Like many other Twitter users I jokingly changed one of my Twitter handles to ‘Dame Debbish’ earlier this week. I was going to change another to Sir Schmiet, but it would have required me to log out and back in and that was all a bit too hard. (Who says I don’t give 100% to the cause?!)
In bed that night though I lay there wondering what overseas friends and followers are thinking as many Aussies on Twitter suddenly became Dames and Knights – virtually anointed, suddenly and as if by magic. I worried that peeps on the other side of the world would think we’re dissing the Dames or knocking the Knights and wanted to reassure others that (while I can’t speak for the other Australians on Twitter who’ve had #knightsanddames trending) I’m most certainly not.
Indeed, I’m a huge fan of the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Sir Patrick Stewart and the like. Plus the non-actor/singer types who are elevated to Dame and Knighthoods.
The outcry here in Australia, is because our PM has decided that Knight and Damehoods should again be introduced into the Australian honours system.
We aren’t a republic. Yet. But we’re pretty close. There’s an older generation who adore the Queen and a younger one who can appreciate Wills and Kate and baby George. However, I would suggest that – as a society – we’re now far more influenced by the US than we are the UK. I was overseas years ago with a bunch of military peeps (rule-abiding, non-question-asking types if ever there were any) and yet on Australia Day when the toast was made to the Queen of Australia, a snigger went through the crowd.
Again people weren’t dissing the Queen, but she (along with the concept of Knighthoods) is far removed from everyday Australian life. We’re fairly classless here in Oz – and I mean that in a good way. Sure we have our mega rich, like media or mining moguls. We have models, actors and athletes who we bizarrely revere, but (in true Australian style) we’re equally prone to heap shit on them from time to time. Because someone inherits money, beauty or athletic talent doesn’t necessarily make them ‘better’ human beings than us and I like that most Aussies recognise that.
We’ve come a long way since ships of convicts and their keepers from the ‘motherland’ forced Indigenous Australians from their land (and worse).
Indeed – our progress as a society which promotes equality and democracy – has been something of which we could be proud. But, like many, I fear that’s slipping away.
Increasingly our news headlines reference the fact that we’re going backwards. Our uninspiring and tres conservative government is leading us back into the middle of the previous century – to a world where racism was rampant, technology was eschewed, free speech was limited and people knew their place.
So, my overseas readers… when I joke about titles, it’s not because I don’t respect them… I’m just not sure they belong here. Now.
Are you a fan of the new Australian honours system?
I’m again flogging my blog With Some Grace today.