Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Not just Australians' values

By Ghassan Hage - posted Monday, 18 September 2006

So, throughout my years in Australia - and please let me brag: that’s 30 years now - I really have had no serious problems with any Australian values or aspects of Australian culture. None whatsoever … well, except one.

Let me state it clearly: my problem with Australian culture is those painful people who insist that, regardless of what I think, I do have a problem with Australian culture.

They are the prejudiced and very ugly Australian assimilationists.


Even though, on the whole, they are not the best specimen of what our nation has to offer, the ugly Australian assimilationists like to think that, unlike others, they have a unique access to what being Australian means, and that it is up to them to provide anyone they think is different with instructions on how to become better Australians.

I met them the very first year I came here and I’ve been meeting them regularly ever since. I’ve even made an academic career studying them.

I used to think the ugly Australian assimilationists have this simplistic, psychologically naïve belief that if you harass people into becoming something for long enough, then, people just become it. Like, if you see someone who doesn’t know how to play cricket or doesn’t like it, you just shout at them: “Go ahead, play cricket! Come on, love cricket! Adopt cricketing values, now!” and, if you persist, before you know it they’re aspiring to become Bradmans.

Likewise, if someone is sitting around our nation - not looking or acting Australian - it is enough to just keep telling them: “Become Australian … go on … adopt Australian values!” This is supposed to work and make people want to become Australian.

I used to think that these great national assimilationists actually believed this. But they are not so naïve. They know very well that harassing people into becoming Australian doesn’t work. They also knew that if you tell someone: “Go ahead! Become Australian!” you achieve two things simultaneously. You make yourself feel as if you are supremely, obviously and wonderfully Australian. And you make those you are harassing feel that they are much less Australian than they really are.

This is the underlying, dirty secret of all those who like to scream at the top of their voices about the need to adopt Australian values and assimilate. The last thing they want is for the people they are screaming at to actually assimilate. What assimilationists revel in is that very moment when they are nagging people to assimilate.


In fact, they hate it when someone points out that people assimilate quite naturally according to how long they’ve been in a place, according to their socio-economic background, according to their level of education. And the assimilationists certainly don’t want to hear about the very obvious fact that if there’s one thing that is guaranteed not to have any influence on people assimilating it is being screamed at about their need to assimilate and adopt Australian values.

Assimilationists are the real exclusionists of Australian history. They actually stop people from assimilating.

And this is, paradoxically, what they desire - deep down. They scare people off. They drive them away. They make them hide. They force them to live outside mainstream society. And having done that, they then start telling the very people whom they’ve excluded that they are living in ghettos and that their problem is that they are not assimilated enough.

These assimilationists are ugly. They are nasty and malicious towards the people they are addressing. I have never heard an assimilationist showing love or respect for the people they are haranguing to assimilate. They always do it either aggressively or with contempt.

Assimilationists are very caring towards their own mob - wanting nothing but their relaxation and comfort. But, at the same time, they are mean spirited, cruel and uncaring towards those who don’t fit their cultural norms. They do not wish them well. They want to hurt them. They openly call on such people to integrate, while they secretly work to see them disintegrate. That’s the most important feature that makes assimilationists ugly.

And for the last 10 years we’ve had a Prime Minister who is one.

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. Page 2
  4. All

First published in New Matilda on September 6, 2006.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

82 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr Ghassan Hage is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Sydney.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Ghassan Hage

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Ghassan Hage
Article Tools
Comment 82 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy