Laurie Axtens - Call of the Loon

Bert for King!

The Commonwealth Games, like the Commonwealth itself, is an anachronism.

It is a shadow of a shadow of a shadow of an event which once symbolised the might of the formerly glorious British Empire. A symbolic coming together of a group of nations which were once linked economically and politically. But that is no more.

Im not saying that the sportsmen and women who have earned selection in the Australian team shouldnt be commended for their efforts, but simply that the event itself is just the vestigial pomp and circumstance of a long-forgotten empire. Admittedly, the Commonwealth hasnt been called the British Commonwealth since the 1930s, but the cultural and economic links that the Commonwealth traditionally embodied dont really exist anymore, not since Britain joined the European Economic Community.

The privileged trading status that our nation once held in Britain has been whittled away so far that its difficult to even get a working holiday visa in the old country now, where once we virtually shared citizenship. Our greatest connection now is arguably Neighbours.

In fact the Commonwealth Games is just a sad reminder of how slowly we have progressed as a political entity. Of the 53 member nations within the Commonwealth now, the majority are republics and very few actually still have the British monarch as their head of state. Im not trying to re-invigorate the republic debate but I do find it a bit embarrassing that our Constitution was written as an act of the British Parliament and that we dont even possess a Bill of Rights.

I wouldnt even mind if we had an Australian constitutional monarchy, like some of the other island nations in the Commonwealth. We could have Bert Newton as our King he looks goofy enough and has the necessary psychological problems. Why not? All I ask is that we glean our national pride from an act of political independence rather than from the success of our ping pong team at an outdated sporting carnival. Perhaps its just me. Maybe these Commonwealth Games will be the greatest Games ever. Maybe the crowds will be so huge that oxygen tanks will need to be judiciously placed around the venues. Maybe the chanting of Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! will be so loud and persistent as to be heard from the moons surface. Or indeed Berts office. Anythings possible.

Dont get me wrong, I mean no offence to Berts soon-to-be son-in-law Matt Welsh or any of the other athletes, but there was a time when Australia led the world in terms of womens suffrage and workers rights and Im not certain that topping the medals tally in Melbourne this month really equates. We are a sporting nation, but is that all we are?

In time the Commonwealth Games will simply become a distant memory from a bygone era... much like gramaphones, knickerbockers and Good Morning Australia.


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