The Census data was telling, and the response of our elected officials more so. This week has been a week of reality checks, but hope lies in looking toward the future, and not fearing it.
As Rainier Wolfcastle illustrated, “ze googles, zey do nothing!”
This week we’ve discovered many truths about our nation. The oft-castigated antagonist, the home invader with a screw loose, told us that we’re a bunch of gay, atheist immigrants. Happy days. While there was much rejoicing, our revelry turned into a slow clap that eroded into silence when we realised that that might be who we are, but it’s not who represents us. Those in power stayed the course. It’s a no from me, sorry.
In practical terms, the Census data is completely worthless. At most, it’s a handy reference sheet for your confirmation bias. Australia remains the country you choose to see out your kitchen window. But the cracks in the sunburnt visage are telling. Despite fact that the largest growing religion is none, we’re still a collective, both parliamentary and socially run by nuns. Judeo-Christian traditions still shape our lives, recently evidenced by the penalty rate cuts, brought to you in part by the assumption that people still attend church en masse on Sundays.
That being said, the flux in the numbers was also leapt upon as a pretext for worry. As one headline put it, “Islam is on the rise, Christianity is waning”. Comparing the 2011 findings with 2016, I grant you there is an increase. Of 0.4%. It’s hardly Mehmed the Conquerer door-knocking Constantinople, but still. MUSLIM INVASION!
Top 20 Religions (or lack thereof) in Australia according to the census pic.twitter.com/hSHOEazvL2
— Charles Croucher (@ccroucher9) June 26, 2017
Moving further beyond that point, honestly, why does it matter? The data shows that the majority of us don’t believe in God. The national religion is atheism until someone bags our lack of religion, then we can start with the zealotry-powered headlines. Our lack of god is our god.
However, religion is the tip of an increasingly melting iceberg, as earlier in the week, Christopher Pyne almost brought the forest down with his tipsy assurance that same-sex marriage could happen “sooner” rather than later. However in the morning light, and indeed glare from his housemates, he planted more trees, shifting “later” into “perhaps never”, with the PM unequivocally killing the collective post-census buzz of most, stating:
NEIL: “Will you never, ever have a vote without a plebiscite?”
TURNBULL: “We will not change our policy.”
— 3AW Melbourne (@3AW693) June 26, 2017
I realise not everyone wants marriage equality, but the uncomfortable truth is that the majority do. Roy Morgan discovered that 76% were in favour of same sex marriage. Yet, still we spin and faff on a plebiscite that no-one wants. But, much like the shiny rainbow bike we were promised for election Christmas, we live in hope, while simultaneously eye-fucking our overseas geopolitical crush.
1. Justin Trudeau 2. at Pride 3. wearing rainbow socks 4. high-fiving a little girl dressed as Wonder Woman pic.twitter.com/1xYQoOaPOt
— laura olin (@lauraolin) June 25, 2017
Back home, 27% do not speak English in their loungerooms, clashing with Canberra’s decision to enact tougher language restrictions on the citizenship test, which enabled Senators who’s parents came to this country with a questionable command of the native tongue to support the aforementioned changes. Senator Fierravanti-Wells only learned English in kindergarten, spoke on the differences between the manufacturing past and our services-based future, and the need for better English. She may be right, and her opinion is logical, but it’s a political response. It misses the subjective nature of the possibilities in this country. Something that she should know, having lived that experience. Maybe she was trying to make that experience the best possible for migrants, I don’t know, however, I’m unsure that sentiment carries over to the frontbench, with their recent decision to add more hoops through which to navigate en route to becoming a fully-fledged member of Australiana.
Now, I grant that I’m focusing on the minor numbers. 46,800 same-sex couples against 23.78 million, 27% who don’t speak English at home versus the 73% that do, but what these figures represent is the future. Precisely the future that we’ve worked toward since World War II. I realise that populism is on the rise, and white fear with it, but those who loudly oppose the minority seem to be a minority in themselves. Like it or not, the genie can’t be put back in the bottle. To use a right-wing bumper sticker aphorism, Fit in or fuck off. Embrace religious nihilism, find someone of your own gender attractive, or embrace your migratory roots, because this is who we are, and this is who we’ll continue to be.
I don’t want to rubbish the Coalition, after all, I voted for them, but they seem to best personify this denial of the realities of modern day Australia. If Labor wrested control, who’s to say that they’d do anything different? I don’t know. I don’t believe a change of government will mean a change of scope. Perhaps what is needed is a bipartisan crane of the neck beyond their property lines, to smell the Chiko Roll and understand that even the most Australian icons are merely a localised take on multiculturalism. Within that famous paper wrapper lies the truth. There is no “one Australia”, we make our own. Perhaps the only thing that truly links us is the coat of arms on our passport, but we should not fear it.
Time for the new.