Reclaim the Streets… or, um, Patriotism

It’s time to reclaim patriotism from the racist narcissists
Tim Soutphommasane
The Age
September 1, 2009

NOT all that long ago, ”Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” was just an innocuous, if inane, chant at sporting events. Commemoration of Anzac Day was greeted with indifference. And the idea of tattooing sunburnt flesh with the Southern Cross was, well, strange. Not today…

    Previously on Patriot Street Blues:

‘Reclaim’ patriotism from the Right
Peter Wilson
The Australian
August 5, 2009

TIM Soutphommasane has spent more time than most people thinking about what it means to be Australian.

Growing up in Sydney’s western suburbs as the son of Chinese and Lao migrants, he built his own sense of national identity among friends from more than a dozen ethnic backgrounds.

As a political philosopher at Oxford University, he has spent much of the past five years examining the concepts of patriotism and nationalism in 21st century Australia.

When he travelled back to Sydney this year he was shaken to see ethnic clashes in that city’s seaside suburbs even while the city was celebrating Australia Day with a relaxed, friendly and newly confident pride.

The result is that Soutphommasane, an ALP member since the age of 15, is urging Kevin Rudd and others on the Left of politics to mount what he sees as a long-overdue campaign to reclaim the notion of nationalism from John HoWARd and the political Right…

Book: Reclaiming Patriotism

Affronted by the xenophobic nationalists who stalked the land during the HoWARd years, many progressive Australians have rejected a love of country, forgetting that there is a patriotism of the liberal left that at different times has advanced liberty, egalitarianism, and democratic citizenship.

Tim Soutphommasane, a first-generation Australian and political theorist who has journeyed from Sydney’s southwest suburbs to Oxford University, re-imagines patriotism as a generous sentiment of democratic renewal and national belonging. In accessible prose he explains why our political leaders will need to draw upon the better angels of patriotism if they hope to inspire citizens for nation-building, and indeed persuade them to make sacrifices in the hard times ahead. As we debate the twenty-first century challenges of reconciliation and a republic, citizenship and climate change, Reclaiming Patriotism proposes a narrative we have to have.

Reclaiming Patriotism is published by Cambridge University Press in September 2009. It is the lead title of the new Australian Encounters series published by Cambridge in partnership with the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.

“It is fitting that Tim Soutphommasane makes the case for progressive politics in defining Australian patriotism. When right-wingers claim the national story as their own – white picket fences, Don Bradman, Gallipoli – we need books like this to remind us that Australian citizenship belongs to us all.” ~ Bob Carr, former Premier of New South Wales

Whose cuisine will reign supreme? See also : George Orwell on democracy, nationalism, patriotism and socialism.

NB. Tim also has some thoughts on ‘Democracy’ in the August edition of The Monthly, in the form of a review of John Keane’s latest magnum opus The Life and Death of Democracy. On ‘Democracy’, see also : Cornelius Castoriadis Agora International Website | On ‘radical democracy’, see :

In Motion Magazine: What is radical democracy?

Gustavo Esteva: We are still using the word “democracy” because it has still a beautiful tradition. For some time, I used the expression “radical democracy” to re-claim the original meaning of the word: that is “people’s power”. Among the Greeks, that was the meaning.

Radical democracy implies two things. One, is a very radical critique of representative democracy and here I would like to mention the enlightenment of Douglas Lummis who published a book “Radical Democracy” and who gave to me a lot of elements of historical and theoretical critique of representative democracy and offered a clue for some alternatives within the framework of democratic thinking.

Douglas is a very interesting guy from California who has been teaching for twenty years in Japan. He is a brilliant thinker and his book, this book, I find particularly interesting as a very enlightened critique of representative democracy and an opening to other forms of thinking.

The second source for my radicality is in the sense of “radical” in Spanish which means to come back to the roots, the root of the things. Our roots here is what we describe as democracy in the villages. Meaning that they don’t have vertical authority and a structure of government. They are governing themselves.

Anarchy alive! Anti-authoritarian politics from practice to theory, Uri Gordon, Pluto Press, 2008 (review by Tom Jennings, Freedom, Vol.70, No.3, February 2009; review by Lawrence Jarach, Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed; and elsewhere… except the arse-end of the world, Australia, where the book isn’t even on the bloodyfuckingshelves unless yous wanna pay an arm and a leg and order it in from o/s goddamnit).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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2 Responses to Reclaim the Streets… or, um, Patriotism

  1. @ndy says:


    The New Left-Wing Patriot
    Tim Soutphommasane
    August 27, 2009

    Patriotism and compassion overload
    Scott Bridges
    August 17, 2009

    ‘Progressive’ patriotism is a big ask

    Australians should all rejoice that the Left isn’t interested in patriotism, writes Jeremy Sammut

    By all accounts, the message of Tim Soutphommasane’s forthcoming book (Seizing the Sauce Bottle, Australian Literary Review, 5 August 2009) is commendably clear. The book lays out the reasons why so-called ‘progressives’ should take patriotism seriously, as a political concept at least.

