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The cultural cringe


No doubt the average Australian wondered, if they paid any attention at all to the issue, why  these intellectuals were worrying about British influence. 

 So we have the phenomenon of members of the Australian intelligentsia leading from behind. As French politician Alexandre Augustine Ledru Rollin exclaimed, "Ah well! I am their leader, I really had to follow them."

Given the profound impact that writer Donald Horne was to have on the later republicans, it is worthwhile to consider more deeply his early approach. From a contemporary perspective they seem to be only of academic interest. His observations about British domination of Australian culture are obviously no longer accurate reflections of Australian society - the Australian sun has long set on British cultural predominance.

But Horne's conclusions are  historical in that he spends a great deal of time discussing the “ problem” of past perceptions of Australia, rather than those which prevail today.

In 2008, the Lowy Institute Poll showed that from a list of countries of interest to Australia ( New Zealand was not included),  Australians are by far most favourably disposed towards Great Britain.Horne wrote that for the extreme empire loyalists of the past, loyalty was primarily a matter of the empire and the monarch. Loyalty was due to Australia precisely because Australia was British.

To the extent that Australians deviated from "Britishishness” they denied their heritage and their destiny. Even to distintinguish between the interests of Australia and Britain was disloyal. It is telling that even in 1965 Horne preferred to address a mentality that existed in Australia in the past tense. 

Overlooking the example of Canada, Horne claimed the crisis was that Australia has no identity and its only hope is to pursue republicanism. So some politicians’ republic is necessary because Australia lacks an identity.



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