Identity is important. It’s important for individuals, it’s important for cultural groups, sub-cultures and even for whole countries. Before we can begin to understand the world around us, we have to know who we are, right? Over the last few days I’ve watched on in bemusement as a number of groups, who apparently have trouble identifying who they are, have turned themselves inside out, trying to define themselves by who they are not.


First up was the apparent controversy racked up by a campaign to have Taylor Swift’s song “Shake It Off” voted number one in the Triple J Hottest 100. This wouldn’t have been a problem in any normal sort of universe, but in this one, Triple J die-hards were up in arms. “Triple J is for independent artists, not pop music,” they claimed. “Taylor Swift hasn’t even been played on Triple J, so how can she be in the hottest 100?”

Image Credit: Jana Zills
That's a nice looking microphone

Despite the inherent irony of denouncing Taylor Swift as too poppy while Triple J plays artists as popular as Kanye West, Jay-Z and Skrillex, I can honestly understand their frustration. Triple J is supposed to be a bastion of alternative culture, and Taylor Swift’s impending invasion threatened to undermine the whole thing. I certainly don’t think the death threats against Swift’s fans were a good idea, but I understand the frustration all the same.

But here’s my problem with the whole thing: If Triple J fans are so utterly opposed to popular music, why is the highlight of the Triple J calendar a nation-wide popularity contest? And even if that’s not stupid enough, now apparently it’s a nation-wide popularity contest, but you’re only allowed to vote in it if you like the right kind of music. SO now we have a popularity contest that’s only for the cool kids. And we’re doing it on Australian Day. Thank goodness Swift was disqualified, or the whole thing might have looked ridiculous.

But hey, at least we’re not pop artists.

The next magnificent controversy came when our Prime Minister used the occasion of our national holiday to award and Australian Knighthood to the Prince Consort, Philip Duke of Edinburgh. This wouldn’t have been a problem in any normal sort of country, but in this one the anti-Abbott brigade were up in arms. “Australia Day is for all Australians, not royalty,” they claimed. “Prince Philip isn’t even Australian, so how can he be getting an Australian Knighthood?”

Not as nice looking

Despite the inherent irony of denouncing Prince Philip as too English while observing a national holiday celebrating the arrival of English people to Australia, I can honestly understand their frustration. Australia is supposed to be a vibrant, modern multicultural society, and awarding reinvented archaic platitudes to irrelevant monarchs from the other side of the world could be seen as a step or fifty backwards. I’m not sure that condemnation by feminists over one questionable knighthood, while tacitly ignoring the exclusively female line-up of Australia Day medal recipients is a great idea, but I can understand their frustration all the same.

But here’s why I love it. By awarding knighthoods to members of the royal family, we are in a very ceremonial sense saying they shouldn’t be exempt from receiving recognition. Every normal citizen of Australia is able, through exemplary service, to receive a knighthood, and it’s important for us all to remember that the Royal family ARE NO DIFFERENT FROM US. There is nothing  - I repeat, nothing – that gives any member of the royal family any semblance of superiority to anyone else, and if naming a Prince a Knight is seen as a demotion, GOOD! Let’s award knighthoods to the lot of them. It’s nothing compared to the demotion they’ll be getting when we finally get around to becoming a republic.

But hey, at least we’re not pop artists.

Make of that what you will.

Garry with 2 Rs

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