On The Future of Australian Culture: Republicanism versus Foreign Assimilation
In Australia, British social mores which sustained civil society since the middle ages meet an Aboriginal ecological awarenesses that are couched in tacit assumptions that have been encoded in gaps of speech and body language since the end of the last ice age.
The sense of disjunction between body and mind is palpable here, and evident in the public life where sportpeople, actors, and business people win recognition globally whilst thinkers remain provincial, narrow and impaired - in a word, Australian thinking is in one respect still too British, and in another respect not Aboriginal enough.
At present I cannot imagine what kind of event would trigger republicanism to the fore of the collective consciousness. Until the Australian Outback has been urbanized, which will not happen for another generation, there would seem to be no need to have the kind of centralizing influence a Republic would provide, and it would seem to me to be a positive disadvantage at present to overdefine what Australia stands for.
The traditional Aboriginal reluctance to speak to strangers about values in words can be seen at all levels of Australian society. At every level the older aboriginal culture has interpenetrated and supported the newer white culture, and Australia has benefited from the inherent stability of the aboriginal value system, implicit, tacit, embodied, and ritualized as it seems to be.
But the gap between the two cultures is belied by the internal distance. The collective psyche of Australians seems divided between (on the one hand) the ritualism of the everyday in the urban hive, which derives from deeply embodied and unspoken aboriginal consciousness, and (on the other hand) the deeply externalized and hyper-progressive western consciousness, which animates the overall prosperity and material culture to the degree of development it is at.
The key issue in Australian intellectual life is republicanism. Republicanism is the most important topic, and the one with the most emotional charge for and against within the Australian pschye. It is that issue which is the submerged social context to conversations about meaning and motive in the economic and political spheres. For many Australians, unfortunately, the rampant politicization of everyday life forces them to throw the baby out with the bath water, ignoring the essential issue of freedom and self-determination because it is labelled as political.
Australia thus exists in a kind of emotional limbo, unable to do more than mediate between British and American influences. The great influence of the United States has resolved in Australia taking more responsibility for the welfare of the Pacific region, which seems to be a wonderful move of working outwards through shared local interests in regional stability. My concern is that Australia is neither ready nor open for what China is becoming, because Australians have not been willing to pay the price required to become fully self-determining in a wise and balanced way. On the other extreme, however, I have often reflected that a Chinese Australia would most likely be a pretty decent place. So it could go towards either extreme: republicanism or foreign assimilation.