Australia: National Anthems, Miscellaneous Ramblings

Australia: National Anthems, Miscellaneous Ramblings

My essay, “Van­ish­ing Nation­al Anthems,” was pub­lished by the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project. For the orig­i­nal arti­cle with images and all the lyrics (includ­ing those now aban­doned) of five Nation­al Anthems (Britain, Cana­da, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, USA), click here. To sub­scribe to week­ly arti­cles from Churchill-Hills­dale, click here, scroll to bot­tom, and fill in your email in the box enti­tled “Stay in touch with us.” Your email is nev­er divulged and remains a rid­dle wrapped in a mys­tery inside an enigma.

“Frustrate their knavish tricks”

A friend in Aus­tralia writes so many things of inter­est that I thought I would share them with read­ers. If you think this for­sakes his­to­ry and overindulges in per­son­al opin­ion, say so and I will hit it on the head. It it “goes viral,” as unlike­ly as that seems, all bets are off.

Our con­ver­sa­tion began with nation­al anthems. We share a mutu­al love of Fin­lan­dia, that epic com­po­si­tion by Jean Sibelius. If you like Fin­lan­dia, watch this flash mob at Hels­ing­fors Rail­way Sta­tion. It is not the offi­cial Finnish Nation­al Anthem,  but it will send shiv­ers down your spine.

We segued into the anthem of Latvia, my great-great grandmother’s home­land, where we bicy­cled the coast in 1995. Here is Dievs Svētī Latvi­ju, sung at the annu­al Lat­vian song festival.

We turned to the obscure or omit­ted vers­es of our own coun­tries’ anthems. I will bet most read­ers nev­er heard verse 3 of The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner or verse 2 of God Save the King. They are rather blood­thirsty. Click on my arti­cle to read them all.

In her mem­oir, A Daughter’s Tale, Mary Soames wrote of the great ser­vice of thanks­giv­ing at St. Paul’s Cathe­dral five days after V-E Day, 1945: “Such was the mood that we were allowed to sing the sec­ond verse of the  Nation­al Anthem (usu­al­ly a real no-no), bid­ding God arise to scat­ter the King’s ene­mies (Con­found their pol­i­tics / Frus­trate their knav­ish tricks).”

Well, at a Churchill Con­fer­ence in 2000, we enter­tained Lady Soames with all five vers­es of God Save the Queen, includ­ing that one. She was sure we were going way over the top.

Advance Australia Fair

My Aus­tralian friend writes:

Do you like our noble nation­al anthem?  Until 1984 it was God Save the Queen. Then we adopt­ed one writ­ten by a Scots­man on a bus. It starts “Aus­tralians all let us rejoice / For we are young and free / We’ve gold­en soil / And wealth for toil / Our home is girt by sea.”

Two years ago the sec­ond line was changed to “For we are one and free.” Some­body realised that our phys­i­cal coun­try, is very, very old and that its Abo­rig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion had been here a very long time. Don’t you love the word “girt” in our anthem? I think it’s a word not under­stood by most, but we sing it anyway.

I do like it. Churchill used “girt” a dozen times. Although some­times advo­cat­ed, Aus­tralia will prob­a­bly nev­er exchange its anthem for that won­der­ful bush bal­lad Waltz­ing Matil­da, which immor­tal­izes a sheep-stealer.

Alan Keyes beau­ti­ful­ly sang Advance Aus­tralia Fair at the 1993 Churchill Con­fer­ence. Along with God Defend New Zealand and the US-UK-Cana­da anthems. (Alan grew up hop­ing to be either an opera singer or a politi­cian. He chose the lat­ter, run­ning against Barack Oba­ma for the U.S. Sen­ate. He once mused to me about how he might have made out with opera.)

The orig­i­nal first line of Advance Aus­tralia Fair was Aus­tralian sons,” but I’m fine with “Aus­tralians all.” As a lib­er­tar­i­an crank,  how­ev­er, I object to virtue sig­nal­ing in line 2. “For we are young and free,” applied to Aus­tralians, not the land. After all, the whole earth is old. Where­as Aussies are or were rel­a­tive­ly young, what­ev­er their col­or. We’d do bet­ter if col­or were ignored, as Dr. King prescribed.

