[Editor: An article on the ideology of “Australianism”. Whilst the article refers to the ideology as a “cult”, that particular word is being used here in the sense of a great devotion to an idea, object, or movement, rather than in a negative sense (such as the derogatory connotations of the word “cult” as applied to small religious movements in modern times). Published in The Jackass, an Australian Army publication from the First World War.]
A new cult
Almost unnoticed in the travail of this world war there is a nation that is approaching full consciousness of its purpose of living and shedding many old ideas. Australianism is the new cult that is displacing all other old dogmas, creeds and theses.
Australians are now learning the dignity of nationhood, are leaving that provincial outlook with which, hitherto, they approached many questions affecting their own country. It is not now the advantages of Sydney over Melbourne; the respective merits and demerits of each separate state. Every man now is an Australian living and thinking as he best knows how, as an Australian.
This comparatively, sudden awakening to a new national ideal has been brought about by many causes, but the one which appears to have exercised the more potent influence is our sojourn here in France.
It is impossible for any man to live in this fair France without his outlook, his mentality undergoing a change. It is not necessary for a man to be permeated with French literature or even to know the language, to be imbued with the French spirit. What I mean by the French spirit is this wonderful intangible spirit that has, ever through crises in her history, enabled her to strive and to fight a way through to the realisation of her true destiny. France is the cradle of our modern civilisation; the creator of our destiny. The French are the inheritors of the genius of the old Romans.
The Australians with their intuitive temperaments, and keen critical minds cannot but be influenced by their stay in this country. As they mix with the French, greater becomes their appreciation of them as a nation, but above all as ideal citizens. France to the Frenchman is his religion, his ideal. No Frenchman ever loved his country more than an Australian loves his; no Frenchman has more depth of feeling in his voice when speaking of La France, than does an Australian when he speaks of “Aussie”’; but this ability, this gift to appreciate his own country has only been his for some little while. Never before did Australia mean so much to him.
The French are often scoffed at for their full-mouthed expression of red blood sentiment when talking of their country. We Anglo-Saxons are too self-conscious to speak as freely and as frankly as the Latins, but nevertheless, we really admire them, and we try to cram all our depth of feeling into one or as few words as possible.
Perhaps, when Australia will have bequeathed to the common inheritance such a wealth of culture, literature, arts and science as France, we too will learn to speak freely and openly of our love of our Australia. But its good to be an Australian these days, good to realise this warmth of sentiment that is growing amongst Australians.
A firm conviction in the eternal destiny of our country to be a leader amongst the nations, a country of rational freedom, where everything may flourish, where men may lead logical lives free from the old narrow-mindness of sect and politics.
“Australia first and all other things afterwards” should be our slogan. It is a new religion, a logical purpose for living that we have in this new cult of Australianism, a new incentive to give of our best, because it is ours to make it the leader of civilisation in the Southern hemisphere.
An Australian Gambetta is wanted to make this cult that of every Australian; to give a new meaning to the word for many thousands of men; to raise the fiery cross of intense Australianism. so that we may all live better and die better for having realised the dignity and the purpose of our inheritance and responsibility as Australians.
The Jackass: The First Australian General Hospital Monthly [France], 1 July 1918, p. 6
Gambetta = Léon Gambetta (1838-1882), Prime Minister of France (1881-1882); a key figure in the establishment of the French Third Republic, following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871)
Jackass = “laughing jackass” (kookaburra)
[Editor: Changed “spirit that has.” to “spirit that has,”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]