S Sense

A car tailgates us as we negotiate our way out of Sydney, heading south. Breathing down our boot, it then suddenly pulls out making the car in the lane to our right brake fiercely. The boofhead in the Japanese car and Chinese T-shirt speeds away with noisy exhaust, noisy American rap and an Australian flag fluttering viciously from the rear window.

The new Australia.

An hour south of Sydney we stop for something to eat. Its a depressing area a strip of pie shops, newsagents with security grilles, a supermarket with a smashed window and a petrol station with padlocks on the bowsers.

The pie shop has a young girl behind the counter who doesnt want to know. As a worker she has bugger-all rights and she knows it. What she really wants is a cigarette. The ciggie pack has a government health warning but she knows the government lies.

The pies too have given up all hope.

In the window is an Australian flag with a large fly crawling over the vexillological honour point (where the Union Jack is).

Near Shoalhaven the new suburbs sweep across the bald hills like an exotic weed. Thousands of houses with attached carports and mortgages. The tile roofs with satellite dishes conceal a social displacement only slightly assuaged by wide screen televisions and a jingoistic patriotism. Flopping limply from poles in a hundred treeless front yards is the Australian flag.

The new Australia.

Just south of Bermagui we follow a dirt track for three kilometres into a national park to Aragunnu Beach. We stop in a carpark set amidst a beautiful coastal forest. Theres a bunch of vehicles and an extended Aboriginal family gathered around the barbecue. Noisy. Adults yell at kids screaming with delight as they race along the tracks. Looking up, the trees are populated with kids perched on the limbs, tomato sauce running from their fingers (which clutch sausage sandwiches) and dropping onto the sand below.

Everywhere laughter erupts in staccato bursts. From a rusty van comes the sound of teenagers giggling and wisps of smoke. Stuck to the back window next to a footy sticker is a small Aboriginal flag.

The new Australia.

Our hosts near Cobargo (our destination) live on an organic farm. They make the best boysenberry jam. Hes a Vietnam vet who loves this country. Like me hes wary of a manufactured American-style patriotism that has drunks wearing the flag as a cape as they thump into other, darker, Australians; of a patriotism that waves the flag as innocents are bombed; of a patriotism that dismantles the Aussie ideals of fair go and egalitarianism while flag-waving servants of a financial agenda feed their greed.

I look around. No flags here.


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