[Editor: This article was published in The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 20 July 1911.]
“Foreigners in their own country.”
Over three hundred years ago William Camden wrote in the preface to one of his books:—
If any there be which are desirous to be strangers on their own soil and foreigners in their own country, they may so continue, and therein flatter themselves. For suchlike I have not written these lines nor taken these pains.
A country is in a bad, not to say perilous, way when, as was the case with ancient Carthage and modern Korea, the bulk of its inhabitants favor hired defence; or when, like England, it has a vast pauper problem, or, like America, a nigger menace; or when, as in France, it suffers from a decreasing birth-rate.
And that nation is also looking for trouble, which, like Australia, tolerates a large body of native-born citizens who deliberately, in Camden’s phrase, remain “foreigners in their own country.” India, Ceylon, China, etc., are overrun with this type of settler. But these are “nigger countries.” The white foreigner visits them with the frank object of tearing the largest possible sum from the natives in the briefest possible time, before hurrying back to civilisation.
The climate of these lands is liable to be bad where it is not awful; the drainage belongs to the middle ages, and so do the smells; and consequently weird fevers, hobnailed livers, and other calamities, afflict the Caucasian who inhabits them for any length of time. If he is married he must send his children away to be educated, for reasons apart from the fact that white children who are reared in “the East” (which is Australia’s North) often grow up frail and sickly.
And, above everything, the Eastern or tropical country cannot be the white man’s Fatherland. Such traditions as it possesses belong to its black or yellow inhabitants, and whatever destiny it has to look to rests with them.
The case of Australia is different. Climatically it is probably the most suitable continent for the white man on earth. The race does not degenerate physically here, as is evidenced by the fact that the present generation of Australians, with a population less than that of Greater London to draw on, has beaten the world’s best at pretty well every sport and pastime which calls for health and strength. It is the easiest place in the world to make a competency in, and one of the pleasantest to spend it in. It has great cities, gorgeous landscapes, stable government, freedom, even-handed justice and the amenities of civilised life. When he looks around him the Australian of to-day has indeed cause to claim that he is a citizen of no mean Commonwealth.
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Yet, after over a century, there are still thousands of Australians who refer to a country 12,000 miles away as “Home.” In most instances they have never seen this alleged “Home” of theirs. They are naively ignorant of the circumstance that, outside official circles, little sympathy is felt for them in the place they call “Home.” The prevailing sentiment among those Englishmen who are not too absorbed chasing a crust to think of anything, is that Australians are uncouth persons in impossible clothes; “colonials,” hence of a different caste from freeborn Britons.
The Imperialistic Australian does not realise the lively resentment which the intelligent Englander, Big and Little, feels against this country for its Defence policy of years past, by virtue of which policy fervent (but inexpensive) adulation of The Flag was offered in exchange for the costly job of policing these waters. The old Defence doctrine, which is still clung to in many quarters, could only be held by folks who are “foreigners in their own country.” It is not altogether a question of economy with them: they honestly consider that their native land is incapable of even beginning to look after itself. In view of statistics they do not claim that the Commonwealth is numerically or financially unfitted to do what the meanest S. American republics are doing. Simply they contend that, though Australians may be well enough for guerilla warfare of the Transvaal variety, their innate contempt of authority, their ribaldry and general futility, render them hopeless as serious guardians of anything — which is precisely the point of view one might expect to find in the white residents of the nigger Republic of Liberia.
A gibe frequently thrown at the Frenchman by British writers is that, whether he goes to Pondicherry, or Jibuti, or Tananarive, he takes Paris along with him. There is a type of Australian who goes further in his efforts to make himself an exotic in the country where he earns his living. With a fervor that is pathetic, he wears the sort of hats, clothes and boots which the tradespeople tell him are being worn in London, and if he can afford it, he imports the articles direct. He eats the food which the Englishman eats, regardless of climatic differences, and has it cooked in the same way; if it were possible he would import it ready cooked. And the social touchstone he invariably applies to a new acquaintance is: How close does he approximate in appearance, manner and the like to an Englishman?
All this would be no more than an amiable weakness if it did not impel its victims, by an inevitable process of thought, to decry the goods of their own country. Australian products are abused in only one country; and that is Australia. In America, manufacturers have been complaining of late that locally-made blankets are being palmed off on the public as “Australian-made.” Yet here, among the people whose pride it is to be “strangers on their own soil,” the conviction obtains that anything made in this country must be rotten; and the majority of traders pander to that view, after the immemorial fashion of traders since commerce began.
It is natural that people of this way of thinking should be restless so long as they remain in the country they despise. For them, the Promised Land is on the other side of the earth, and the moment they can scrape together a fortune they make for the Golden Shore. Australia is the one country in the world which has been driven to impose an absentee tax; and it has done it largely because its Tooths, Coopers, Wilsons and D’Arcys have for decades used it as the European concessionaire uses Equatorial Africa, namely, as an uninhabitable region which is fit only to supply civilised human beings with dividends. One rarely hears of an “ex-American”; yet London is full of folks who wear the label “ex-Australian” with the utmost complacency. And the Commonwealth is full of alleged Australians who would be ex-Australians to-morrow if their bank balances allowed it.
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Demonstrably the Commonwealth is prejudiced in innumerable directions by the native-born foreigners in its midst. The genuine foreigner is apt to acquire the damaging impression that they represent a larger section than they do; for they are a noisy crowd, and it is to the foreigner that they delight to address themselves. Since what has been called the sincerest form of flattery is notoriously the variety that wins least respect from the flattered, the foreigner forms a low opinion of the self-respect and patriotism of the Commonwealth after he has conversed with a few of its embryo Coopers and Wilsons.
The anti-Australian cult acts as a chronic check on the formation of fresh enterprises, which is another way of saying that it acts as a chronic check on population. The vast sum which is withdrawn from the Commonwealth annually by “ex-Australians” does not begin to be compensated for by the absentee tax, if only because it represents the withdrawal of employment that would absorb many thousands of defenders.
The miserable theory that Australians are incorrigible incompetents as regards the bigger things of life — an argument which was more successful than any other in holding up universal service and a local navy — is still advanced whenever a University professor, or Railway Commissioner, or Government Architect is required; and generally it produces the desired effect, and someone is imported from abroad to fill the post.
No other white country has a moment’s use for the native-born who frankly owns that he is only a citizen of that country until he can amass sufficient to be a citizen of another country. Australia regards this species of calamity with such patience, not to say pride and complacency, that the authorities in Downing-street appear to be convinced that these folk are our heroes; as a result of which delusion, when baronetcies and so forth are going, it is not millionaire tradesmen of the Hordern type, who spend and invest their money here, that are singled out, but millionaire traders of the Tooth brand, who treat the country as though it were a plague centre.
This is the only country, calling itself a nation, which flies the flag of an other land over its schools and public buildings on festive occasions, and contains a considerable section or gang that rages like the heathen at every fresh effort that is made to honor the local flag. In short, it is the only country with a big class of well-to-do people who are always “strangers on their own soil, and foreigners in their own country.” America has been threatened, at various times, with a class of this sort, but, by exhortation, ridicule and every other means, the better classes have combined to keep it small.
Australia won’t be able to hold its head up among the nations in an entirely self-respecting manner till the native-born foreigner is at least as rare in Melbourne and Sydney as he is in New York; or, in other words, till in any given gathering of 100 moneyed Australians there are not more than two bogus Englishmen.
The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW), 20 July 1911, p. 6 (columns 1-3)