Christopher Bantick gets all nostalgic in The Age:
Children these days are growing up in a very different, less open, society than when I grew up in the 1950s. Curiously, even with high postwar levels of Mediterranean migration, there was less need to ostentatiously show what being an Australian meant. Those simple days were measured out with Vegemite on crusts at the school tuckshop and singing the national anthem on Monday mornings.
Not even John Howard wants to return to that sort of monoculture. Bantick’s nostalgia is perverse.
Back then, there were no wire fences in the desert keeping new arrivals from the rest of Australian society.
“New arrivals”? He’s talking about illegal arrivals, who tend to turn up without passports or any other supporting documents. By the way, Australia’s enlightened post-war Labor government tried to ship refugees home. Here’s what went on in 1949: “The Chifley Government passes the War-time Refugees Removal Act in July, with a view to forcibly repatriating approximately 900 non-Europeans who had been admitted temporarily during the war. They had declined to be repatriated, wishing to settle in Australia.”
Never did I think I would have to explain to my young son why people were locked up in camps.
Did Bantick’s own parents ever explain to him anything about 1950s refugee camps?
Never did I think I’d feel ashamed as an Australian when there was so little that apparently could be done to save Nguyen Tuong Van.
Drug mule Nguyen Tuong Van was caught and executed in Singapore. What did you want Australia to do about it, Christopher? Launch a military attack?
Or so utterly shamed that Australia remains for many indigenous people a Third World country where children are born into unspeakable disadvantage.
I guess we could always return to the 1950s, when Aborigines weren’t counted in the census, or allowed to vote. Bantick is a specialist “good old days” writer; here he mourns the lack of interest modern kids have for stuffed reptiles:
These days, virtually no children stand awe-struck before Python reticulatus. Its place in the museum is one primarily of historical association. But where once this massive snake slithered into the imaginations of children, there is now less wonder in childhood. It has been replaced with automated fun.
Back in Bantick’s day, the oldsters groused: Look at them kids with their fancy preserved python. We used to get our fun from realsnakes! None of this high-tech taxidermy for us, no sir. And we were the better for it!
UPDATE. More from Bantick: “Every faceless junkie has a name.” Yes. And also your DVD player.
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