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Scott Morrison’s Incoherent View of National Identity

When defining politicians within the current political paradigm, Scott Morrison is a somewhat elusive type.

Of course Morrison isn’t ‘our guy’, and remains in general consonance with the Left-Liberal/ Right-Liberal consensus that prevails among both major parties.

But for accuracy’s sake, and to avoid fermenting a far-right echo chamber, let’s extend the man an olive branch. Unlike Turnbull, Morrison isn’t doesn’t espouse the delusive, anti-white idiom that “diversity is our strength.” And unlike Abbott, Morrison doesn’t so readily accede to his sworn enemies.

One could reasonably liken Morrison to Australia’s second longest serving Prime Minister–John Howard. As Howard once did, Morrison governs from the centre-right and seeks preponderant support among traditional Liberal voters. And before criticising our 30th Prime Minister, something else: Morrison appears to have an instinctual affinity for Australia, however incapable he may be of cogently explaining this.

That said, Morrison’s shortcomings–including his incoherent conception of national identity–means he cannot last in today’s political arena, a far more divided space than it was during the Howard years.

These ruinous defects were reflected in a recent speech, delivered before the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne.

“I want to remove demarcation lines between Australians,” Morrison avowed.

“I see every Australian as an individual, not part of some tribal group to be traded off against another. And I believe, not in a tribalism that divides, but in an ‘us’ that unites.”

So Morrison objects to societal division–a trend epitomised by the recent Christchurch shooting. But his exalting the individual to remedy division, begs the following: If Morrison believes identity is splintering us apart, what does he think will bring us together? Certainly, liberating the individual from traditional sources of identity won’t assist; it will further spread feelings of loneliness, nihilism and discord often central to terror attacks. Here, one is reminded of Patrick Deneen’s ‘Why Liberalism Failed’. For although established communities uphold cohesion within Liberal societies, Liberalism unsustainably depletes these communities and their resulting moral reservoirs, upon which Liberal society has heavily relied.

Now one might fairly assume Morrison doesn’t see the continued breakdown of local communities as a net positive, in of itself. Nevertheless, exclusively viewing people through the axiom of ‘individuals’ (as the Liberal party frequently does) only facilitates the conception of humans as being naturally voluntarist, free-choosing creatures. And it is this very principle which has contributed to wholesale breakdowns in ethnic, national, religious, cultural, as well as familial relations–that would’ve otherwise constrained individualist voluntarism.

Despite this, Morrison has an answer on uniting Australians: he wants a tribalism that “unites,” instead of one that divides. Putting aside the irony in Morrison objecting to authentic, potent tribalism in front of the Australia-(((Israel))) Chamber of Commerce, it doesn’t take long to spot the problem. If our national identity is simply one that doesn’t divide, then Australia is a home for everyone. But if Australia is for everyone, then it is for no one in particular: a demeaning notion that dismantles our sense of self, and any subsequent base from which to resist the forthcoming seismic shifts.

To become a country without any particular qualities to be regarded by, is to become an arbitrary delineation on a map, to which citizens ultimately yield their loyalties and go their own way–in emotional respects, at least. Evidently, such polarisation could be hardly be seen as a step towards furthering cohesion.

In these circumstances, Australia might descend into anarchy. On the other hand, political order might be maintained, and even strengthened through further monopolising the immense powers of statism and technology. Yet these future contingencies are inconsequential for the purposes of this post. Lest Australia survive, die or otherwise, I’d rather have something to fight for, then nothing to live for, with regards to national affairs.

This obvious vacuum in meaning, is what makes Morrison’s view so unintelligible. For Australians, talk of removing “demarcation lines” scarcely resonates, when they face irreversible demographic changes in the very suburbs, schools and shopping centres they grew up in. Meanwhile, for Asians, Africans, Muslims, as well as other beneficiaries of Australian multiculturalism, why would they ever forsake their own unique identities for something that artificially and blandly “unites”? Only an over-educated, disconnected, quixotic white person could ever buy into this nonsense–as Scott Morrison appears to have done.

With Morrison’s view of national identity boundlessly far from sufficient, his ideas certainly won’t be the last, nor the most lasting, in the upcoming war for Australian identity.

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