Today is the anniversary of the battle of the Eureka Stockade. This is not a much remembered date. In fact, it was only brought to my attention by a letter in the AFR bemoaning the lack of recognition. This letter was penned by a Joseph Toscano of the Anarchist Media Institute – the AFR is well known for it’s anarchist readership. As much as I sympathise with Toscano’s dismissal of other dates, such as April 25th and January 26th, I still find it very difficult to get excited about the whole Eureka escapade.
For a long time I dismissed interest in the entire episode as grasping by Australian historians, patriots and radicals. They seized on the stockade because it involved white people shooting at each other; REAL History, like they had overseas. I was already sufficiently impressed by the social conflicts and – more importantly – resolutions in Australian history already. I saw no need to ape the celebration of intra-European violence that was the orthodox benchmark for interesting history. Just because the Americans saw fit to dress a self interested tax revolt in hyperbolic and frequently hypocritical rhetoric didn’t mean we had to. The triumph of mild mannered competence in the Emancipist-Exclusionist struggle was more imspiring to me, and needed not glory in bloodshed or make hagiography for flawed men (as all men are).
It didn’t help of course that the Eureka flag was appropriated by each and every fringe group that wanted it. Racists and anti racists; communists and anarchists; libertarians and corporatists. In appropriation they robbed it of any meaning it had had, just as the semiotics of their fringe culture would later be bled dry by hipsters.
It wasn’t until later that I learned how many of the Australians involved entered into and became a part of mainstream politics. It didn’t provoke me into celebration, but it did bring a smile. I can’t say that the way of doing things allowed them to fight for wondrous liberty, or that they even wanted to. But the grin was just for the fact that things kept muddling through. A series of messy outcomes and processes that kept things blundering along without further recourse to the kind of events that would provide Real History. Who knows, maybe a world we could hope for is one in which June 4th is as similarly meaningless in China – one in which jaded radicals manage to become part of a system that muddles through to outcomes that are somewhat better, even if they remain unglorious and unsuitable for celebration.
Maybe a date chosen from a random divison of a colonial parliament on a benign issue would be the greatest cause for celebration, were were to take a date from the pre-federation era.
Still, if I had to choose a date to celebrate, it would be the 16th of August, the stated date of publication for Daniel Deniehy’s speech on the Bunyip Aristocracy. It is after all, the closest we have to a pivotal date in the battle against our oldest enemy. Given that the current progeny of the Aristocracy are now buying Channel 10 with daddy’s money – either to celebrate themselves or attack those horrid oriental dragon ladies whom would rob them of said money – it’s a battle that bears remembrance. Even if no guns were fired between white people.