    It is surprising that anyone with an interest in politics needs to be convinced about the importance of patriotism, given that the nation (as in the national welfare or national good) lies at the centre of our political democracy. Because appeals to patriotic sentiment can unite otherwise diverse individuals into cohesive constituencies, patriotism remains one of the more vibrant colours in the political spectrum.

    The problem is that much of what Soutphommasane says about the Left needing to reclaim patriotism for itself has been said before. Miriam Dixson’s 1999 book, The Imaginary Australian, also told the Left that if its political projects were to win mainstream support the core culture of the nation and ‘ordinary Australians’ genuine pride in and commitment to the nation’s traditions must be respected.

    Here lies the rub. The more interesting question is why the Left is ideologically deaf to Dixson and now Soutphommasane’s message? This is a question only culture warriors can answer.

    The short version is that the political project of the modern-day progressives is radically regenerative. The Left’s go isn’t patriotism – it’s the scorched-earth politics of moral embarrassment.

    So irredeemable is the nation’s history, so the progressive’s political narrative goes, that the past must be junked entirely and the nation’s future reconstructed in the politically-correct image of the Left. This is the reason why comrades across a spectrum of disciplines have spent the last forty years telling their fellow Australians how racist, sexist, and unjust their country is.

    Yet despite the attempt to deconstruct the nation’s history, Australia’s national traditions are one of few areas where the ‘long march of the Left’ through our cultural institutions has not succeeded. Anzac Day has re-emerged as our quasi national day, and our national heroes stubbornly remain (as John Hirst has put it) a cricketer, a bushranger, and a horse. [Don Bradman, Ned Kelly and Phar Lap]

    The point is that those who call for the Left to annex patriotism to promote their ‘positive cultural vision’ are making a category error. Most of the Left would hear this as a call to continue to try to hollow out the nation’s traditions of their traditional meanings.

    Thankfully, the Left is unlikely to want to have a bar of patriotism. Those who say it should aren’t seizing the sauce bottle – they’re barking up the wrong tree.

    The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated August 14th. Enquiries to [email protected]. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590. Telephone ph: 61 2 9438 4377 or fax: 61 2 9439 7310

    It’s time for patriots
    The Australian
    August 8, 2009

    THE Oxford dictionary pulls no punches when it defines patriotism as “devotion to one’s country”.

    Christopher Pearson, Tim Soutphommasane, and patriotism as the last refuge for scoundrel advertisers
    loon pond
    August 8, 2009

    Seizing the sauce bottle
    Tim Soutphommasane
    The Australian
    August 5, 2009

    ”AUSSIE, Aussie, Aussie!” The crowd in Sydney’s Hyde Park responded as only Australians would.


    Tim used to blog too — [defunct] — and on a completely fucking bizarro note that teh tubes delights in providing bored Googlers:

    Who is Lucy Gao? What did she do?
    From the desk of Ted Mathis
    September 3, 2006

    How Lucy’s email became an inbox hit
    James Button
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    September 1, 2006

    …In July the British press reported on 38-year old web designer Joe Dobbie, who met 25-year old Kate Winsall at a party, then emailed in florid but heartfelt language to ask if she would meet him for coffee.

    “This is the part where I throw caution to the wind, where I listen to my heart and remember that I should live my life as an exultation,” he wrote. “If I am twice as lucky as I would dare to hope, you will find this note charming..”

    Ms Winsall did not, it seems. She forwarded it to her sister and it flew around the world from there.

    The phenomenon shows “the destructive potential of email as an instrument of social ridicule,” says Tim Soutphommasane, an Australian PhD student who happens to be in Ms Gao’s old college at Oxford.

    If anything, he says, “I wonder whether email has made it easier for us to become more sadistic, since there’s so little effort – and, it seems, responsibility – involved in forwarding an email to someone else.”

    On the other hand, few of us can resist the tantalising glimpse a private message allows into another person’s life and dealings. Yet we should be wary. In the age of email we are all separated by just six degrees of humiliation…


    “…we need books like this to remind us that Australian citizenship belongs to us all…” said Bob; ‘Ethos was more important than ideology’ wrote Tim (Australian Review of Public Affairs, December 19, 2005).


    From Mimesis to Catharsis: Rethinking Australian nationhood
    Tim Soutphommasane and Gerald Ng
    Australian Review of Public Affairs
    April 2, 2002

    Cosmopolitanism or Clash of Civilisations?
    Tim Soutphommasane
    Oxonian Review of Books


    When it comes to snobs, Britain is a class act
    Tim Soutphommasane
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    August 7, 2008

  2. @ndy says:

    …and the hits just keep on comin’! (As heard on Nova 100 weekdays from 9am – Midday.)

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