A.B. Original, Australia Day, and Protest
I want to acknowledge the Tharawal people, who are the traditional custodians of the land I'm sitting on as I write this. I want to show my respect to their elders, past and present, and I want to extend that respect to any indigenous Australians who may be reading this. I especially want to do this today, on January the 26th, the day the country we now recognise as Australia was invaded by a militant foreign power who sought to erase a native people, their culture, their history, their language, and their songs and stories. I mourn the damage this invasion has caused, in lives, in knowledge, but I also celebrate the survival of many of the first nations of Australia. Aboriginal Australia is strong, and proud - far stronger, and far, far prouder than those of us sitting around today celebrating Australia Day.
My name is Fiach Smyth, and I am not proud to be an Australian. I would go one step further and say to anyone who today feels pride in this country: you are not an Australian. If you think pride in this country means eating meat, drinking beer, playing cricket, and tall ships, you are not an Australian. If you think the actions of this country against those fleeing persecution right now are something to be proud of, you are not an Australian. If you wave a Union Flag in the face of our brothers and sisters of colour, you are not an Australian.
My parents are Irish. Do you know how the Irish take pride in being Irish? Not by drinking, not by fighting, not by any other racist stereotype the British propagated and nationalists thought was funny. The Irish enact pride in their country by protesting the continued occupation of their land by a foreign invader, by commemorating those who were lost to alien aggression, and by celebrating the survival of their culture, their language, their history.
The British show their pride in being British by remembering all the nations they've conquered.
Now I'm not slagging off the British. No one alive today is responsible for their history. But we are the custodians of it, the beneficiaries of it, and we are responsible for what we do with that history. If you spend January 26 barbecuing food and watching sport, you are exercising the privilege of the conqueror. Australia is not a conqueror; Australia was conquered. You don't have to be an indigenous Australian to recognise that fact, to take responsibility for our history. To protest. Either you celebrate the British conquest, or you protest it. Either you're British, or you're Australian. Celebrate, or protest.
When constructing a list of the best songs of 2016, it was necessary to talk about A.B. Original. Reclaim Australia is an album of such incredible importance to Australia right now that even including it on a best of list was diminishing it. This is a work of political and cultural protest. This is anger at the disrespect shown to the first Australians, at the attempts - ongoing - to whitewash the history, to obscure the violence and the trauma of colonisation, and the oppression and aggression that continued for hundreds of years after European arrival, much of which continues today. This is frustration at Australia finally saying sorry, and then walking that apology back. This is fury, a refusal to accept that indigenous Australians are expected to suffer indignities at the hands of the police and the politicians and quietly die in a gaol cell. This is yelling defiance at a society that says your culture isn't important, just get over it and integrate. This is a protest against anyone who says Australia should celebrate January 26.
Protest is going to be our language over the next few years, not just here, but globally. The pendulum has swung to the right and we need to grab it and jerk it back and regain some of the momentum our progress had achieved. But the first step in acting globally is thinking locally, and A.B. Original are how Australians - real Australians - think locally. Australia is a scab that has formed over a deep trauma that will never heal so long as we continue to perpetrate violence against it. People in desperate need arrived on these shores and Australia locked them up, separated them from their loved ones, denied them freedom, and is watching them as they die. And we celebrate pride in Australia. Our brothers and sisters of Islam, our brothers and sisters of colour, are victimised by our media, by our politicians, by our police, by our churches. Their children are afraid to be on the streets for fear of being attacked. And we celebrate pride in Australia. Our disadvantaged and disenfranchised children are literally tortured in correctional facilities intended for adults, and Australia watches their lives and their minds being destroyed. And we celebrate pride in Australia.
Indigenous Australians are crying out for justice. Australia won't even look at them. And we celebrate pride in Australia.
Protest is our language now. Protest.