yet “woke” inner-city trendoids and their cheer squads – setting all this aside – there is something else at work that is creating a sense of deep and broad malaise among the so-called Deplorables and Dis-cons among us.
That something is the growing sense that “our country isn’t ours any more”.
The markers are there and all around us – the unease at China- linked companies buying land and key infrastructure assets (a concern shared, extraordinarily, by both Clive Hamilton and the National Civic Council); whole suburbs of our cities becoming ghettoes, often violent and unsafe; that feeling of walking into the public reception area at Sydney Airport and wondering, “Where am I? Is this Australia?”; being forced by our politicians and cultural elites to bow and scrape before the religion and religion-related regulations, objectives and lifestyles of our recent Middle Eastern arrivals. And so on.
Douglas Murray speaks to this unease, as does Roger Scruton. Murray hones in on the sudden and, for Britain, unprecedented mass migration that has occurred in the UK since the late 1990s, initially championed by Tony Blair’s Government and pursued in a bi-partisan way thereafter. He also claims, in particular, that this sudden new policy was justified in very dubious ways, and was effected without the permission of the public. The push-back, as seen in the Brexit vote, has been palpable.
Scruton has provided what will one day become the go-to conservative case against rampant globalisation, with its free movement of capital across borders and the mass movement of people around the globe. These developments, were allowed, indeed encouraged and championed, by governments in the West, andc they took place largely without anyone’s explicit, democratic permission and subtly, piece by piece, without even the knowledge of most of the public. Scruton refers in particular to the decision taken by the UK Government of the day to allow the ownership of land by foreigners as a critical development – but merely one – in a chain of events that has seen, ultimately, the dismembering of communities, regions, traditions and sub-cultures.
All this has been allowed in the interests of global financial, cultural and corporate elites who move ideas, people and capital around the world for fun and profit. And it has been underpinned by a globalist philosophy which values unencumbered individual freedom and diversity (of course) above all else – including, specifically, community and nation. Notions of local culture and community are but the quaint affectations of now-ignored peoples.
Another writer, Stan Stalnaker, has described in detail the emergence of what he terms “hub culture”, where globally networked large cities have more in common with other “global cities” that with the rest of their own countries, especially the suburbs and regions populated by Deplorables. The inhabitants of the urban islands of these global archipelagos tend to be highly connected knowledge workers, embedded in urban lifestyle cocoons and increasingly corporate in employment and woke in outlook. These hipsters form an emergent class of the much travelled, highly networked, tech savvy, socially liberal, uber-tolerant, globally focused, diversity loving, mostly millennial inner-city crowd which routinely, perhaps even unconsciously, adopts a set of values increasingly at odds with those who live and must deal on a daily basis with the the mass migration so favoured by the elites.
For Scruton, the urban inhabitants of today are essentially “without place”, geographically unmoored occupiers of space rather than being rooted in community, and certainly not enamoured of those “durable institutions” treasured by more tradition-loving communities, including those much assimilated communities formed by earlier waves of migrants. These urban ubermensch are doing the business of global business, while at the same time ushering in a self-regarding, self-satisfied, secular, utilitarian culture.
In the world observed by Murray and by Scruton, the few remaining old Londoners are a shrinking and uprooted minority who now must share their space with, on the one hand, well-heeled members of the globalist elite, corporates and their ilk, and on the other, with the new arrivals of what Melanie Phillips describes as “Londonistan”. These arrivals are the fruits of the EU’s respective obsessions of mass migration and, most recently, of endless kindness to the displaced Muslim refugees shunted into Europe by Frau Merkel.
Australia, of course, has a very different history and a certain affection for orderly migration, what with all the early British and Irish migrants who made their way across the globe in order to start a new lives. Their migrant successors after the Second World War, coming now largely from Italy, Greece, Christian Lebanon and other Mediterranean source countries, came with similar bravery and intent, and were, too, welcomed with open arms. Right down to the much welcomed (by most, excluding dear old Saint Gough) Vietnamese boat people of the 1970s.
The deal, I believe, was that the intention of migrant arrivals to make their homes here and to embrace our way of life was repaid by much affection, except for the old grumble and a few jokes that would now be regarded as racist. The White Australia policy was eased out without much objection half a century ago. Even greater numbers were later admitted to the country, again, with relative ease and little furious objection.
But now it is different. Very different.
Like the concerned locals of Britain and increasingly, of Europe, who confront a new world not of their making, Australians too feel that something fundamental has changed, and that “we have lost our country”. Just observe the rightly annoyed commenters on articles related to these matters at The Australian, multiple Facebookers and the substantial support for the newly formed MAGA-style political organisations and other, not so recently formed parties with similar foci.
What explains the heightened concerns?
Partly it is the character of the migrants that has changed. They often now seem to come for our welfare system, not for our lifestyle or values. Their numbers are certainly up. They bring their old problems and enmities with them. They are far more prone to buy up whole suburbs. They seemingly eschew assimilation. Every now and then they kill one of two of us who were here when they arrived. Older migrants resent this as much as native Australians.
These might be, to some minds, overblown perceptions. But they are the real nevertheless and strongly felt by many.
And while all this new and turbo-charged mass migration, often driven by economic and real refugees movements, has crept up on unsuspecting home Anglosphere populations, the operating culture of the West has also shifted beyond recognition, at first imperceptibly then with greater force and brazenness, to a creed of multiculturalism, nihilism, individual autonomy-without-ties for the woke, and, for many migrants and the home underclass, welfare dependency.
With all these powerful forces, “countries” are now merely real estate for global businesses. We occupy spaces not communities. Our network interactions occur mainly while we are staring at computer screens in our bedrooms and offices. Many of our citizens are rootless, bound now merely by non-communitarian and non-traditional values and by global economic opportunity. The Burkean platoons which drove our communities of yore are no longer embraced across cultures of origin. Many of us live alone in urbanist towers, not in family homes.
We scurry about our various businesses and affairs, and we upload the important pieces of our lives to faceless machines which convey our doings and “likes” across cyberspace to global destinations. Our host culture, the one which once upon a time welcomed most heartily those who came here to get to know us and to live with us and live like us, is now self-absorbed and immersed in its own autonomous pursuits.
The strangers come, and they remain strangers to us. Unlike old fashioned incoming citizens, these twenty-first century arrivals are merely “based” in Australia. They carry Australian passports, but what else of their country’s heritage and culture is valued by them? Likewise our homegrown globalist millennials. Yes, we have lost our country, just like the concerned Britons described by Murray, but to put it in such words is to tell only half a truth. Fact is, if we have not ourselves given our country away, we have allowed our political and cultural masters to do so for us.
Now, as a consequence, we hear how people are “based” in Australia, rather than being Australian.
1/ Illustration: Michael Perkins.