Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ljubo Milicevic leaves Australia in disgrace

I was watching Ljubo farewell interview in SBS and was finding it mostly entertaining, with his forthright opinions. However, towards the end of the interview, Ljubo pulled out the stunner: “I’m Croatian, I’m not Australian. You guys don’t want me here.”

He justifies this by saying he doesn’t feel any loyalty to the Union Jack as he believes that the flag represents rapists and pillagers; that his backyard has fruit in the trees (like the rest of Australian doesn’t have fruit in their trees); that his father has Croatian music in his CD player and that he was raised as a Croat; that he’s emotional and passionate and relates more with Goran Ivanisevic than Australian sports stars as he finds them dull and boring; that Australians can’t pronounce his name right; and that he is embarrassed about Australia Day, where people use the day as an excuse to get drunk. He also criticises Australia for picking and choosing when migrants are considered to be Australian.

Now, whether you agree or disagree with what he says is kind of irrelevant. In fact, a lot of his supporting statements make a lot of sense to me, but there’s a big leap with agreeing with his supporting statement and then saying, “I’m not Australian.”

You see, the problem with Milicevic is that he has confused negative stereotypes of being Australian. The fact is Australia is a liberal democracy and there’s no precondition in personality or political belief to be Australian.

All you have to be is an Australian citizen to be Australian (to be a good person on the other hand has a lot of conditions, but unfortunately people have a tendency to mix being a good person and Australian up).

About 45 per cent of the population voted yes for the Republic, which shows that a lot of people don’t have loyalty to the Union Jack. However, those people aren’t less Australian than people who voted no. We have a former Prime Minister in Paul Keating who wanted to change the flag to remove the Union Jack. Whether you agree with Keating or not, you can’t say that he isn’t Australian.

There is a lot of Australians who bemoans the fact that sports stars are boring and there are a lot of people who find the frankness of some foreign sports stars to be refreshing as well. I seriously doubt that most people weren’t embarrassed by the Cronulla riots or some of the past treatments of Aborigines as well.

His statements about the Union Jack being a flag of rapist and pillagers are just outright offensive and racist due to its gross generalisation. There isn’t a single country in the world that doesn’t have rapist and pillagers and there is no evidence that the United Kingdom and their respective colonies are pillaging any more than any other country in the world. I’m quite sure most countries’ flag would become symbols of atrocity if we go through past histories, and I’m not too sure why the Union Jack has to be singled out for that.

There are also Australians who don’t support Australia Day and cringe at the excessive alcohol that is drunk on that day. In fact, there are certain groups on the left who believe that Australia Day should be changed to another day in respect for Aborigines as we shouldn’t be celebrating the day England colonised Australia. Other countries with Indigenous cultures don’t do that. Now whether you agree with those views or not, it doesn’t make you any less Australian.

He says that he was raised as a Croat. Well Australia is a multicultural country that doesn’t discourage people from expressing their cultural identity and doesn’t overtly discourage people behaving differently to the mainstream. Therefore, contrary to his statement, that is a very Australian upbringing. I also find it strange that he justifies his status as a Croatian because he listens to Croatian music, has a cellar and has fruit in the trees in his garden. It seems an overly simplistic summary of Croatian culture.

I do agree with him that Australia does have double standards in terms of how they treat migrants. If migrants are successful, they are Australian. If the migrants commit crime or fail, they are ethnic, when, in reality, the success and failure of migrant communities are a reflection of Australian culture just as much as the success and failure of the wider community are reflection of Australian culture. After all, Martin Bryant is just as Australian as Don Bradman. This type of double standards encourages nationalistic thinking that Australia equals good values and foreigner equals bad values. However, having problems and criticising Australian culture doesn’t stop you from being Australian as Australia is a liberal democracy.

I also believe that he is being overly sensitive on Australians being unable to pronounce his name. The Chinese have been in Australia since the gold rush in the 19th century, however I doubt Milicevic will be able to pronounce the names of most traditional Chinese names as he doesn’t know the Chinese language.

If you don’t know the language of a particular country, then it is expected that people will find it difficult to pronounce names of people coming from those countries. It is expected that the European countries have a far more developed language education due to the closed borders with countries that speak a completely different language, and therefore it makes sense that people in Europe are more likely to be able to pronounce his name more accurately than people in Australia. Nevertheless, I’m quite sure if you become friends with people, eventually they will get your name right.

It’s a shame that Ljubo could only make friends within his own ethnic culture as he boast that there are “no Anglos” at his BBQ. It’s a shame that he couldn’t find someone of an Anglo background with similar political and social values that he can relate with, but I’m quite sure his negative assumptions of Anglo culture prevents him from doing that.

I felt sad watching the interview with Ljubo as we see a person rejecting a country where he has lived for most of his life. Australia gave him his education and a football education.

I do believe that Ljubo got it completely wrong in his announcement that he isn’t Australian. I also believe that Ljubo revealed his racism by picking and choosing negative attributes to summarise the entire Australian culture.

However, I don’t completely blame Ljubo because the worst feeling I have watching the video is the realisation that perhaps the nationalists have won; that perhaps the idea that being Australian, you have to have a narrow specific personality and political values is so widespread, that people outside the mainstream such as Ljubo end up agreeing with the nationalists that to be Australian you have to have these certain values.

Therefore, he and other like minded individuals agree with the nationalists that they aren’t Australian and therefore fuel criticism of migration and how they don’t integrate within Australian society.

Hopefully Ljubo’s attitude to what it means to be Australian is not widespread across the community.

Note: Ljubo Milicevic himself has responded to this article

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