Tuesday, 26 January 2016

What to be grateful for on Australia Day?

This post is purely subjective but at least it can stand as a reflection of one person's attitude toward Australia Day - that much-contested date on the annual calendar - because you can judge a country by the people it produces, and vis-a-vis Australia I am one of those particular objects. I chose to accompany this blogpost a photo taken of me in my mid-20s because this was the time in my life when I was most actively discovering myself.

I had grown up in a stable family void of physical violence, and there was always plenty to eat when I was not attending school. My secondary education was adequate if not often absolutely inspiring but it gave me access, later, to university. I didn't have much choice about going to university as it was always a firm part of my father's plans for me but I'm not sure that a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney gave me the type of education that he - a no-nonsense type of conservative voter who nevertheless valued what education had done for his own life - would have valued very highly.

Once university ended I took a range of jobs in various places until I found something I liked working in a small English-language PR unit in a Tokyo high-tech manufacturing company. The experiences I gained there led me - some time later - to complete a second degree, this time in media studies. I then went on to freelance as a journalist writing stories for different magazines but had to stop doing that for family reasons.

So I am grateful to have grown up in a country where secular values have deeply influenced most of the major public institutions - for example the school and university systems - and where tolerance of diversity is promoted actively by society's leaders and the arms of government in which they work. I am especially grateful to have been afforded access to a liberal arts education at one of the world's great universities because it gave me a grounding in critical thought that stood me in good stead both in the workplace and in my personal life. I am grateful that my parents spent so much of their excess cash on my education and actively encouraged me to read - I remember a book club my mother enrolled me in when I was about 12 years old, at a time when I hadn't really started reading, which worried her - and that they always had books in the house.

My parents' solicitous regard and the regard that society aims at education gave me the space within which to explore different aspects of my own personality, and for that I am grateful. It was through university that I made some of the most enduring friendships of my life, friendships that continue to sustain me even today, when I am in my mid-50s. When I was at university as an undergraduate my life may have seemed rather chaotic and haphazard but it was during those years that I finally began to understand what I could be, and the lessons of those years continue to resound in my mind today, at a time when due to my seniority I am more than ever responsible for the state of the society within which I find myself.

And I see my own views now reflected in the outside world, which is a great comfort to me because there was a time when everything seemed so wrong and confusing. Not only have I come to understand myself better, but the world has come to resemble me, and for both of these things I am very grateful.

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