Monarchy, Republic, Commonwealth

In 1999, Aus­tralia sub­stan­tial­ly vot­ed to keep the Crown, But with the death of HM the Queen, anoth­er ref­er­en­dum may be com­ing. That is the busi­ness of Aus­tralians, of course. But they might con­sid­er the trou­ble coun­tries get into by hav­ing a head of gov­ern­ment who is also a head of state. Pres­i­dents in var­i­ous places might have depart­ed soon­er if they were mere­ly heads of government,

They’ll say Aus­tralia will avoid that prob­lem by elect­ing as pres­i­dent some nona­ge­nar­i­an ex-leader or elder. But elect­ing makes it polit­i­cal. There’s some­thing to be said for hav­ing a hered­i­tary monarch who is not a politi­cian. If, that is, the incum­bent avoids expound­ing about his or her favorite pol­i­tics. Any­way, Her Late Majesty saw fit to hon­or me with a dis­tinc­tion she thought war­rant­ed. So I am about as loy­al to the Crown as any for­eign­er could be.

In the Bahamas, where we spent win­ters for forty years, the locals still like the monar­chy. The judges and advo­cates wear wigs, and the Privy Coun­cil is their final court of appeal. But the Chi­nese are buy­ing up the Bahamas as fast as they did Bar­ba­dos, and mon­ey talks. In 2021 Bar­ba­dos became a repub­lic. A Bar­ba­di­an said: “The politi­cians nev­er asked us. The most they could ever get for abol­ish­ing the Monar­chy was 24%. Fol­low the money….”

A Repub­lic of Aus­tralia would doubt­less remain in the Com­mon­wealth of Nations, like Bar­ba­dos. Ho-hum. I think of the Com­mon­wealth sad­ly, as an oppor­tu­ni­ty lost. Why wasn’t it tak­en by the scruff and made into a giant free trade and mutu­al defence ster­ling area by gen­er­a­tions long gone? Still, many coun­tries seem to be join­ing it that were nev­er British colonies. It must have some­thing going for it. It could be much more than it is.

Compulsory voting

My friend has­tened to explain why Aus­tralia has com­pul­so­ry voting:
I tru­ly think that makes a good dif­fer­ence. Come the day, we have to put our mark on vot­ing papers or we get fined.  I once lived on the top of a hill, 4 km to the main road.  My address was Bog­gy Creek Road and the Bog­gy Creek was rarely to be seen at the bot­tom of the hill. But one day it was. It hap­pened to be vot­ing day, but I went home rather than risk it. Sure enough, I got a “please explain” let­ter, and my legit­i­mate rea­son was accepted.
Well and good. Yet just last week I heard anoth­er Aus­tralian say that an increas­ing num­ber of cit­i­zens, out of dis­gust with the can­di­dates, do not vote and are no longer fined, because nobody keeps track any­more. Is that so?
In most coun­tries one has the right to refuse to choose between hope­less boobs who couldn’t hold a job in the real world. I don’t know. I refused to vote twice in the 1990s. Of course that entails no right to com­plain lat­er, so I start­ed vot­ing again.

America’s interminable electioneering

“Aus­tralians don’t rate pol­i­tics the way Amer­i­cans do,” my friend writes. “I was aston­ished when I was liv­ing in Amer­i­ca how vital a part of your lives it is. (Or was then.) It seems Aussies can’t take too much of it at one time! ‘I take an inter­est,’ says Mrs. Witit­ter­ly in Nicholas Nick­le­by, with a faint smile, ‘such an inter­est in the drama.'”

She is right. Pol­i­tics is much more of an indul­gence in the Unit­ed States. (And Amer­i­can elec­tions are ridicu­lous­ly interminable—in Aus­tralia they take three months. But that is anoth­er sub­ject. Fol­low the money….)

Why are Amer­i­cans so polit­i­cal? Toc­queville observed near­ly 200 years ago that much Amer­i­can pol­i­tics is local. Speak­er of the House Tip O’Neill echoed the sen­ti­ment. That stems from being a fed­er­al repub­lic with enor­mous rights reserved to the states, local gov­ern­ments or people.

Nobody under­stands our Elec­toral Col­lege, which elects pres­i­dents based on state pluralities—and why that’s supe­ri­or, in a coun­try this big, to a direct elec­tion. But it is, in a fed­er­al sys­tem, and the Founders knew why. Few Amer­i­cans today know, because Civics isn’t taught. The big dan­ger is cen­tral­iza­tion of pow­er. Whether America’s gov­ern­ment is bet­ter than a par­lia­men­tary sys­tem I’m no longer sure. I used to be. But then came the last cou­ple of decades.

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